Social media is important: through it, you present an image of your company or brand, with the goal of positively influencing brand perception in order to attract and convert. The image you present in social media should therefore be just as well thought out as the image you present in any of your other marketing activities.

Would you invest resources into a major trade show and turn up with a trestle table and some flyers? Would you place a press advert without including a call to action, your web address or your company logo?

It might sound crazy, but an awful lot of businesses get on the social bandwagon simply because their competitors are doing it or because they think they should, with little or no regard at all to what they want to achieve from it, let alone anything resembling a clear strategy.

Who should handle your social media activity?

When it comes to social media you can't afford to get it wrong and increasingly, you can't afford to simply choose not do it at all. As with any job, if you plan to appoint someone internally, you need to find the person or people with the relevant skills and experience. Don't trust your social media activities to a junior member of staff simply because they have time on their hands, and don't choose the employee who declares an interest because they use Facebook a lot.

An employee using social media for personal purposes is entirely different from that same employee speaking for your brand and using social for business purposes. Having more than a passing familiarity with social doesn't mean they are the right person for the job.

The most capable candidate to handle your social media will often come from within the marketing department.  If you have an existing community manager then they are also a good bet. My advice is to steer away from allocating social to members of the sales team and whomever you do choose, make sure they understand your goals, have good people skills (being friendly and approachable is a must in social media, as is having a passion for customer service), and make sure that they have creativity with regards to coming up with ideas on how to engage followers.

Effective social media takes creativity, great interpersonal skills plus a strong grasp of business objectives.

It's common, especially in SMEs, for social media to be handled by a number of different employees. Whilst this can help spread the load and can help to keep content fresh, it can also mean that your communications suffer from a lack of coherence. My personal preference is to give responsibility to no more than a couple of individuals, though it will depend on the number of social media platforms you are active on and the scope of activities you plan to carry out.

For many SMEs, handling social media activity internally isn't an option as they don't have either the time or expertise to do it themselves, in which case calling in the services of an experienced agency or freelancer is the way to go. The following list details all of the main considerations you will need to make before deciding on who to appoint to look after your social media activities.

Who should handle your social media?

1. Handling social media in-house is still an investment.

If you appoint someone internally, ensure that you are realistic in both what you expect them to achieve and in how long it will take; monitoring social daily takes time and even more time to do it effectively. If you are only investing an hour or two a week into social, then the results you get will reflect that.

2. Don't be afraid to outsource social.

Good digital agencies will have extensive experience of working with clients across multiple sectors and will be able to use tried and tested techniques that will work for you. Arm them with additional insight into who your target audience is and what it is you want to achieve and outsourcing social to the experts will pay off.

3. Limit potential social fallout.

Limit access to the corporate social media accounts and ensure that login information is centrally held by a senior manager; as in the case of the recent HMV rogue Tweeter, you need a fail-safe.

4. It's social media, not a sales channel.

Don't make your activities all about selling. Of course people love a great sales promotion or competition and will equally be keen to hear news from you, but don't bombard them. Do not use social like a sales channel because if you do you'll turn people off and lose them.

5. Be flexible to aid creativity.

Maintain flexibility, don't be too regimented in tone and frequency; this stifles creativity and will do exactly the opposite of what you want it to achieve.

6. Set social guidelines.

Consider implementing a social policy or provide guidelines for employees to follow so they understand all communications need to fit your brand and work to achieve business objectives.

7. Keep it consistent.

If you use Bitly to shorten your URLs then use it all the time. Using different tools and styles of communication leads to your activities appearing haphazard and should be avoided.

8. Be realistic.

Carrying out even small-scale social marketing activities takes a considerable time investment; don't leap into it until you understand the extent of the investment you'll need to make.