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If you own a business, regardless of its size, you know by now that having a presence on social media, be it Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any of the hundred other options, is something that you must have to be successful. However, what most small to medium-sized businesses do not understand is how to develop, foster, and protect their brand on those platforms.


Before starting a page on every hot social media platform, it is important that you have a clearly defined goal for using those platforms. In addition, you must know your audience. Creating a Snapchat account may not be beneficial if you sell products or services that cater to an older audience. It is recommended that you research the social media platforms that you are interested in using before creating an account and spending your valuable time writing copy and posting images and videos.


Once you have selected the right social media platforms, find your voice and your visual style of branding. What do we mean when we say voice? Determine what the tone of your copy and your responses will be online. Is your brand funny and witty? Dry and serious? Do you get right to the point or do you want to be seen as playful?  Also think about what your current and target audience may be more likely response to in terms of wanting to read, and most importantly, engage with on your social media pages. When you find your voice, that will also help you to determine your visual style. Photos and videos are an integral part of all social media planning for brands and businesses. As much as possible, stay away from stock photos and use actual images of your business, brand, or product. You don’t have to worry about being Annie Liebovitz or Ansel Adams. Your customers will appreciate the real-looking images that they were taken by someone directly involved with the company. But that’s not to say that if you can afford to hire a professional photographer that you shouldn’t.  When thinking about photos and videos, try to remember two words: visual branding. Whether it is using the same filter on every photo or shooting the photograph in the same style, visual branding helps people to recognize your brand, even if you do not include the logo.


You have the right social media pages for your business, you know what you want to “sound” like on social media, but what do you post? It may seem like a daunting task, but finding content should not be that hard. From product photos to behind the scenes videos, even polls, tips, and information, just ensure what you are posting is what your customers want to see, and even more importantly, what they will engage with! Ideally, unless your brand already resides in the political realm, it is best to stay away from politics or anything else that might cause a social upheaval led from the ranks of your Facebook page. Once you have that content at the ready, do not post it all at once. Schedule it out in small digestible bites. Post when you know your customers, and potential customers, are most likely to be online. Maybe you post three times a week, or you have enough content to post every day. Just remember, when it comes to social media, it’s about quality, not quantity. Too many posts and people will remember your brand for being annoying, rather than a brand that they want to talk about and share with friends and family.


Finally, be ready to protect your brand’s image on social media. What may be all sunshine and flowers on Facebook or Instagram one day, can quickly turn into dust and dirt the next. From a poorly-timed or written post, to comment by an upset customer, have a plan in place to know what to do if your pages take a turn for the worse. Remember, deleting a page isn’t the best option for your brand. Pre-plan with possible scenarios that could happen. Maybe someone gets food poisoning from a dinner they just ate at your restaurant. How do you respond? What do you offer to quell the upset customer who is leaving negative reviews across the internet?  How do you answer if someone bought a car from your lot and drove it for a day before it broke down on Route 55 and now is threatening to sue your business on every social media platform you manage?  Being proactive is always better than being reactive—especially when it comes to protecting your brand online.