You know how websites have that little cluster of social media icons in the right-hand corner? When you browse, shop or research online, you may notice that one website links to a brand’s Facebook, YouTube and Twitter accounts. Another company might invite you to connect on Google + and LinkedIn. Yet another may encourage you to follow its Pinterest and Instagram accounts, while some brands have icons for all of these platforms.

As the owner or marketing manager of a small business, you may be asking yourself: Which social media channels will help us engage with our target audience successfully? It’s a good question.

When it comes to acing social media, start with these guidelines:

  1. Beware of overcommitting. The FOMO (fear of missing out) effect can mislead you. We’ve seen businesses under its influence create more social media accounts than they actually care to manage. Unless it’s your full-time focus, maintaining brand consistency across multiple channels is surprisingly demanding. Each platform has its own unique “personality” and is useful for different reasons. Don’t overcommit. When it comes to social media, it is worse to have a static social presence than a non-existent one. In other words, it’s better to manage one social media account very well than to poorly manage several of them.
  1. Figure out your goals. Seriously—take some time to think about your company’s goals and how a social media presence could help you reach them. Here are some wheel-turners:
  • Do I want potential customers to visit my website?
  • Do I want to increase awareness of my business?
  • Do I want to share my company’s unique culture?
  • Do I want to manage and invite people to upcoming events?
  • Do I want to advertise products/services to a specific market?
  • Do I want customers to be able to reach out with questions/concerns?
  • Do I want to be able to update a fan base with relevant information?

Once you’ve chosen a platform that fits your needs, study how that platform behaves. Watch how other companies engage with their audiences, and also note where they fall short so you don’t make the same mistakes. Apply, observe, adjust and repeat. If your efforts are deliberate and consistent, you’ll find success.

  1. Identify your target audience. Without this piece, the rest is moot. If you’re not marketing to your business’s demographic, you might as well be talking to a wall.Read this blog for insights about pinpointing your audience.

Once you’ve nailed down your business goals and identified your target audience, you’re ready to decide which social media platform is the best fit to reach your consumers where they live.

  1. Figure out where your audience is and meet them there. Identifying your target demographic allows you to reach them through the channels they use. Each social media channel has a somewhat distinct primary demographic.

For instance, Instagram is a social network tool that caters to a younger audience through imagery and hashtags. According to recent polls, there are over 77 million Instagram users in the U.S. alone, and more than half of them are under the age of 30. Though this platform continues to dramatically expand, sources predict it will hit its peak in the near future and younger audiences will gravitate toward newer social platforms, such as Snapchat and Vine. That’s right—even social media gets wrinkles.

Facebook, however, has a background all of its own. Born in 2004, it’s the oldest in its peer group. At first, it was only available to students at Harvard University (where it was invented). Then Facebook expanded to allow users from nearby universities, then most U.S. universities, and then to anyone over the age of 13 with a valid email address. Today, it’s the top choice for catering to a more mature market. Recent studies state that 58% of adults use Facebook. So rather than going stale and petering out, Facebook has reinvented itself by becoming a powerful tool for businesses that want to advertise and measure metrics (clicks, hits, conversions and so on).

  1. Engage expertly. Users follow business accounts that have relevant and interesting content. It might seem obvious, but this simple fact is often overlooked. If your page becomes saturated with self-promotions, your business will lose engagement.Luckily, there’s data to help you understand the impact of your posts. If you have a business page on Facebook, for example, you can check your metrics to keep an eye on the success of your posts and ads. When read correctly, the data helps you learn which posts get the most engagement so you can tweak your strategy accordingly.

For most industries, we recommend abiding by the 80/20 rule when it comes to your page posts. Roughly 80% of your content should be interesting, informative and industry-related while 20% of your content should promote and advertise your brand.

Know that the world of social media cannot be fully understood in one day. It takes time and effort to grasp the complexities of this growing, changing phenomenon. The goal is to make it work for you.

Would you like to know more about other platforms or how to engage YOUR audience through social media? Let us know! Drop us a line at