Many small businesses eager to jump on the social media bandwagon think raking in the sales is just a few clicks away. While using tools like Facebook for Business, Twitter, Hartford's Yahoo Local, and LinkedIn and others can certainly be a part of an effective marketing plan, businesses need to be realistic about the kind of results to expect and the time and effort it takes to be successful.
As with any form of marketing, you should start by getting to know your target audience. Who are your current customers? Do you market consumer products and/or services, or do you work with other businesses? Does this audience use social media, and if so, which platforms do they use?
If you don't know the answers, doing some market research in advance will save you a lot of time down the road. You can start simply, by just making a list of questions and having a casual conversation with your best customers. If you want to learn more, you can launch a more formal effort my using an online survey tool such as Survey Monkey.
Once you know where your customers are hanging out online, start by creating your profiles. Pick usernames that works with your business name, and the same company description and logo to each account. Add as much detail to each listing as you can, as this will also help your company name appear more in online search results.
Once you've set up your profiles, come up with a plan for posting content and stick to it. Don't be overly promotional - this will turn off your customers. Be sure to engage with others and comment on their conversations too.