Social The 7 Key Principles To successful Social Media Marketing For Brands And Businesses Written by Simply Zesty on 14 May 2011 Social media is changing in front of our eyes. It's still a very new discipline but companies and brands are embracing it across the board in a number of ways. It can be easy to become distracted by all the new technologies and some people don't know where to start or how to make a difference with their social media marketing. With that in mind I wanted to create a list of seven key areas that I think all businesses and brands should be spending their time on. Yes the headings are broad and there are a hundred things you could be trying within each section but if you improved your companies performance across these 7 areas you would start to see real tangible results. It can be easy to get caught up in all the hype and move from one platform to another trying to follow the trends but have a little focus, hone in on these clear goals and you will be in a far better place...Internal CommunicationsThe tools are available to help improve how you talk to each other within your company. Companies that communicate well internally will more often than not have far better results. I'm always amazed at the lack of communication internally but with a new range of tools available to us all there really isn't any excuse any longer. Try out Yammer, Facebook groups or instant messaging tools like Skype or Google chat to get the best out of your company. The smart companies are adding a social layer to their entire business and putting as big a focus on internal communications as external comms. Make sure that your company has excellent social media guidelines to allow staff to talk about where they work and the benefits of working there. The days of control where upper management decided what was projected in to public domain about your company are long gone and every single one of your staff now have a voice thanks to social media.Branded ContentIt's not enough trying to create engaging updates or throw up the odd picture on social media channels. If you are really serious about engaging with a community you'll need to start thinking about branded content and how to seed it within the communities that you have access to. This could be anything from videos and websites to blogs or podcasts and the most important thing about branded content is creating something that the consumer has genuine interest in. We all know how to filter ads out these days and the savvy consumer is looking for new ways to engage with brands. Content should be at the very center of everything you do and spending time and money developing branded content is a route most brands and businesses should be going down. If you want to see the masters of branded content have a look at this video or others from Red Bull. Now you won't have their budgets for creating content but it's an important part of social media now and one your company should be trying to engage with. Stunning Customer ServiceThere is no reason why you should't be talking to your customers in this day and age. The tools are there from Twitter and Facebook to Linkedin or forums and the smart brands are talking to their customers and solving problems to build positive word of mouth. The businesses doing this well are actually being proactive via social media channels and finding the problems and putting out the fires before they go any further. The upside of creating advocates through stunning social media customer service is that they all have the power to tell 100s of friends about their positive experiences. Being proactive and engaging with your customers on 3rd party channels rather than waiting for them to come to you is the key.Ignore Facebook At Your PerilWebsites come and go. Look at Myspace and Bebo as classic examples. Many think Facebook will have a similar fall from grace one day and that we will move on to the next big thing but to think like that would be foolish. You need to think of Facebook not as a website but as a platform which will become as important as the internet or Google itself. Facebook is starting to force it's way on to websites, it's being built in to the core of mobile phones and soon you'll be buying stuff through there and it will influence search results. Facebook is not going away any time soon and while you should always have a broad approach and not have all your eggs in one basket I'd advise people to spend a decent percentage of their time and money marketing via Facebook. It's only going to get bigger and more important.TransparencyIt's getting harder and harder to spin a story about your company that is not accurate or glosses over the truth. Brands and businesses have to be more transparent than they ever have in the past and consumers and the man in the the street has as much say in a brand as people working within the company. It's a seismic shift away from the days when control was key and the message could be tailored to suit the goals of the company. There have been countless social media disasters and many of them arise from companies trying to bend the truth or cover something up. Social media is bringing a whole new level of transparency to business and for the consumer that can only be a good thing.Adapting To Technology And Being NimbleTrends change in social media circles quicker than you could imagine. While it is important not to jump from trend to trend without achieving anything it's also important to be nimble and have your marketing strategy evolve over time. In the past placing an advert in a newspaper was always pretty much the same process but marketing on Facebook can change from week to week as the platform evolves. Twitter doesn't even have an effective ad platform yet but chances are you could be using it next year. You need to look at new platforms like the tablet computer which although less than 2 years old is creating a seismic shift in our online habits. These new technologies and platforms seem to come out of nowhere and they can change entire industries within a year so be nimble and evolve your strategy because consumers might not always be in the same place.Mobile Mobile MobileIf you don't have some sort of mobile strategy for your business or brand then you better start moving fast. Consumers are moving away from newspapers and magazines and embracing smart phones and tablets. Have a look around at other people on the next bus or train you are on and you'll see people peering in to their mobiles. People are finding deals on the go and they are researching products on their mobiles. We're only at the very start of this journey and as tools like location aware advertising and local deals take hold over the next year it's clear that you would be a fool if you hadn't at least started to put some thought in to the area of mobile.