Everyone is doing it! Social media has opened up a whole new world to small and mid-sized businesses, who have recognized the immense value in communicating with their client base online. It’s now easier than ever to reach your target audience. But of course, venturing into an entirely new digital frontier can seem overwhelming at first. If you’re not sure where to begin, our top twelve tips should point you in the right direction.

Create a plan. A smart social media plan consists of much more than simply opening an account and posting something once in a while. You should first identify your target audience, ask yourself what type of content will appeal to them, and create a strategy to grab their attention.

Choose your content carefully. The things you post should be relevant to your target audience. Seek to answer their questions or help them with problems. Occasionally, you can post something that is simply funny or entertaining. But since the point is to keep your audience’s attention focused on you (and your business), you should always choose content carefully.

Use pictures. As your followers scroll through their news feed, they are presented with a wide array of content. In order to grab their attention and get them to focus on you for a moment, use pictures in your posts. Photos help to create instant engagement, and they are known to get the most attention of any type of social media content.

Use hashtags. Hashtags help potential clients find you. Include relevant hashtags on your posts, and you will show up in search results on that social media site.

Give your followers an incentive. Why would anyone want to follow you on social media? Answer: Because there is something in it for them. Share content that they can’t get anywhere else. Maybe it’s a special offer, an invitation to a private event, discount codes, or the occasional giveaway. Whatever you choose, make sure your offer is unique to your social media channel only. If they can get the same offer some other way, then there’s no incentive to follow you.

Be consistent. Your followers are also following other people or businesses. They might even be following your competition! So if you want them to keep you in mind, you have to post consistently. Once or twice per week is usually a good idea; it’s consistent, without being overkill.

Use the site’s built-in advertising opportunities. Facebook, for example, offers a terrific value for business owners. They have already analyzed your followers’ demographic information, meaning all of the hard work is done for you! If you want to target a particular group, all you have to do is plug in those demographics and let Facebook do the rest. Targeted ads are an inexpensive way to make sure you’re reaching your ideal audience.

Join groups. Joining groups in social media can help you to reach the “right” people. Just search for groups that would appeal to your idea prospects! Participating in group discussions helps you to establish yourself as an expert in your field, and gain more followers.

Take a look at competitors’ pages. If your competitors seem to be successful on social media, take note of their posting practices. This will give you valuable insight to your target customer base. On the other hand, if competitor pages look like the ghost town of social media, take note of that too. Seek to differentiate yourself by doing something unique.

Engage. Many business owners make the mistake of joining social media, posting about their business once or twice per week… and that’s all. If you do this, it ends up looking like blatant self-promotion. Don’t be afraid to mix it up, reply to posts, share posts from others in your industry, and send personal messages from time to time. This makes you look friendly and approachable, and reminds your followers that you actually care about them -not just getting their business.

Analyze your results. Your social media account includes some handy, behind-the-scenes metrics to help you analyze your success rate. Use them! Checking up on your progress about once per week will help you understand which types of posts are successful, so you can continue in the right direction.

Ask an expert for help. Social media marketing can seem complicated and overwhelming to the newcomer. But it doesn’t have to be! Just as you are an expert in your field, and offer your services to those who need them, we are experts at social media marketing. Give us a call, and we’ll be happy to answer your questions and get you started on the right track.