Unless your small business specializes in chiseling stone tablets, you’ve probably heard a zillion times that you need to be on social media in order to be successful in the 21st century.

Although this is true to varying degrees, social media can be a really difficult marketing medium to navigate. Luckily, no matter who you are, what kind of company you own or who your target audience is, there’s a way to make social media work!

  • Plan: Social Media Strategy is Job One
    Before you plunge into social media (or give it another go), you absolutely have to have a plan. There are so many billions of people on social media, it’s not like placing a colorful ad in your local newspaper. Without a plan, you’re going to end up struggling and throwing in the towel. A social media strategy doesn’t have to be fancy, however. The most important thing is to determine what you want to achieve and your budget for doing so. For many SMBs, social media is a thing they do to build trust with their potential customers: a basic page with company information, three or four posts a week and someone to answer questions and monitor reviews is all they need. eCommerce companies, on the other hand, might want a lot more engagement, 24/7 social media-based customer service and all the bells and whistles.
  • Target: Determining Your Audience
    The next big thing is to determine who your audience really is. With social media   marketing, especially Facebook and Instagram, you can target potential customers down to specific interests. So, for example, if you have a store that sells sports gear primarily to women between 30 and 50 and you want to really focus on runners, you can specify that your ads only reach those people. This saves you a lot of marketing money, and it ensures that your message is going to people who will make the most of it.
  • Test: Testing Your Efforts
    To be on social media is to be always testing. A/B testing is common in marketing, and even though you hear about it less on social media, it’s important there, too. Instead of just using one piece of marketing, develop two using different images, colors or wording and test them with your audience.When you see that one is outperforming the other, it’ll be clear which one should get your marketing dollars. There are special software packages that can help you run A/B testing, but many social media platforms give you plenty of information to do this on a small scale.
  • Prepare: Be Ready for Customers
    Social media marketers often put so much effort into advertising that they forget that their ultimate goal is to get people to email and call for more information. If you have a small staff or a limited budget, an answering service can act as a backup catcher for callers who can’t be serviced right away or you can partner with an answering service to handle all your customer service calls from the get-go. Whatever you choose, it’s a waste of marketing effort to not plan for the customers to need service.

Social media is a great way for small businesses to get the word out without spending a fortune in advertising, but only if you approach it like a marketing pro. By having a plan, figuring out who your audience is and what kind of marketing they like best, you’ll be navigating the world of social media like it’s just another day at your SMB.