Branding, marketing and customer service are vital business functions in every company.

In the age of hybrid media where social media is influencing the way people communicate, more focus and budget are now being allocated to explore its vitality and sustainability.

The way to go about branding on social media is to be social. The way to go about marketing is to be in conversation, and the way to go about managing customer service is to be authentic.

Social branding

* Streamline your content. What are your brand essence, vision and values?

Select the right platforms to position yourself in respective domains. Keywords must be planned carefully to ensure you come out on top of your competition.

Prepare a posting schedule to avoid over-crowding of information within a short time.

* Select your platforms. Choose platforms for article directories with good page ranking. If you have a lot of expert knowledge or cutting-edge technology to share, SlideShare is a great platform. Twitter is a must for any company with notable inspiration to share frequently.

* Share your knowledge. Your company’s past experience with customers is the best user-generated content you can put up to enrich accelerated learning among your followers.

Knowledge is everywhere, so present it your own way to establish yourself as a leader in your field. Conduct quality surveys regularly to keep abreast of the latest trends within your market.

* Simplify your conversation. Gone are the days when people engaged in lengthy and senseless discussions on forums.

Use Twitter and learn to comment within 140 characters. You need to think, speak and listen “140” in the social media age. Typically, if your company’s mission statement cannot be stated in seven words, you lack a strong brand essence.

* Sell your expertise. Eighty per cent of your forte would be knowledge and 20 per cent would be your expertise. Make others want your expertise after you have shared your knowledge.

Customising the knowledge with a unique solution to their problem is always a sure way to sell. Selling your expertise through electronic newsletters is acceptable as long as it happens once every five times.

* Support your community. Be available in as many places as you can initially because you do not know where your potential customers will come from.

Create a portal to gather them in one place so that you can do targeted customer engagement in the future.

Many marketers have no problem generating interest, but sustaining interest is another ball game altogether.

Conversation marketing

Social media marketing is about marketing your goods and services in a social manner.

* Get the “thumbs up”. Increasingly, more people will be buying from you because four out of five of their friends have said you are reliable and have enjoyed a great experience with your brand. They help you to sell by giving you their “likes” and recommendations.

* Practise crowd-sourcing. If you require new insights about your market and target audience, you can create a market survey easily and share it with millions of people. The results can be obtained within a very short period for you to position yourself better. A poll can be easily done through social media-ready platforms such as www.feedbackfarm.com

* Network with social media celebrities. Bloggers with a large following can become your brand ambassadors by talking about your goods and services through their blogs, which may enjoy tens of thousands of page views daily.

* Share brochures online. Printing new brochures can be a challenging task. But if you upload your brochure on a social media platform, it can be viewed, downloaded and shared by many who do not even know you.

* Make a visual impact. A professional corporate video can be created within minutes with photographs, a royalty-free soundtrack and a good script and distributed on popular search sites in the world from platforms such as Animoto.

Personable customer service

* Be authentic and transparent. Avoid puffery (people will ignore it). Avoid evasion and lying (people won’t ignore it). Companies have watched their biggest screw-ups rise to the top 10 of a Google search. Admit your mistakes right away.

* Be personable. Don’t shout, don’t broadcast, don’t brag.  Speak as yourself, not as a corporate marketing shill or press secretary. Personify your brand — give people something they can relate to.

* Use criticism as an opportunity to explain yourself. Don’t try to delete or remove criticism (it will just make it worse). Listen to your detractors, admit your shortcomings and work openly towards an explanation and a legitimate solution.