There’s no doubt social media opens up a lot of opportunity for small businesses, but it also creates a lot of questions. Where do you start? What should you do? The answer might surprise you.

The smartest brands like Nike, Coca-Cola and Starbucks, don’t start with Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. They start with what story they want to tell. You see, most large brands and business owners are in such a hurry to use social media that they rush right past the ‘story’ to the ‘telling.’ They end of saying lots of different things on different channels which only confuses your customers and wastes the time and money you put into marketing.

Instead, smart brands choose their message very carefully before they say a thing. Think about it some of the biggest marketing campaigns you see around you today. Nike’s ‘Better World,’ Starbucks ‘Shared Planet,’ Pepsi’s ‘Refresh Project,’ Coca-Cola’s ‘Open Happiness,’ or IBM’s ‘Smarter Planet.’ Look what they all have in common. Because social media has given customers a way to back to brands, all these companies have chosen to tell how they improve their customers’ lives. The story isn’t just about how great they are, but about how we can be better together. And because that story is positive and focused on them, it makes the customers like their brand and talk about it to their friends using their own social media.

So here are the 3 critical steps every small business owner must take to get your story right and inspire customers to promote your brand:

1. Identify your company’s purpose.

2. Tell that story in a community-facing way.

3. Allow employees and customers to work together to fulfill that purpose.

Do this and you’ll avoid the greatest mistake that most large and small companies make using social media – talking before they know what to say. What’s more you’ll become a social brands that your customers want to talk about using their own social media channels and suddenly you won’t feel alone as a solo-preneur or small business, but rather the lead of an army of brand ambassadors committed to build your business.