There is no longer any argument that social media has got a major role to play when it comes to the world of business.

Many senior people at some of our biggest firms were suspicious of the value of using social media when it first burst on to the scene, but that argument has been over for some time now. The reality is that any business, no matter how big or small, is making a huge mistake if they decide to ignore social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

This relatively new form of communication offers companies a unique opportunity to speak directly to their existing customers and, even more importantly, it is a great way of bringing in new business and making new contacts.

The debate has shifted away from the value of social media, and is now focused on the best way to use the internet, how to get the right message out into the world and how to keep control of your image or brand.

Here are some of my tips on how small firms can make the most of social media and avoid some of the pitfalls:

1. Protect the brand

One of the big dangers about using the internet as a marketing tool is the fact that you open the door to all sorts of criticism and sniping. There are plenty of people who have found out the hard way that the internet is full of people who are only too ready to criticise. Make one mistake online, and you will get punished for it – that is why you have to be very careful about what you put online.

Think before you post anything; remember, once something is out there it can be difficult and sometimes even impossible to remove. The whole world can read it and make comments.

2. Know your market

Too many people make the mistake of confusing the professional and the personal. There should always be a point to what you post, whether it is to improve your public profile or to find out from your customers that you are delivering the right quality of service and the right goods. There is no point in wasting valuable time on the internet if it is not going to improve your company or bring in new business.

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