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Social media is everywhere these days, like water around a fish. The original players – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – are as popular and influential as ever. And new platforms are popping up at a dizzying pace, such as Google
+ and Pinterest. Despite the hype, social media has proven to be a fantastic tool for businesses to create new opportunities, establish valuable contacts, and foster love with customers.

But navigating the social media waters can be a challenge for businesses, and mistakes can be costly. Here are five tips for building a solid social media plan:

  1. Identify resources. Social media applications are free, but it takes time to properly commit to using them regularly and strategically. What resources are you willing to commit? What measurable goals to you hope to achieve? How will you accomplish those goals?
  2. Be visual. Social media today is using more and more images and video. While great writing can engage your audience, the visuals are what draw them in and get them to focus their valuable attention on you. By using only text, you are missing out on a great opportunity to instantly engage and create content that gets shared, “liked,” and followed.
  3. Be creative but concise. Chances are a long paragraph on your new product will never get read; instead try an attention grabbing headline, a snappy photo, and a link to a place where people can read more if they desire.
  4. Publish with consistency and rhythm. No one builds their social media brand by randomly publishing content once a month. Establishing a goal to post new content once a week is a good starting point. As your content strategy develops, you can crank up the frequency. Conversely, don’t suddenly appear in the social media universe and start bombarding your new “friends” with multiple posts each day.
  5. Brands have personality too. Have some fun and show some personality. What has your business done recently that’s fun or different? Celebrate your employees’ accomplishments, especially if they’re not work-related. That shows that your employees have active, full lives, so you must be a great employer.

Surprisingly, there are still many businesses that have not jumped into the ocean of social media. As these late adopters finally come online, it will become even more important for businesses to leverage social media as a powerful marketing tool. As a PR and marketing firm with offices in Seattle and Washington, D.C., we regularly put social media to work for our technology, healthcare, and government clients.

Photo credit: Kathleen Donovan