Social media has changed the game for marketers, disrupting all previous successful tactics and caused businesses to reevaluate their approaches to staying relevant.  Today, the tone has changed to being more personal, engaging, and customers expect more from the brands that they frequent.  The opportunities for those that take into account this ever-changing and modern medium are limitless.   As of today, more than 14 million Australians are on platforms like Facebook—that’s 2/3 of the population, and they spend more than two hours daily on social media account.

Still, companies haven’t fully figured out how to harness and wield the massive yields that social media offers.  Simply put, if your company doesn’t learn how to adapt to this changing landscape, you may not be in business much longer.

Businesses that use social media effectively can create enthusiastic ambassadors for their brands through engaging content that ultimately makes those followers into dedicated customers by following some obvious and not-so-obvious rules.  Read on for some suggestions on how to fully embrace all of the nuances of social media in your marketing strategies.

Show (and Tell)

Think about it in simplistic terms: is it quicker to process an image or a 2,000 word article?  A picture is worth a 1,000 words, so that helps with Twitter’s 140 character length.  Of course, with a visual-oriented platform like Instagram, (check out our “Using Instagram for Business” article) this feature is inherent its design.  Emphasizing visual content, whether it’s an engaging infographic, an evocative picture, or a snappy video, all help to stimulate your audience to share your content and increase the reach of your business to new customers.

A Good Composer Borrows, A Great Composer Steals…

It can be labor-intensive to create your own material, so stay updated on the latest trends by “newsjacking” and create your content to fit these molds.  If you see a news event in the media, try to see if your company can fit into the picture, even peripherally.  For instance, if you own a landscaping business and notice that your local council is enforcing fines for unkempt property standards, try to exploit the story to your advantage.  If there is an existing hashtag for this movement, be sure to incorporate into your Instagram and Twitter posts to raise your company’s profile.  Offer your company’s unique solutions to current problems, or demonstrate how your company is relevant to our ever-changing world.

Of course, care must be taken to not be misconstrued or associate your brands with unsavory, tragic, or unpopular movements—no one likes an ambulance chaser.  However, when used effectively, you can ride on the coattails of popular movements.

Make It Fit the Purpose

No social media platform will fit all of your criteria for your business.  LinkedIn might be useful for the B2B aspects of your business, while your Instagram profile raises the awareness of your brand’s products and community activity.  The only way to truly find out what works best for your company is to experiment with as many platforms as necessary and track how your approach—your cadence, style, content—resonates with your audience. Customize your content to fit each platform, subtly modifying it to suit the best delivery methods.  For instance, a Facebook post versus a tweet on Twitter require editing or expansion to attract the right type of clientele.  White papers might work for those platforms, but you may need to create a related video to display on Vine and Instagram.  Use the inherent strengths of each platform and avoid trying to fit a round peg into a square hole.

Listen to Your Customers

Before social media, customers had a limited ability to criticise your services if they felt they were being unaddressed or unsatisfactory.  While this was limited to their social circle and your contact information, nowadays an unsatisfied customer has much more leverage, being able to share negative experiences and leave semi-permanent reviews about your company in next to no time.

While being aware of the power that consumers now hold, businesses must take preemptive measures to ensure that social media remains an open and instantaneous line of communication.  By not obstructing the path to resolution, you can engage your customers and find the source of their discontent in an open forum.  The benefits to this are numerous, as your company seems more responsive to customer’s feelings, thus associating a type of benevolence and importance towards those you do business with.  You also learn critical things about your company that may have been overlooked or unaddressed.  Be sure to check out our article for more on this topic.

Humanize Your Company

Be a digital Pinocchio.  Despite being a partial online entity, your business should try to remain as human and personable as possible.  Most companies tend to think of their audience as simply marketing quotas and statistics, so do as much to humanize your approach to your social media strategies to separate yourself from the pack.  Ultimately, it isn’t exactly what you’re selling, it is what your brand says.  There’s no better way to communicate this than on social media.  For every post, reply, caption, etc., think of appealing to the human element.  Be candid and sincere, even for typically-staid social avenues like LinkedIn.

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Patience is more than a virtue—it should be you social media’s strategy.  When beginning on social media, you may feel that you are talking to yourself, but remember that your consistency will pay dividends in the future.  Content that you post today may resonate months down the line.  Don’t look for immediate results, but instead focus on patiently laying down a body of content that users can find on their—not your—time.  The internet is not a passing fad.  Tailor your company’s social media strategy for the future.

Seek Community

Though we’ve mentioned it before (check out “Stay Engaged!  Joining Communities for Entrepreneurs”), seek out groups on social media to be a part of.  Facebook Groups are excellent ways to spread your message among relevant members.  By emphasizing your association with forums and groups, integrating them into your social media strategy, you can reinforce the solidarity of your group and highlight others.  They, in turn, will reciprocate your gestures, which is mutually beneficial for those who choose to congregate online.

Social Media Etiquette

Despite how anonymous social media can feel, it is certainly the opposite.  Remember, even if posting to social media is incredibly easy, you should never post an excess of material.  This will frustrate your current customers by clogging their newsfeeds and alienate new ones by your overbearing approach.

On the same token, reign in your emotional responses on social media unless you’ve taken careful consideration to all of the ramifications of your posts.  Careers and businesses have taken hits from the ease of negative publicity.  For instance, consider the public relations executive who lost her job and sympathy for her previous company by posting one frivolous tweet. (  Then, let’s look at the fallout that ensued by an uploaded video, widely disseminated, on the conduct of Dropbox’s (and AirBNB’s) employees during the office time. (