As a small business owner, you’re probably aware that more and more businesses are building a reputation and attracting new customers via social media. But you may have attempted a social media campaign yourself, and felt discouraged by the results. Or maybe you want to try it, but you’re afraid it won’t work for your business.

Whatever your situation, remember that social media marketing really does work! And it’s an incredibly powerful marketing tool that anyone can use. But if you make one of these six common mistakes, you probably won’t achieve the results you wanted.

question marksFailing to lay a strong foundation. Many small businesses leap into a social media campaign with the wrong expectations. Social media is indeed a powerful tool for expanding your existing online marketing strategy. But used alone, you may not achieve optimal results. In order to find true success in online marketing, remember that building a quality website, blogging, and an email campaign are the backbone of a successful strategy. Once you are doing these things successfully, use social media to deepen your relationship with your target demographic.

Failing to analyze your target audience. Who is my target audience? Where is my target audience? Will I find them on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or another social media site? What concerns do they have? What type of content do they want to read or watch? You should be asking yourself these questions before attempting to create content for your audience, or making contact with them on social media. Remember this rule: If you want your audience to pay attention to you, then you have to offer them content that is entertaining, informative, or valuable. Make sure the content you post will appeal to your audience, or they will quickly unfriend or unfollow you.

Under-producing content. Your first challenge is to get your audience’s attention. Your second challenge is to keep it! Remember that social media is a fast-paced world, in which users encounter new information each time they log on. While you don’t want to post incessantly and annoy your contacts, you don’t want to post so rarely that they forget about you. A good rule of thumb is to post links to new content about once per week, and interact with your audience in comments or private messages in the meantime.

Trying to “sell” your product or service. People use social media to keep in touch with friends, read information that interests or entertains them, watch videos, and share information. Keep that in mind when creating and posting content for your audience. If you try to blatantly sell yourself or your business, you will only succeed in annoying the very people you wanted to attract. Social media is user-driven, meaning each user has the power to create his or her own experience. Annoy your contacts, and they will quickly click the “unlike” button on your page.

Expecting immediate results. Social media isn’t a sprint to the finish line; think of it as a marathon instead. Try to view your online relationships in the same way you view offline relationships. Would you expect to strike up a few conversations in the grocery store and make a dozen new lifelong friends in one visit? Probably not! Remember that nurturing a relationship with customers takes time and consistent effort. With a well-planned strategy, steady posting schedule, and patience, you will see your business gradually grow.

Missing the party. Possibly the worst mistake you can make with social media is never even trying it. Maybe you’re overwhelmed by the options, you feel like you’re too busy to bother, or you’re just not internet-savvy. Whatever the reason, neglecting to build a social media presence is a big mistake. Social media is the fastest-growing method of marketing, and you can be guaranteed your competition will tap into its power. In fact, they might already be online, building a relationship with your customers right now. Don’t let the competition take your place; start building a social media presence today, so that you can enjoy faster growth and greater profits tomorrow.