It can be a chore to figure out how best to utilize social media platforms. And as your social media presence grows, that chore can turn into a serious drain on your time and effort if you don’t currently have a strong strategy in place. If you’re one of the many small business owners who are new to social media, getting started can be a challenge. There is no formal education for learning these new tools and academic learning never prepared us for this type of guerrilla marketing.

So what’s a sensible way to get started with social media? Here are 6 tips you can use to jump-start your year and get your feet wet with social media.

TIP 1: Think about what you want to invest into Social Media.

Yes, social media may be a new tool and channel for reaching customers, but the business world still operates on the premise that your efforts should, in one way or another, grow your business. How much you invest and how much you spend on social media are important factors to consider when thinking about how large a role social media will play in your business operations. For most businesses, this means considering:

  • Is your business in an industry where clientele regularly use social media to obtain information on it?
  • Will an investment in social media yield a meaningful return?
  • Can your business afford to invest in social media? In other words, will your investment be profitable? Will the sales generated by your social media campaign exceed the amount spent on the campaign?

TIP 2: Don’t start what you can’t finish.

Or at the very least, try to! If you want to truly benefit from your social media campaign, sustainability is key. Before you start using every social media platform available on the web, keep in mind that you will need to keep these accounts up to date so each additional account will require a commitment. Try to be selective when choosing the social media platforms you wish to employ. If you want to play it safe, consider starting with two sites first.

You can start by setting up a Facebook account and then select a second social media networking platform based on the best fit for your business and the objectives of your social media plan. For instance, if you are a photographer, you may want to set up an Instagram page so customers can check out your portfolio. As your campaign becomes successful, or you start to sort out which platforms yield the best results, you can then add more to your social media presence.

Small business owners should remember that it’s not unheard of for customers to look up a company on a social media network or to find a social media site using Google. If you start by setting up too many social media sites, you run the risk of not keeping the sites up to date and customers may perceive your business as being outdated or less successful.

TIP 3: Look before you leap.

For most businesses, your social media budget should correlate with the expected ROI. If you're not familiar with social media, don't start by allocating large portions of your budget to implement a social media plan, especially if you don't understand the plan, what you’re paying for or how much ROI you can expect from each dollar spent. As I mentioned in TIP 2, start small and reassess in the future to make necessary adjustments. This can be difficult to do if your expecting a return that isn’t financial. If this is the case for your business, try to set a goal at the start of the project so you have a benchmark to which you can refer to assess the campaign’s success.

TIP 4: Get help, but the right kind of help.

Just like any other aspect of your business, you should be cautious about blindly trusting claims that social media can only benefit your business. If you are completely new to social media, ask your company's social media manager or consultant for resources and start learning the basics. Be sure to mention what level of technical knowledge you have or are looking to learn. This can save you a lot of time and frustration.

The type of help you seek can depend on the size of your business. For a small company, hiring an intern may produce more bang for your buck than hiring a big time consulting firm. For more established businesses, a consultant may have the experience necessary to generate the results you’re looking for in your social media campaign.

And remember, you should always be wary of anyone who would rather spend their time making claims or throwing around jargon rather than answering your questions.

TIP 5: Social Media may not cure what's ailing your business.

If your business is struggling to grow or bring in revenue, social media may not be the best solution to your business problem. Keep in mind that all social media initiatives take time and money so your efforts should be directed at generating revenue, either directly by getting your company exposure or indirectly by building your brand or social media presence. It's possible to have hundreds of likes on Facebook or dozens of your tweets retweeted with little impact on your overall sales. In fact, undertaking too many new tasks as part of a large social media marketing plan could require taking time away from traditional sales techniques that might work better and your company could even lose money!

TIP 6: Use what you got.

Many social media platforms now include integration with other platforms so you won’t have to post updates on two separate platforms individually. By getting to know the technical capabilities of the platforms you choose, you can market more optimally in this space. For instance, you can connect your Twitter account to your Facebook site so that Facebook posts are automatically sent as tweets also with just one click of a button. Using integration across your platforms can reduce the time and effort needed to manage accounts on multiple social media platform and simultaneously allows you to keep your social media presence up to date and promote products or services to your target audience.

About the Author(s)

Jennifer Shin

Jennifer is the Founder & Principal Consultant of 8 Path Solutions LLC, a NYC based management consultancy and data science startup that aims to bridge the gap between science, technology and industry and tackle real world challenges. | @8PathSolutions | Facebook | More from Jennifer

Founder and Principal Consultant, 8 Path Solutions LLC
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