So you’ve been keeping an eye on social media for quite some time now and you’re wondering whether to take the leap. When you do realise that social media is a crucial element of your marketing plan, it’s important to remember some key points. I've put together these dos and don'ts for social media...

Do create social media guidelines

It’s irrelevant whether you’re on Facebook, Twitter or Flickr – your online personality is part of your brand and becomes a hugely interactive way to engage with your customers or clients. So just as you would create branding guidelines for your business, you should also develop some social media guidelines – ones that will help you to strengthen your brand and remain consistent.

Do be human

Unlike traditional marketing, social media is a two-way conversation and part of the Web 2.0 world where we demand more transparency from the products and services we use. So don’t treat your social media accounts as a way to bombard your followers with countless adverts and plugs about your business. Engage with people. Get involved and connect with your customers. It will make you appear open, transparent and friendly.

Do put a face to your brand

People don’t want to talk to brands on Twitter, they want to talk with real people. So wherever possible, add a picture of yourself or your company’s director to your avatar. Or if you’d prefer to stick to your logo, make sure your online conversation suits that persona. It’s worth noting that some businesses have multiple Twitter accounts – one for their company brand and perhaps several from various key people within the firm. Either way, try to be approachable and something that people can identify with.

Do offer value

You can’t just shout about your business all the time – you have to add value to your tweets or Facebook updates otherwise people won’t want to follow you. Offer competitions, discounts or even just share your expertise. It will build brand loyalty and help you to engage with customers.

Don’t be negative!

Everything you tweet, blog or say on Facebook has the potential to stick around forever. And any information you broadcast online isn’t hard to find in future, so be careful about how you use your social media. Remember, you’re not just building your brand today, you’re building it for tomorrow as well. In which case, try to be positive at all times.

Don’t be inactive online!

Make sure your social media accounts are fresh and consistently updated. Social media suits today’s fast-paced world and your customers will expect you to be tweeting or Facebooking every day. If you’re not, people will assume you’re not very good and will simply go elsewhere.

Don’t connect with everyone!

It might be tempting to start following thousands of people on social media networks but it’s really not advised. Go for quality rather than quantity. Because if you start adding lots of people without any thought process behind your actions, people will just assume you’re a ‘spam’ bot and won’t follow you back. So take it slowly, make real and valuable connections and build up your following with careful consideration.

Don’t be selfish!

To put it bluntly, you have to give to get because social media networking works both ways. The more you help someone else, the more likely they’ll help you. So take time to engage with people wherever you can. Recommend followers for #FollowFriday on Twitter or write a testimonial for LinkedIn. What goes around, comes around so be as generous as you can to nurture and boost your connections online.