By Lisa Hester, Senior Account Manager

As your company contemplates ways to carve out a niche for itself, looking no farther than your computer is a great way to start.Your Company Needs Social,Now What_

The first step is to agree that you need a social presence. Next is to decide on which social platforms you will communicate. That means, considering your key audiences and where they are living in the social space….be it Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. For companies more focused on the business of business, for example, LinkedIn is a must. And for the more visual of businesses, Pinterest is a great place to be.

Considering Instagram? Statistics show that females are 38 percent more likely to use Instagram over men and the majority of Instagram users fall between ages 18-29.

Data such as these are readily available and should be explored before choosing your company’s social platforms.

Once the “where” is established, it’s vital to develop a plan for communicating your messages…before you even create the first post. The what, when and how often needs to be decided before implementation. Constant and consistent messaging keeps your brand in the forefront of your audience’s mind. But maintaining a balance of sharing without bombarding is a fine line that must be considered.

One thing I see often with companies engaging for the first time on social media is that they are obsessed with one-way communication, of pushing out day in and day out the particulars of their brand that make them unique. They are so eager to tell their story, to tell the world what they do and why they are the best at it.

While it is essential to share your points of differentiation to all who see your posts, two-way communication…that of sharing and listening…is what defines real engagement. Conversation is key.

Data from a recent research report about interactive contact from the Content Marketing Institute and ion interactive reveals the top reason for using interactive content is educating the audience. But the second is engagement.

So how do you get the conversation started?

* Ask a question. People generally want to share their opinion with others. And they also like to hear what others are thinking. So why not post a question that invites people to share their opinion or weigh in on something? Or formalize the question into a poll. Twitter and Facebook have made it fairly easy to create online polls with little advance learning. Not only will the poll engage your followers, you will likely learn meaningful things about them, as well.

* Encourage and collect testimonials. Let your followers tell you what they’re experiencing. And let them tell others. By understanding how they relate to your company’s goods or services and how they feel about your brand, you can get a spark of inspiration about the company’s next steps.

* If appropriate for your brand, make an offer. Give your audience a special deal they can only get if they are following you, whether it be a discount, special package or personalized gift. Not that this suggestion is not fitting for some brands, but it’s perfect for others.

And remember, once you “go social,” you need to maintain that presence. Engagement is not one-time only, it is a long-term commitment. Just make sure you’ve addressed the where, when and how of social media before you enter into it.