Although it's vital that your brand has a social media presence, that doesn't mean you have to be everywhere. Focus your time and effort on the social media platforms your customers (and target customers) use. For most people, this will be Facebook and Twitter - but for some business types, the less mainstream, more niche social media channels can be the most productive. Many artists and makers find Instagram is their best performing social media channel, as being entirely image-based it allows them to showcase their work. I know one landscape designer who finds the little-known platform Houzz to be his best performing channel - it's designed solely for sharing pictures and projects related to home and garden improvements. So go where your customers go. If you don't know, ask them! But don't waste time trying to be everywhere - it will inevitability lead to you not being anywhere very well.
2. Take advantage of free tools
When I talk to my clients about making their first forays into social media, their biggest fear is managing multiple platforms, finding enough to say, and just getting it wrong. But remember, social media isn't new anymore - technology companies have thought about all of your problems and come up with a solution. There is a whole host of free social media management tools at your disposal that allow you to schedule posts across multiple channels, measure the impact of your social media efforts, and even suggest content relevant to your interests and expertise. Try TweetDeck, HootSuite and Klout for starters.
3. Be human
The beauty of social media is that on most channels, pretty much anything goes. Your social posts shouldn't regurgitate your corporate brochure in 140 character extracts - be human, and speak to your audience like you would if you were in the same room. Share ideas, experiences, things you find interesting and things you think they might find interesting. Give them something of value (rather than a stream of sales messages about how great your company is) and they'll start to engage with you. Then, you need to engage with them back. If your customer stopped you in the street to ask a question, you wouldn't just ignore them - so don't do it on social media either. Have a conversation. Be human.
4. Content is king
For small businesses taking their first steps into social media, this statement might make you shudder! But content really is king. Consumers are wise to sales and marketing messages and they're looking for brands that provide them with something valuable - in the social media world that means interesting, useful, informative or entertaining ideas, whether it be a blog, infographic, news article or video. Creating your own content is important, as it helps you to be perceived as an expert in your area of business. But if the concept of content marketing frightens you, or you're just starting out and don't have enough of your own content to share, then share other people's. In the world of marketing this is known as content curation - and it basically means reading and researching the work of other experts in your area, and linking to their articles, blogs, whitepapers, videos or images through your own social media channels - therefore, sharing valuable content with your audience.
5. Don't be obsessed with followers and figures
The age-old problem with social media is that it is difficult to measure. How do you analyses return on investment? How do you measure the success of your social media efforts? There are lots of tools out there designed to help you do this (although I'm yet to be convinced that reach is a useful or scientific measure of social media), but my advice would be to try not to get too hung up on the numbers. The point of social media is it is social - it's relationship marketing. The value of building relationships with your customers, which in turn can build brand trust and loyalty, in places and times where you wouldn't normally get to talk them, is unquantifiable. And let's be honest - apart from your time (which can be as much or as little as you want to spend), social media is free. There is very little investment to justify. So don't obsess over statistics, have a conversation with your customers, and enjoy the ride!