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Richard Branson once said “If you're an entrepreneur and you don't have a social media presence, your company is at a competitive disadvantage.” While he speaks the truth, social media can be intimidating if you’re not familiar with the techniques, tools, and platforms.

But, if you follow these eight tips, you’ll be able to become more social media savvy in no time.
1. Make Sure Your Brand is in Order

Prior to joining any social media accounts, you first need to understand your brand and make sure it’s in order. This means knowing who your audience is and where they are located. For example, take a look at Taco Bell’s social media marketing. The fast food chain has a younger fanbase that is active on social media platforms like Twitter and Snapchat, so that’s where Taco Bell hangs out. The Taco Bell brand wouldn’t exactly fit in the LinkedIn community, but a law firm or marketing agency definitely would. Remember that just because your business is entering the social media world doesn't mean you have to lose your professional look and feel.

Your brand should have a website, or a complete LinkedIn profile if you’re in the professional world, so that social media visitors can head there to learn more information about your brand and verify your authenticity.

Bonus tip: Make sure your brand aligns across all channels. If your brand uses blue as its predominant color and has a logo, then that color and logo should be the same on your website, Facebook page, Twitter account, etc.
2. Be a Little Curious

Listening to what others are saying about you or your brand is one of the most important components of being active on social media. By monitoring and listening to what’s being said about you, and even your competitors, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions.

Curiosity, however, isn’t just about listening to your audience, it’s also about exploring social media channels and tools you may not be familiar with. This doesn’t mean you should jump right in, but it wouldn’t hurt to do a little investigating to see if a particular platform or tool could work for you.
3. Don’t Back Away From Mistakes

We’re all human and we all make mistakes. Instead of freaking out and going all Amy’s Baking Company on your followers, you need to own up to your mistakes. If you do have a social media mishap, you need to admit that you were wrong, apologize, and handle the backlash with as much grace as possible. You could even make light of the situation, like Red Cross once did, or even ask your community for help on how to improve.

Making a mistake isn’t necessarily a bad thing - if you are able to learn from the experience and manage it with dignity. It may be a bit bumpy for a period of time, but you’ll earn the trust of your community.
4. Be Authentic

Customers today can see through the promotional messages on social media. And, guess what? They’re not buying it. If you want to be successful on social media then you have to put aside the sales pitches and actually build relationships with your audience. Remember, customers want to deal with an actual person who cares about them, not just a faceless company looking to grab their money.
5. Engage and Interact

Social media is not a broadcasting tool. It’s a communication tool. As mentioned earlier, you can’t just go on Facebook or Twitter and share promotional messages over and over again. You need to give your audience content that they’ll find useful or entertaining. You also have to strike up conversations with them when they leave a comment or ask a question. Engaging and interacting with your audience is a simple, yet powerful way to build relationships.
6. Use the Right Tools

When you use awesome social media tools, you have the power to do everything from discovering influencers, automating and scheduling content, managing all of your accounts from one location, and creating calls-to-action. Tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, HubSpot, and Sprout Social are all great places to start for managing your social media platforms, but there are an endless amount of tools you can use to give your channel a little something extra. For example, IFTTT help you automate content by connecting apps, Influential mobilizes your current followers to advertise on social media, and Topsy is an analytics tool.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, so if you want some other incredible social media tools, you should check out the suggestions from Social Media Examiner, Convince and Convert, Buffer, and Entrepreneur.
7. Have a Plan

What do you want to get out of social media? Do you want more followers on Facebook? Do you want more visitors to go a landing page? Do you want to increase sales? Having a game plan will keep your efforts focused and will help you create and share consistent content with your audience. And, don’t forget to measure your efforts by establishing metrics and using analytics tools.
8. Be Open to the Advice of Others

Whether it’s a colleague, a recent college grad who is now your intern, or even your children, you have to be open to the advice and suggestions from others. Just because you are not a pro on social media doesn’t mean there isn't one in your inner circle who is willing to share their knowledge and spark your creativity. Take for example Snapchat. The high school daughter of Lightspeed Venture Partners Jeremy Liew brought the app to his attention, which lead to the investment that saved Snapchat early on. Ideas and advice are everywhere. Don’t be so quick to turn them down.

Now it is time to take these tips and get to learning!