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Social media is a pretty broad term. It’s easy to advise small businesses to get on board with the latest social media trends, plaster their company’s name and logo on all kinds of social networking sites and harness the vast power of social media to promote their business. But let’s be realistic. Simply putting up a business page on Facebook and Google+ is not going to bring hundreds of new customers through your door.

The harsh truth about social media is that you’re only going to get out of it what you put into it. The goal of social media is to reach new customers, but it all starts with a relationship and a plan, otherwise your foray into the social media landscape will be for nothing.

Begin by thinking about your target audience. What is their age bracket and what sites do they use the most? Do you have a storefront or restaurant that people are already reviewing or talking about? Are you trying to provide information to educate someone about a particular service or topic?

Before you can make a plan, you need to know what your objective is in using social media. If you’re selling a product online that you want to promote, you’re going to have a different game plan than a dentist trying to get new patients in their chair.

Once you establish your goals, you need to decide which social media platforms to use. Facebook, Google+ and Twitter dominate the social media space. We’ve written specific blog posts on both Facebook and Google+, with instructions on how to set up a business page on both. Click on the links to learn more about those.

For the purposes of brevity, we are going to focus on some social media tactics you might not know about.  The biggest of which is Pinterest.

Pinterest allows visitors to “pin” pictures of products, webpages and other items of interest. Started as a site for crafts and recipes, the site is growing like crazy. ComScore recently said Pinterest garnered 421 million page views in the US in October alone – a 2,000 percent increase from June. As of February 2011, the site had a whopping 10.4 million registered users. Businesses are finding that the site is creating a windfall of activity for their businesses. If you are selling a product or service, especially if it’s of interest to women, GET ON THIS SITE. More than 97 percent of those people “pinning” items are women. Businesses can create a profile and start sharing with potential followers. Remember though, the site is meant to be a community. So be authentic, engage and don’t make it all about your business.

LinkedIn had an estimated 33.9 million visitors last year. So it’s definitely worth it to create a business profile on LinkedIn. Encourage your customers and employees to connect with your company page. LinkedIn is a great way for professionals to learn about your business and services. Be sure to encourage your employers to get onboard and become advocates for the company.

Once your company has signed up with the appropriate social media sites, it is important to keep them updated. Post comments, updates and engage with your users. If keeping track of all of those sites seems overwhelming, think about signing up for a social media management platform. Look into hiring Wpromote to manage your social media profiles. Also, if you have customers that love what you’re doing, ask them to write a positive review on yelp, tweet about your company or “pin” one of your products.

It’s also important to keep your ears open to what is being said about you throughout social media. Set up a Google Alert to send you an email anytime there is chatter on the web about your business.

Create a social media plan, and stick to it!

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