Ask any good marketer about their top five most critical best practices for any marketing program. Chances are most of them will include at least one lesson along the lines of: Try stuff. Test. Repeat.

After all, no matter how many best practices the pundits may spout, good marketing is highly bespoke. What works for one product may not work for others. Each marketer needs to find what’s most effective for their own products.

This fact of life applies even more for social media. After all, social media is still relatively new, and marketers have had no choice but to try stuff and stumble upon best practices over the last couple of years.

The following are some of the challenges real marketers have faced using social media and how they addressed them.

1. Finding the right channel

Not every social media channel is right for every audience. While this may seem obvious with today’s 20/20 hindsight, it wasn’t necessarily the case in the early days of social media. And the only way marketers have been able to find that out was through trial and error.

That’s what happened to BMC when they tried to establish a presence on Facebook. Said Alison Munn, Senior Social Media Marketing Manager for BMC, “We spent the better part of a year building up a Facebook presence. But we weren’t reaching who we wanted. We had to put that on the back burner. Now, we use Facebook more for employee postings and are focusing on LinkedIn and Twitter to speak to customers.”

2. Cutting through the Clutter

While social media was once the wide open prairie of marketing, it’s become a crowded metropolis. As a result, even when marketers are on the right channel for their intended audience, all the interesting content out there can make it difficult for any one voice to be heard.

Marketers suggested these methods to overcome this information overload:

  • “Produce very interesting content that gets shared and picked up by the media,” advised Andrew Spoeth Enterprise Social Media Marketing Director for CA Technologies.
  • “Paid social programs not only extend the life and reach of a piece of content, they also enable more precise targeting,” Spoeth added.
  • “Identify the key advocates and build effective relationships with them so they’ll help spread the word,” noted Munn.

3. Building an Audience Organically

While paid social media can be useful in building an audience, not every organization has the budget or inclination to use that channel. What do you do then?

Creativity can save the day.

“I need to be more creative with timing, placement, images, and copywriting,” said Denise Meyer, Social Media Communications Manager, Interactive Intelligence, which provides business communications software and services. “We also strive to be more educational and provide thought leadership, rather than promotional content.”

4. Balancing Access to Channels

For some organizations, the social clamor comes not only from other companies, but from within. For example, at one time, Concur had had separate twitter channels for its various divisions, such as those targeting small businesses and enterprises. However, it recently consolidated its presence onto a single global Twitter and Facebook channel. While the new channel made sense from a customer perspective, it meant that multiple divisions had to compete to be heard on their company’s own Twitter channel.

One solution, said Amy Higgins, Senior Manager of Content Marketing and Social Media, Concur, “was through paid social, because it can be highly targeted. We also now have a social media manager who carefully balances the priorities of all the different business units.”

5. Limited Staff

Social media may not be expensive. But it can certainly be time consuming to create enough content to promote through social channels. This can be a big problem for companies with limited staff. For example, Meyer is the only person doing social media for her company in North American division. In order to put out the quantity of the content she needs, she’s gotten creative about repurposing. Said Meyer, “I take elements of press releases, whitepapers, practical guides, etc. and carve out additional compelling messages and stories for use on social. In some cases, taking these pillar items and creating additional pieces like blogs and SlideShare presentations.”

Overall, marketers stress that the only way to make progress in using social media to successful support their marketing efforts is to try new things and test them to see what works.