Whether you are a veteran business owner or just getting your business off the ground, social-media marketing may be brand spanking new to you. Don’t worry, you are not alone, and you’re not the only small business to grapple with the dilemma: Should my business be active on social-media channels? Before diving into social media head first, consider these five tips.

1. Survey the Landscape. Learn what others in your industry are doing with social media. Let’s say you are a landscape designer in Miami, Florida: Start by making a list of the competitors to your business, both big and small. A quick Google search, including “name of company” and “Facebook” (or Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.) should show you any relevant profile on that particular social network. Make a tally of the competition, their active social-media channels, and the activity levels on each. Here’s an example:

diving into social analysis chart3

2. Assess and Allocate Resources. In addition to understanding the social landscape of your particular niche, find out what your employees are doing with social media, including their activities and preferred channels. You may be surprised to learn that some of them would love the opportunity to interact on social media on behalf of the business. With that in mind, add up the approximate number of hours per week or month that you and your team have available to spend on social-media-marketing initiatives.

3. Set Goals and Identify How You’ll Measure Them. Take a step back and think about how you are incorporating social media into your overall marketing mix. Are you focused on generating awareness of your business, engaging your existing customer base, or attracting new ones? Not sure where to start setting your goals? Learn about how to apply the SMART goal formula to your social-media initiatives in this overview article.

4. Ad Hoc vs. Planned Content Calendar. Many marketers who engage on social-media channels can attest: Not every compelling piece of content can be planned, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t plan at all.

There are times when news breaks, a relevant industry blog post appears, or an awesome photo of your brand/company is captured at an event, and it provides a great call to action or opportunity to engage your community. While ad-hoc content is a key component to any social-media strategy, it is also important to plan content that supports the SMART goals that you established at the beginning of the year.

5. Content Themes. Consider creating topical themes to stretch out content over time, such as summer trends for interior design or energy-efficient materials for construction.

It’s also important to accept the fact that anything you add, upload, and share with the rest of the world on social media can and most likely will be copied, used, repurposed, etc. This article about the “ownership” of our information on the Internet provides clarity on the matter.

Once you identify which social-media channels make sense for your business, assign SMART social-media goals to meet your objectives, and identify content to drive towards those goals, it’s time to put everything into action. A content calendar is a good place to start. Whether you use an Excel doc or a cloud-based solution like Google Calendar or a Google Doc, make it a user-friendly format that keeps your team on track and your social-media content machine moving.

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