Social media marketing is overhyped, there I said it, too. According to a study by Tony Hale detailed in Time, people don’t even read what they share. But social media marketing can provide value to small businesses with realistic expectations. It’s a way of keeping your brand fresh in the minds of consumers.

Here are essential questions that you should ask first to make better use of this shiny trendy thing called social media:

Where do you want to start?
Social media can be overwhelming. It’s a staple in the early stages of the business, but which network do you really want to start in? Each social media platform has its own type of community. For example, Twitter users prefer witty and funny quips while Pinterest is all about the images.

Do you have enough resources?
Resources – meaning not just your young, hip social media expert. A social media marketing strategy needs a targeted plan, time, tools, and a knack for subtle marketing. Brands are always ready to jump on the latest memes and news, while crafting a campaign to hit you right in the ‘feels’. They need to do this because people are hostile towards ads.

Can you provide a lasting value?
The real followers that keep your social media profile alive are the active users. If you don’t provide any lasting value, they’ll leave. Churned users are least likely to come back to the fold. One of the most common mistakes is that in an attempt to generate attention, there’s too much style but no substance. You either need to solve a consumer’s problem or stir their emotions. This is why advertising became popular.

How are you going to bridge the gap between engagement and sales?
At some point, you need to translate your social media initiatives to a viable business strategy. Social media sites would like you to believe that it is more “media” than “social” (hence the paid ads) but is that what your consumers really want? You need to create a realistic strategy to generate results.

Online marketing is rife with trends. Small businesses need to identify which ones are actually valuable before getting caught up in the hype.