These days, companies are using social media like never before.

It's an incredible tool for offering coupons and promotions, letting your customers know about new products or services, and simply interacting with the public to get an idea of what they like and don't like about your business.

But with our mobile world making it easier to make posts on social media accounts at any time of the day or night, it can also come back to haunt you.

At Ripley PR, we encourage all of our clients, even business-to-business companies, to be active on social media.

Whatever your customer base is, they are very likely to be using Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn - and they may be on other social media sites as well, such as Instagram, Google+, or Pinterest.

We provide crisis training as part of a B2B public relations strategy for each of our clients, and in recent years, more companies have dealt with fallout from social media crises. So how can you avoid such a fate?

Consider these simple tips to communicate effectively on social media.

  • Be careful what you post. Anyone is susceptible to high emotions in the face of criticism or negative attention, but in the business world, you must be especially careful about what you say. Social media is not the best place to air grievances about customer complaints, or to call out or insult any detractors you might have. Just like you should before you speak - you should also think before you post. If you do feel the need arise to respond to a negative comment by a customer or follower, don't do so right away, especially if you're angry. Let your emotions settle, and then think it through carefully; perhaps even ask a second person to look at the post before you send it into the ether.

  • Have a social media policy in place. Whether you have one person posting to your company social media pages or a dozen, having a protocol for best practice will ensure that any posts will meet company standards. That policy can extend to employees' personal accounts as well - make sure they know what is and isn't acceptable social media behavior.

  • Watch your reputation. This requires being alert to news stories about your company, hashtags, and other references to your name. You can set up Google Alerts for certain keywords related to your business and industry, and follow tags that might have an impact on you. That way, if you do see a negative reputation starting to develop, either for your company specifically or your business in general, you can figure out the best way to resolve complaints and keep them from spreading further. And your customers will appreciate your efforts to keep them satisfied.

As you can see, social media can be an incredible marketing tool, but if handled improperly, it can have disastrous consequences. Keep these tips in mind as you reach out on social media, and your company can be a good example of social marketing, rather than a bad one.

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