Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Periscope. A little over a decade ago these were unheard of. For brands the term ‘online engagement’ meant having a website inquiry button.

In the ensuing years, savvy communications professionals have developed an understanding of the power of social media to build brands. With communications now fully entrenched in the digital realm, smart companies realise there’s a skill to social media relations. They understand it involves more than setting up a Facebook page and waiting for ‘likes’.

Having a social media presence isn’t just about being trendy. It’s about understanding how, when and where your customers want to find out about your brand and sharing meaningful and engaging content.

Brand personality

When it comes to developing a successful social media presence, it’s crucial to have certainty around your brand’s personality and to develop a consistent tone. From a 140-character tweet to a 400-word blog post, your online content should be uniquely and identifiably yours.

This can be achieved through the use of a list of identified key terms and phrases that represent your brand. Factors such as visual identity (logos, profile pictures and colour schemes) also help to create a unique personality.

Your brand is also reflected in the online networks and communities of which you are a part or to which you contribute—for instance, whom you follow on Twitter, like on Facebook or comment on across the blogosphere.

Bottom-line results

When these aspects are delivered consistently across all digital media channels, a company can take ownership of its online content and become recognisable in the crowded landscape—converting online engagement into positive consumer sentiment and sentiment into action, delivering bottom-line results.

But do social companies equal smart companies? Do all smart companies use social media?

Often, there is a belief that companies need to be on social media because everyone else is doing it. Arguably, a case can always be made for a company to be active to some degree. However, there are a few provisos that help ensure a brand’s foray into social is successful and not damaging.

Quick response time

First, a company needs to permit whoever is managing its digital presence to be responsive. Business social media requires immediacy, meaning companies need regulations and resources in place that allow responses to be processed within hours not days.

Failing to do so may dampen your online presence and negatively impact brand sentiment. A half-baked presence on social can often look worse than having none at all.

Then there’s the small matter of deciding where to be. With thousands of social platforms to choose from identifying the best medium for conversing and engaging with customers can seem daunting.

B2B on LinkedIn

Don’t be tempted to try and do it all. It’s better to pick one platform and manage it well, than trying to be everywhere at once. Find out which media your audience is using, and place your focus there. For instance, while consumer brands can benefit from being on Facebook, a B2B organisation might be better suited to LinkedIn.

Ultimately, there is no one solution for business social media. It’s important to develop a style that suits your brand, a strategy that suits your resources and to make sure you are speaking directly to your specific audience, wherever they may be.