Freedom of choice ? does this also mean having the freedom to fail? Businesses are presented with wide choice of social media channels but this can create issues, because, to be effective, the social media channel has to be the right one.

Imagine choosing a social media channel as being like choosing what clothes to wear in a particular situation: it might be a formal dinner, or a high-level business meeting, or alternatively an informal summer barbeque and networking event.

All these different occasions present you with business opportunities, but in order to make the most of them, you need to represent yourself appropriately. The same is true of social media channels.

Know Your Intended Audience
Using social media effectively as a marketing tool for business means having a good idea about who it is you want to communicate your message to. This aspect is vital, because people use different social media channels in different ways.

For example, Facebook is for building relationships with your audience and, in doing so, growing and reinforcing trust in your brand. On Facebook you can engage supporters through your official page and build communities through Facebook groups. Again, in order to do this effectively you need to understand what your audience likes or is concerned about, and how your brand fits in.

LinkedIn, on the other hand, is very much about networking in a business context. If you operate in the B2B world and working with and for other businesses is how you thrive, then developing your online presence through LinkedIn can have great value. Be aware, though, that for this to be effective you need to engage actively ? join discussions, post to groups, generally build and develop your online networking presence.

Perhaps the most demanding of social media channels is Twitter. Engaging with an audience through Twitter takes perseverance, consistency, and some serious strategic thinking. There are around 15 million Twitter users in the UK alone, and well over 600 million worldwide. That?s a big audience.

However, sharing information with this audience requires that you?re both thoughtful and punctual. You have 140 characters maximum each tweet so you need to think about what it is you want to say and to whom you?re aiming it at. You can also tweet links to video, articles, websites and other content. You should also think about when you?re tweeting and how often, in order to reach your ideal audience at the best time.

There have been recent changes to Twitter whereby users can order the tweets they receive by what they?re most likely to care about, rather than just chronologically. This means that for businesses, Twitter is increasingly about building a loyal audience.

Think Visual
You don?t have to restrict your social media activity to words. Instagram, Pinterest and Vine all have great potential for online customer engagement and marketing activity, depending on the nature of your business.

Image-based and video content still needs to have a purpose and be deployed strategically. It also needs to be appropriate to your business and your brand values.

Video represents a massive growth area in content marketing, likely to account for 69% of all internet traffic by 2017, according to Cisco. YouTube receives more than 1 billion unique visitors every month. Video therefore has to be considered as a potential communication channel for social media.

The rules remain the same: know your intended audience and find something of value that will both attract and engage your customers. Keep it short but memorable. You should be able to get your message across in 30 seconds or under.

Reform Creative is a Manchester-based design agency. We know that our clients need to make the most of the right social media channels for their businesses to grow. That?s why we help them to think strategically, and design campaigns and content that will work to reach the audience they seek.

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