small business marketing, social media marketing, social media for small business, new business owner, internet marketing, facebook marketing, twitter marketingSocial media platforms and the methods of using them as a marketing tool are constantly in flux. As a new business owner, a million things cross your desk — or phone — each day, leaving you little time to keep up with today’s most important marketing channel.

If there’s one bit of information that you need to begin with, it’s this: Don’t jump in headfirst. It’s important to understand why you’re on social media beyond “because everyone is these days.” This is a matter of determining what your goals are in detail.

Once that’s sorted out, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to achieve your social media marketing goals. Check out these four tips before you get started:

Tip No. 1 – Know your audience

Social media is a popular communication tool, but not everyone uses it. This should be a major consideration in determining how much money to invest in it.

For example, 89% of those aged 18-29 use social media while the same can be said for only 49% of those aged 65-plus. The number of 65-plus-year-olds is impressive, but you might want to adjust your financial investment in social media based on your target market and the product or service your business offers.

From there, it’s important to understand where your target audience likes to hangout online and what their more detailed habits are. For this, dig into your social media analytics. The two most crucial platforms for most businesses — Facebook and Twitter — both offer analytics directly.

Tip No. 2 – Understand how each platform works

Each social media platform serves a different purpose. If this wasn’t the case, there wouldn’t be so many. This is why it doesn’t make sense to post all Facebook content to Instagram, all Twitter content to LinkedIn, and so on.

Check out this great table on what types of content are appropriate for a few of the top platforms:

small business marketing, social media marketing, social media for small business, new business owner, internet marketing, facebook marketing, twitter marketing

This is why I always advise my clients against connecting their social media platforms for the purpose of spreading all content across all networks. Doing this will almost certainly push your target audience away and limit results for your business.

Tip No. 3 – Focus on engagement, not followers

Too often do businesses and online marketing agencies place a heavy emphasis on growing its social media following. They do this because they lose sight of the most proven method to attract real followers: increasing engagement rates.

The higher engagement your content attracts, the more people see your content and your page. Heightened engagement can also be an indicator of legitimate followers — people who are interested in your business and your content as opposed to those who are simply looking for a follow back.

Stuck on how to get your engagement rates up? Check out this post for some tips on how to get headed in the right direction.

Tip No. 4 – Use Facebook ads

The fact that social media is free allows people to reach your brand online — your business’ investment in social media advertising ensures you connect with them.

When I got started in social media marketing, Facebook quickly became and still is my preferred avenue for social media advertising for most clients. It has provided them with the best results in reach and engagement, increased turnout at events, and is easy on their pocketbook.

If you lack experience running a Facebook advertising campaign, check out this nice guide to Facebook advertising put together by the folks at Hootsuite.

Knowing what you want to accomplish with your social media marketing efforts and how you will achieve those goals go a long way in determining your online marketing success.