Creating a quality website is your first step to an online presence, but it is not your last. Social media for small business is an indispensable tool in your promotional toolbox. These days, practically everybody is on one or more social networks, and that includes your customers—and your competitors. Don’t let your competitors get an edge up on you. Consider joining some or all of the big 5—Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn.

  • Facebook. The world’s largest social network, Facebook reported it had more than 1.23 billion users as of January 2014. Facebook is ideal for a broad outreach and for running promotions and sales to attract new customers and retain loyal customers.
  • Twitter. This social network offers you an easy way to post quick updates to your followers. Use Twitter to report news and offer discounts. When you post on Twitter regularly, you tell buyers and industry associates that you are on top of the latest developments—and a part of them.
  • Google+. G+ is an increasingly popular alternative to Facebook. Many users are present on both, but you will also find a lot of users on G+ who do not use Facebook.
  • YouTube. Post your video content here and start conversations about your company’s’ products and services.
  • LinkedIn. One of the most important social networks for small businesses, LinkedIn was developed especially for businesspersons to keep in touch and form new contacts. Having an active profile on LinkedIn is vitally important these days if you want to stay connected.

How can you get the most out of social networking? Here are a few quick tips:

  • Use a rifle, not a shotgun. Always make sure that you are targeting your posts and promotional campaigns, and adding or following users who might actually be able to buy from you or promote your business. Do not add users at random thinking that more is better. It is all about quality, not quantity. You will get more out of making five really amazing contacts than 50 so-so contacts.
  • Be smart, funny, and trendy in your posts (especially on sites like Twitter and YouTube), but remember that the average user can identity real user-generated content vs. fake user-generated content (this is applicable mostly to YouTube). Respect the intelligence of your viewers.
  • Be consistent. Diligence is one of the keys to successful social media marketing. When users can rely on you for consistent posts on a timely basis, you will grow your audience.

It is important to know going into online marketing that social media for small business isn’t what it was in the early days. Gone are the days when you could expect to make a couple of posts and randomly wake up one morning to find your business had “gone viral.” Nowadays, success on social media sites is hard-won, and best paired up with other marketing efforts both online and offline. None of your marketing efforts exist in a vacuum, and the key is to combine all of them in such a way that they can complement and augment one another.