Social media is a fast, inexpensive way to market your small business to potential clients. With new platforms emerging all the time and established platforms making business-friendly changes, there is no better time to incorporate social media into your marketing strategy.

Before jumping in, however, it is important to develop a social media plan. Use the questions below in conjunction with your own research to determine where your target audience spends their time; which tools are the most useful to share your brand; and how much of a time investment you will need to successfully execute your plan.

Which platforms should I use?

“Too much of a good thing” is apt to describe the social media landscape in 2014. While it may be tempting to throw your name onto every single available platform, doing so may actually harm your marketing efforts. If you attempt to curate a presence on every single available platform you will not only run out of time in the day, but you may also have difficulty maintaining a clear and consistent message that will convert your target audience to a loyal customer base.

LinkedIn is an ideal platform for all small business owners to use. Connect with industry leaders and potential clients, find and share content relevant to your field or business in general, and create a company page to inform your audience about the services you provide.

Facebook may be slightly less popular with younger demographics, but creating a company page on the site will still put you in front of an audience of millions. Post links, photos, and videos, follow relevant pages and offer specials to your customers based on their engagement with your company. Facebook also offers paid ads that you can target to specific user groups.

Twitter has become a linchpin for social media engagement among 18-34 year olds who rely on the community of strangers to make a great deal of their purchasing decisions, making it an excellent platform for companies marketing to the Millennials. Quick, condensed messages that encourage click-thrus are your best bet here, though there are plenty of other tips for getting the most out of the site.

Pinterest can help small businesses visually showcase their offerings. Whether you are marketing a product or a service, you can pin and share photos that will draw in your audience and direct them to your Web site. If you are marketing a product, share photos of the product in use and solicit customers to do the same! For services, you can feature pins of before-and-after photos that present the quality of your work. In either case, you can also pin images advertising ongoing promotions or other important information.

YouTube and Vine are even more dynamic platforms to share your content. Create a channel on YouTube where you feature informational videos, interviews and other relevant media, and use Vine to curate six-second snippets that you can share on other social media sites. Of the two video platforms, YouTube is better suited for longer and more detailed videos while Vine is excellent for quick clips.

The platforms above are widely considered the most popular, but they are certainly not alone. Google Plus, Foursquare, Yelp, and Scoop.It are among other platforms that small business owners may add to their marketing mix.

How much time should I devote to social media?

To be an effective communicator on social media, it needs to become a regular part of your business – including a time investment. The different structure of each platform requires varying levels of investment to take full advantage of the available features, which can allow you greater flexibility with fitting each into your already busy schedule.

It is good practice to log in to each of your accounts at least weekly, though some platforms will require more constant connection. Find a balance that works for you and your message. Many platforms have introduced features to let you schedule posts and otherwise manage your engagement somewhat indirectly, but there are also third-party tools available to help you do so. If you are the only person handling your social media, we highly recommend streamlining your efforts with management tools.

On that note… 

Can I handle my company’s social media alone? 

In theory, anybody can single-handedly manage their social media. A better question is, should you? Once you’ve evaluated the amount of time you should be investing in your social media engagement, you have to determine whether you will be able to stay on top of your accounts while dealing with the other day-to-day requirements of your business. If not, and if you can afford it, hiring a specialist in online marketing and social media can help you create a quality social media experience.

Accounts Receivable Cash can help you generate the cash you need to bring on a social media expert. Learn about our accounts receivable factoring programs and apply online today to receive a proposal.