By CAITLYN BRAEGELMANN, Corporate Communications Specialist, Hunter Industries

So you’ve read all of the articles about why it’s important to participate in social media for your business and now you’re ready to take the plunge. Maybe you’ve started one or several social media sites but they are not quite up and running as smoothly as you would like. The following tips and tricks can help you achieve the results you desire.

Be where your customers are

Many times people choose to create company profiles on different social media platforms based on what they themselves enjoy using. Remember, choosing the right social media platform is about being where your customers are. If your customers are more traditional and enjoy being social, then Facebook is great for them. If they are tied to their computers or phones all day, then Twitter might work well. If they enjoy taking and viewing pictures, then you should be on Instagram. Figure out what your customers are interested in and where they spend their time before you waste yours in the wrong spot.

Act quickly

Customers contact you using social media because it allows them to speak directly to someone within your company. When a customer posts a question, be sure to answer it as clearly as possible within a 24-hour timeframe. This allows you to engage them while they are still interested in the subject. Furthermore, if they cannot get the answer from you, they may look elsewhere.

Give small rewards

You would be amazed by how interested viewers will become when there is something in it for them. Even if you are offering something at minimal cost to you, your engagement rates can soar through the roof. Giving away a free fertilization application or maintenance call, for example, could also earn you repeat business down the line.

Turn negative posts into opportunities

In most cases, you should try to respond to anyone who communicates to you through social media, even if their posts are negative. Many times, people with complaints just want to feel heard, so make sure to acknowledge their issues. Let them know that it’s something you are aware of or something that you will look into, and thank them for their feedback. Someone who complains will respect you and your company more for doing everything in your power to address their issues. The goal is to create an honest community, where customers can share their thoughts openly with your company, whether they are positive or negative. There are certain times, however, when it is best to either ignore or delete certain posts. If someone’s posts are not constructive or become defamatory, it is best to either ignore the comments—or delete them altogether. One rule of thumb is, if the posts have the potential to harm any other member of the community, they should be removed immediately.

Ask yourself—what would you be interested in?

Think about the times that you’ve browsed through your news feeds and ask yourself what types of things you enjoy seeing. Social media content needs to have an entertainment value; do not use it only as a selling tool. It’s all about generating two-way conversations and creating loyal customers. You’d be amazed at what you learn from your customers when you provide them with an open platform for communication.

Keep it visual

Whenever possible, include some sort of visual with your post. Snap a quick photo, attach a video taken from your smartphone, or at the very minimum, tie in a link for viewers to learn more. Posts using photos will generate more than 25 percent higher engagement rates.

Provide a behind the scenes look

Social media is a great tool for creating a close connection with your customers. Sharing photos and videos of what you are currently working on, or giving them a “behind the scenes” look, will only make them feel more connected to your company.

Have a reserve of ideas

It happens to the best of us. We set up our social media sites, invite all of our customers to them, and post some really interesting items, and then it happens—we stall out. We get busy, run out of ideas, or simply forget to continue to maintain the existing sites. Make sure to have a collection of ideas saved up for those instances, so your audience does not experience a lull in your posts. Spend some time once in a while browsing others’ sites and reading some interesting blogs. This will spark some ideas for you to make a list to be used in the future.

Do one thing well

Many people will participate in a seminar or read a book on social media and experience a burst of inspiration to get started. While being motivated is great, make sure to focus your efforts on one thing at a time. One social media site done well is worth more than several done poorly. Dedicate your time to building one audience on one platform. Set goals that you want to achieve with that platform, such as posting one item per week or getting 200 followers. Once you are successful in that arena, piggyback new sites off of that popularity.

Pay attention to what works

There are many free tools that will help you analyze the success of your social media marketing. Facebook has a built-in dashboard that will show you engagement rates by post or within a specified date range. Using a short code service, such as Google URL Shortener, can create custom links and track the clicks of each visitor.

Take note of the types of content that engage your audience and continue to work in that direction.

Have fun

People visit social media sites to be entertained and informed. While your social media efforts do need to maintain a level of professionalism, as you are representing your company, there is still a little room to have some fun. People enjoy the personal element that social media offers, so make sure to let your personality shine through.

As you begin to spend more time on your social media marketing, you will start to see better results. Unlike large budget marketing strategies such as direct mailers, social media is a bit more forgiving on your budget and allows for more testing of different strategies. Don’t be afraid to take chances, have fun, and create some great conversations with your customers while you’re at it.