The following is a guest post by By Veronica Fielding of Digital Brand Expressions.

Small businesses are jumping onto the social media bandwagon to promote their brands. To help them become more savvy about this medium and avoid the pitfalls, I have put together a list of best practices for communicating via social media channels:

Be transparent

Many brands have been tempted to promote themselves via social media sites by using a fictitious profile, or hiring people, to go onto social media websites for the sole purpose of posting positive reviews and contents about their brand. If discovered, the backlash is so damaging that it far outweighs any benefit to trying to build brand value this way. Any types of communication from your brand or partners should be transparent, with all relationships clearly disclosed.

Don’t use social media communications to advertise

Brands that view social media as a means to communicate marketing messages to their target audiences are looking at things the wrong way. Social media is about interactivity and communications — being a valued and trusted resource for your target audience. While advertising on social media sites is fine via the sites’ advertising channels, doing so within your profile communications will not be well received.

Dedicate time and resources to your social media communications strategy

The most common mistake that brands make when embarking on a social media campaign is the lack of planning for ongoing resource allotment. Social media takes time and attention, though how much is certainly scalable depending upon your objectives. Make sure you have employees (or a social media partner) ready to dedicate time on a regular basis to creating and posting content. Communicate within your organization what your social media objectives are so that everyone knows how social media fits in to the overall communications plan for the company.

Utilize all available channels to cross-promote your digital outposts

Integrate social media into all of your communications vehicles — even cross promoting site-to-site. Links to your profiles should be published on your website(s), blogs, print materials, business cards, etc.

Integrate all of your marketing activities with your social media profiles

Twitter and Facebook are especially well designed to be integrated into your entire marketing plan. All types of content — videos, photos, links, etc. — can be posted to your digital outposts to support the rest of your marketing efforts. Events and announcements can be heavily promoted via these channels as well.

Respond to both negative and positive messaging about your brand swiftly and appropriately

Whether the content is good or bad, when someone takes the time to post about your brand, a quick response is essential. Particularly when it comes to well-publicized negative information, waiting too long can be just as dangerous as not responding at all.

This article was excerpted from The Jump Start Guide to Social Media For Business Professionals.