So your small business has decided to make an investment in social media, but now what? If you aren’t familiar with the tools of the trade, it can be tricky to maximize that investment. Unlike traditional print marketing, social media lends itself to real-time conversation, but you have to know where to find your audience. Similarly, once you get there, you need to have a plan to measure your success.

Step 1: Decide On Your Tools
In general, your Big 3 will likely be Twitter, Facebook, and a blog. How you use these and how often depends on your audience, and each has its own charm.

  • Twitter allows for direct interaction with your customers. It also enables you to listen to the conversations being had about your brand and inform your followers of special promotions and events.
  • Facebook is the better tool for engagement and getting your customers to act on information, such as clicking links, largely because Facebook isn’t as fast-paced as Twitter, so the information has a longer shelf life. You can also shape your brand’s personality a bit more through photos and status updates.
  • Blogging gives you an opportunity to share company news and views with your customers. Keep them coming back with great content, and you’re likely to earn yourself new business, too.

It’s wise to get your hands dirty and utilize all three of these as this is where the bulk of your audience will be. Once you’ve gotten the hang of these, you can add LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, Google+ (when it’s released for businesses), and other tools that may be specific to your industry.

Step 2: Find Your Balance
Now that you’ve decided which tools to use, how will you use them? What are your goals? Once you know your goals, you begin to see how they align with social media. Maybe you decide that you will use Twitter to share information about your company or product, as well as other relevant industry news, and you decide to post the most important company news to Facebook. Maybe you also commit to two blog posts a week to start. Great!

As you use these tools and come to understand your audience, you will find a balance that works for you. Too many posts and you become noise. Too few posts and your presence is forgotten. Balance is key to effective interaction and engagement.

Step 3: Making Money
While many social media tools are free, you still need to pay for things like blog hosting, premium accounts, stock photos. If your company hires a community manager, they likely won’t work for free. Sites like Facebook offer you targeted advertising so that, if you are a shoe store, for example, users who list “shoes” as an interest will see your ads. You can purchase “promoted” tweets on Twitter. You can get involved in Google AdSense and AdWords. The more involved you are in the social community, the more you will see this investment pay off in new and return customers.


  • Be patient. Social media will not make your business a success overnight. Sure, you could pay for followers and fans, but there would be little value there. Your growth must be organic. Interact, engage, and listen. It will take some trial and error to figure out what works and what doesn’t for your specific business.
  • Have a crisis PR plan. While social media can give your customers an opportunity to be brand advocates for you, it also allows them to project complaints and dissatisfaction. How will you respond to such comments?
  • Show up. Phoning it in will never work, you need to show up to play. So make an effort to commit some time period to your social media investment each day. When you do, you make your investment go further. Promote yourself and others by sharing relevant content. Talk, listen, and respond. Don’t just post a barrage of links without responding to comments and feedback. Comment on what other people are doing. Say please and thank you. These things will not go unnoticed by your followers.

Your Turn: What tips do you have for maximizing your small business’s social media investment?