Over the past couple of years, the popularity of social media has risen dramatically: Facebook is now integrated with more than 1 million websites; 23% of users check their Facebook account 5 times or more per 1 day; Twitter has acquired 163 billion tweets since it launched in 2006 and over the last six months, and the amount of Instagram users has increased by 724%.

With the large amount of consumers going digital, companies are jumping on the bandwagon of social media and setting up pages on the most common platforms: Facebook and Twitter. But is there a benefit in doing so or will it cause more harm than good for your business?

Having a successful page on a social media platform can give credibility to your brand as 92% of consumers trust peer recommendations (70% of which are online reviews) and only 40% trust online advertising, but having an empty and abandoned profile can cause consumers to rethink your customer service skills. Many companies make this mistake by not doing their research and choosing the social media platforms incorrectly. Finding the right platforms should be as important as deciding which magazine to advertise in, as it will obtain more views than any published advert.

The platforms you choose will also depend on what voice you would like to use with your consumers: Facebook as well as Twitter are chatty and informal platforms; Pinterest and Instagram are photography based; whilst LinkedIn is a professional platform where you can create forums and groups while you network to gain more “connections”. Of course a company could and sometimes should have multiple channels and use different personas (which must still be in keeping with the brand tone) to engage more users, but consider the time it will take to utilise each one of the platforms.

The trick to using social media to gain brand awareness and establish your presence online is to start small but effective to gain followers and then expand onto multiple platforms. Do your research and find out where the clients you want to target hang out: food lovers are more likely to interact over Pinterest and Instagram; fashion and beauty fans will be looking for hashtags on Twitter; charity, organisations and local pages will be better liked on Facebook; and membership organisations or B2B brands will work on LinkedIn. Use the right voice for each platform and interact with users – don’t ignore their questions! And don’t talk too much about your own brand – imagine being at a dinner party and having one guest talk about themselves with nothing else to offer. Interact, share and be interested. After all, this is social networking we’re talking about.