Social media for the entrepreneur just diving in.

Social media can be a daunting challenge for small business owners who are not familiar with the ins-and-outs of the different platforms. However, used correctly, it can be a powerful sales and marketing tool that drives inbound leads, customer engagement, and brand building. Here are 8 vital tips for entrepreneurs looking to start tweeting, posting, and sharing.

1. Social Media is Your Friend

Social media is not right for some businesses and wrong for others – it can be right for every business if used in the right way. The key to leading a successful brand is meeting your customers where they are – and now that they are online that means you should be too! It may seem daunting to start on social as a small business but it can be a very powerful tool. It provides a platform to connect and engage with your customers, build your brand’s presence, and stay relevant. The most important thing is to remember that social media is here to help.

Social Media Business

2. Timing is Key

Every account on social media is operated by a human being – meaning that you need to pay attention to their patterns of living to understand the best times to post on various platforms. You don’t want to send out a hilarious tweet at 3 am when most of your customers are asleep. In order to optimize your content’s reach it is important to understand the lifestyle of your target market and know how they use each platform. Rather than get overwhelmed by conducting your own research and interviews, here are some resources to get you started.

3. Always Have a Plan

One of the biggest mistakes when starting out on social media is to not have a comprehensive plan. Although social media is a tool meant to be used to grow your business, it can be easily misused. It is vital to have a clear plan when posting on all platforms. Having a plan for what content is posted when helps to keep you on track with your marketing strategy and save time. Content calendars also help you make sure that content matches across platforms and avoid time crunches. Be strategic about when and on which platforms you share case studies, comprehensive guides, or list-type articlesThis doesn’t mean that you need to post all day everyday – but it does mean that when you do post you should have a plan and a purpose. We set our content calendar in Asana but many calendar tools exist.

Thankfully there are plenty of tools out there to help you plan when and where your posts are going. Don’t be ashamed to get a little help! Nowadays there are so many different platforms with varied content styles that using a planning tool has become the norm. They help save a lot of time by giving you the ability to schedule posts for the future and plan across multiple platforms. Hootsuite and Buffer are two great, easy to use automation tools when you are first getting started! Make sure to explore all the features because both have a lot to offer.

4. Be Customer-centric

Always tie your content, timing and choice of platform back to your customer. Make sure you have a comprehensive idea of who your customers are so that they not only see your post (because of your thoughtful timing!) but also choose to engage. Everything you do should tie back to them. Make sure your platform of choice keeps in mind what you are selling and connects it to who your customers are. If you are a consumer-facing brand, a platform such as Pinterest or Instagram may suit you best because it is more visual and suits your buyer base. If you are more service oriented, Facebook is a great way to funnel customers from a social media platform to your website. It is always good to keep in mind what types of people use various social sites to choose the right one for your business.

5. Use Social Media as a Person not a Business

People go on social media to interact with a community in a casual and authentic way. If you post on Facebook the same way you would write something on a billboard it won’t get the same response. We’ve found that a conversational style resonates with users much more deeply than a formal tone of voice. People like it when there is a human-like quality behind their favorite brands – and this leads to more engagement. This is a chance to create a friendly and dynamic relationship with your customers. Have fun with it!

Social Media Business

6. Monitor and Engage

Being a pro on social doesn’t mean just posting amazing content and leaving it at that. You need to monitor and see what customers are saying. If people are complaining – address the complaints! If people are praising the company – encourage them to share their experience with their friends! Social media is all about engaging in a conversation with your customers so make sure you are staying up to date on who is mentioning your company and what they are saying.

7. Keep Content Dynamic and Varied

Keep your content interesting! You want your accounts to offer consumers dynamic content that is representative of brand and makes them think. This doesn’t mean that you can’t share and retweet other’s work – but it does mean you should create your own unique stream of content. This may involve using photos, videos, quotes, and text. You should try and stay away from sending out only one form of content all the time –  too much of one thing can drive customers away!

8. Take it One Step at a Time

All this may seem like a lot at first, but you can start small! Don’t think you need to create a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a Snapchat all at once. Choose one or two and spend time getting comfortable before expanding. It is better to be really strong on two platforms than scattered across four.

Sofia DeMay is the co-founder of Swifte, an app which aims to transform the way communities carpool by matching drivers with extra space in their cars with people looking for rides. She has extensive digital marketing experience including roles at Wells Fargo, GLIDE and Feldspar Studios. She is particularly interested in the intersection of marketing and technology, as well as exploring strategies for social entrepreneurship.