AS SOCIAL Media Week draws to a close today (Friday), Business Link in the East, the Government-funded advice service, has revealed its top tips for using digital technology and social media to benefit your business. 1. Research existing social media outlets to assess which are best for your business. Consider your objectives: if you want to improve your contact base to find jobs, people and business opportunities, then you might want to try LinkedIn for business-orientated professional networking; if you want to target a customer base, then Facebook might be a better outlet; updates on Twitter could keep customers informed about relevant news and products/services; YouTube can be used to upload any video (from a visual how-to to a documentation of a recent company event) and can be linked back to your own website. 2. Integrate social media into your existing marketing plan. Despite the fact that much social media functions as a free marketing tool, it still needs to be on strategy and managed in the same way other communication platforms would be. 3. Don't neglect your more traditional marketing methods - use social media as an extension of these. Consider customer behaviour: transferring communication completely to the web would, for example, alienate those customers who prefer to be contacted by phone or post. 4. Make sure to keep time-management in mind when approaching social media. Make time to save time - one of the benefits of using social media is that it allows real-time communication and releases information quickly into the public domain. Allocate specific and regular times to check for things like customer feedback to make sure all issues that may arise are addressed. 5. Set targets: social media is highly measurable, and targets (for example, aiming to increase monthly traffic to your company website) help keep track of the efficiency of your social media campaign. 6. Be patient: a hugely successful immediate social media impact is rare and it may take time to see results in your marketing strategy. 7. Once you find the right social media channel, avoid being aggressive or too persistent: running competitions and offering special deals and discounts to social media followers is much more likely to appeal than plain sales messages. 8. Remember that social media are a form of communication between your business and its target markets, but also between customers and the business. Providing a platform for customer feedback in this way, and being seen to act upon it, establishes your business as service-led.