Unless you have had your head buried in very deep sand for the last few years then you will have undoubtedly have been exposed to the rise of the social network. So the question is do you need your business to have a social media profile? Well the answer is very short. Yes! Social media means that people are talking online about anything and everything and your business can be in there whether you like it or not. Not having a social media presence means that you are given no option to engage in the conversation. This can lose you valuable business, potential business and affect your reputation. If someone is talking about you online in a good or bad way, you want to be able to find out respond quickly. Social media gives you a portal to access millions of people around the world and be able to monitor what is being said about you and your industry in particular.

The first thing that you want to do is assess who your current market and target market is. This may seem obvious but you should consider all factors to ensure that you do not leave anyone out who could be a potential customer.

Sign up to one or more social network(s). The largest social networks are seen to be Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube. The kind of content and customer profile are important to consider when you are choosing which networks you would like to establish a presence on. Get an idea of where your target audience will be interacting on the Internet. Are they using social media or is a forum or email groups more their thing. If they are using social media which is the network you will find most users in. Is there a smaller dedicated social network for your industry? Where is your competition engaging on the Internet? Is there a niche area you can access? All of these should be taken into consideration. As an example if you are promoting an extreme sports company sharing lots of graphic videos then you might want to consider YouTube and Facebook as options due to the ability of both to showcase video and build a following. However if you are looking for a primarily business-orientated network then LinkedIn would appear to be the best option. Make your decision based on the research you have done. If you are still not sure then the suggestion is to start with Facebook and go from there.

Remember that when you first start building a social network presence you should be concerned with building relationships and trust ahead of promoting your product. Once people trust you they will be more inclined to pay attention to what you are trying to promote. Doing things that create goodwill, like sharing your contact’s posts even if they have no relevance to your product, helps to build these relationships. Remember that networking is a long-term activity in the same way that making friends and contacts in the non-cyber world is. So don’t just wade in and ask for favors from people that you have just added as a contact. Build a relationship with them first.

Make sure that you stay current and on-top of what is happening on your social network profiles. If people engage you via your networks then respond quickly to reassure them that you pay attention to what your contacts are doing.

A last piece of advice is that while running multiple social network profiles can seem daunting, downloading and using a social profile manager such as Hootsuite or Sprout Social can greatly aid you in posting on multiple networks, network monitoring and building up a contact database.

Note: Many social networks are free to join, although some charge for upgrading your package.

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