#1 – Create a community around your businessA business with a happy load of customers can create a busy, popular Facebook page or Twitter account, which in turn shows new customers that people are pleased with what you do and you can be trusted. Your fans may turn out to be evangelists who will shout from the rooftops about how great you are (assuming, of course, that you ARE great… better make sure you are!).#2 – Build a personal rapport with customersSpeaking to a real person encourages trust and gives your company a down-to-earth personality. Showing you’re not just an abstract corporate entity can be really important in creating trust and transparency. Have fun, amuse and engage your customers, find out what they like or dislike, what they need from you and think of you, speak to like-minded people who enjoy your brand, show your thanks personally. Get involved.#3 – Use as an effective new customer service techniqueInstead of being directed through a mind-numbing labyrinth of automated answering services, or having to wait for an email reply, or being kept on hold until their heads explode, customers can have almost instant access to a business representative via Social Media sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Your feedback, or any resolution of complaints of problems can be public if you want them to be, showing other customers just how wonderful you are.#4 – A forum for discussionWhat’s everyone’s favourite subject? ME. (Well, not me, but you, or them… oh you know what I mean…) Engage and empower your customers and let them make your ears burn. A blog, a forum, Facebook wall, group or Twitter page can act as the perfect place for customers and clients to discuss products, services and general interest in your company. Joining in with the conversation and entertaining your viewers can increase popularity and make your customers feel involved.#5 – Injecting some fun into your businessIf people like the content you’re posting, they will re-post, re-tweet, link, share and spread the word further than you can imagine. Give them good reason to do so. Competitions, interesting stories, observations, polls, links and humour can all keep customers interested and engaged and have them coming back regularly for more.#6 – Provide a powerful word-of-mouth networkCreating unique, compelling content that users will want to share with their friends is key. People are much more likely to trust a recommendation from someone they know than just blindly believing advertising marketing, however clever it may be. Getting your content on as many platforms as possible increases the likelihood that it will reach your target audience and beyond.#7 – Give your company a dynamic, modern aspectSocial Media is here to stay, and is only going to develop further, so you might as well get on board. We’re in the 21st century here, people! It’s no longer purely a social network for sharing how bored you are at work or the latest picture of a friend’s bonny baby, it’s an essential platform for marketing and business today. You can reach further, increase visibility, strengthen reputation and show you can move with the times. Throw away those argyle socks and get yourself an iPad.#8 – Target a relevant audience and reach new demographicsWe have ways of making them talk (about you)… And tools to help you target the people who will be genuinely interested in your brand, who will then pass on your message to others, creating a chain along which your information is passed. With Social Media Marketing, you can also reach new demographics that you previously could not, or perhaps discover new groups of people who you hadn’t even considered to be targets.#9 – Monitor your brand, its reputation and its successes and weaknessesAnalytical tools can help you work out which areas are working and which need more help. There are so many different types of Social Media that it’s possible to approach your campaign in various different ways, with different media, to target different customers. And with the openness of opinions and feedback it is very easy to see whether people are happy or not.#10 – Increase visibility, increase SEO successIf you build it, they will come… The more places your company can be found online, the more re-tweets, the more information shared, the more your content is linked to, the higher you will rank with search engines, giving you a more trusted reputation and ensuring more traffic into your site. Party time. Excellent.#11 – A place to showcase new products, promotions, advertisements and business ideasWith the added bonus of immediate viewing, feedback and opinions from either your peers or your customers, you can get instant results from new ideas and promotions. Why not hold a poll, ask for customer suggestions and get everyone involved? A little snooping will also allow you to compare with and discover new insight into competitors’ work.#12 – An easy, cheap marketing strategy that requires very little IT knowledgeIf Grandma is tweeting, there’s no excuse why you’re not. Anyone can learn to use the platforms of Social Media Marketing, though it does need careful planning to ensure success. This is the beauty of Social Media – it doesn’t require a huge amount of computer expertise to conquer, and you can use existing programs like YouTube, Flickr, Slideshare etc to showcase your videos and photos, and simple blog software such as Tumblr or WordPress to create a professional looking site, without having to invest in expensive and complicated software.#13 – A media that is used by “the critical mass” of the populationWowsers. 400 million Facebook users worldwide! Apparently, 64% of internet users in the UK have a Social Media profile – social networking is currently insanely popular, used by millions daily, often multiple times daily, to keep in contact, keep updated and discover new things that interest them. Those who aren’t connected are likely to become so in the future, in one form or another. Just like email has superseded the letter and even the phone call in recent times, Social Media is going to take precedence in years to come as the most common form of technical communication. Er, probably want to sign up for that account then.#14 – A variety of platforms to choose from according to a business’ needsNo matter the nature of your business, there is a form of Social Media for you, be it text dominated, image or video led, or with an emphasis on community and communication. A combination of all of these can be an effective marketing strategy, and open up your company to new forms of advertising and increased brand awareness.#15 – It’s going to take over the world!Seriously. It will have dominated the human race way before we get flying cars and robot housekeepers. Even itty bitty local businesses have websites, Facebook profiles and tweet daily about their new batch of cupcakes. You can talk to Steven Fry about his new haircut. You can get your phone to tell you how to get to Timbuktu by skateboard and where’s a good place for a latte when you get there. It might be scary, it might be overwhelming, but it’s big, it’s clever, and it’s here to stay. So get on board!