“If it’s not on social media, it didn’t happen.”

That may sound harsh, but with newspaper and magazine sales at an all-time low and on-demand services overtaking broadcast media, the landscape of information-gathering has changed beyond all recognition in just a few years.

When Twitter can give us updates on traffic jams, sports results and breaking news in real time, complete with first-hand video and witness accounts, why wait for the next day to read about it in the paper?

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest users want our curiosity to be sated instantly.

We love to complain about service on social media, and most large companies now have dedicated social media customer service teams who placate and compensate disgruntled customers, all swiftly and in full public view.

Even one-person operations ignore social media at their peril – get the tone right and you will gain a following that adds to your credibility and trust. Get it wrong, however (and there are many ways to do that) and your brand will be forever tarnished. Remember:

  • Everyone is equal. The customer with 10 Twitter followers and 20 Facebook friends can write on the wall of the multinational corporation and be seen by many thousands.
  • Over-management, such as deleting or ignoring negative comments, can backfire because someone always has a screenshot of the original.
  • Blatant advertising and ‘broadcasting’ (a negative term for one-way communication, usually to push a point of view or product) gets short shrift from users.
  • Understanding it’s at least a two-way conversation with possibly many thousands of people listening in is the first step to building a good social media presence.
  • Time spent communicating and being timely and honest with answers pays dividends in the long-run.