Social media marketing is all the rage in marketing, but social media platforms now number in the hundreds. So, what’s a small business owner to do?

If you’re strapped for cash or just ready to get it over with already, the good news is that it’s quite possible to DIY a dynamic social media strategy without a degree in technology. You’ve just go to give it time, energy, and the old college try with these four simple steps:

Feed the Beast

First off, it’s important to understand that social media is meant to be natural, engaging, and spur-of-the-moment. But not all of us can hang out online all day, and even if you could, not many can type fast enough to share links, news, and content from around the web!

To present a consistent, friendly brand persona without typing lightening-fast, the first step is to schedule 1-5x daily updates on each social media platform in advance. This “food” for social media can include links, photos, favorite quotes, and other timeless updates that will create a balanced background of activity. This will give something for your network to engage with, and eventually they’ll come to expect it!

There are a number of free platforms that will help you schedule or delay your social media updates, such as Hootsuite, Buffer, and TweetDeck.

Show Some Life

Now that your bases are covered with scheduled updates, it’s time to focus on that “natural, engaging” part of the social media puzzle.

Set aside time daily or weekly to engage with the platform as a real human — that means logged in, reading, responding, and interacting.

Ask and respond to questions, say hello, and meet new people. This is where the magic happens and your small business will benefit.

Include Your Network

Once you’ve written out a few weeks of tweets or posts, pull up your document and take a look at the topics you are writing about. Then, search online for the handles, hashtags, pages, and profiles of colleagues, competitors, and thought leaders to tag in your update. By including as many potentially interested people as you can, you spread your message farther and draw more attention to your brand.

Of course, be sure to not go overboard! The key here is to include one (two, tops!) connection(s) or topic(s) per update to allow a conversation to begin. Too many hashtags, keywords, or people involved, and it comes off as spam.

Capitalize on Opportunity

The final flourish of a dynamic social media strategy is to be proactive about capitalizing on opportunities.

If you can’t be tied to a desk or RSS feed all day, make the information come to you by setting up targeted searches and lists for keywords that pertain to your industry. When the topic pops up and you receive a notification, sign in to your account and engage in real time.

How do you plan your social media strategy? Care to share your best tip?