This is an excerpt from Yamarie Grullon’s Guide to Social Media for Small Businesses. If you want more detailed advice, make sure to download the whole guide by following the link at the end.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that 9 out 10 small businesses are using, or plan on using, social media as a marketing tool in 2014.

It takes little to no time and zero financial investment to set up most social media accounts, and returns can be huge, from quickly connecting with customers to increasing the sales of your products. Because of this, small business owners regularly dive right into social media without giving it any serious thought. However, the excitement of capitalizing on some of the best “free marketing tools” available, is often followed by the harsh realization that just because you built it doesn’t mean they will come. In order to be successful in social media
marketing, like any other marketing initiative it requires thoughtful planning, time and commitment.

Here are three common small business mistakes and how to avoid them. (Note: this excerpt only covers mistake #1. To read them all, you’ll need to download the full guide.)

Mistake No.1: Caught Without a Plan

Time is money and as a small business owner you can’t afford to take on any additional responsibilities that are going to take away valuable time from your day-to-day priorities. Without proper planning you’ll end up investing countless hours tweeting, pinning and posting with little
response from your audience and even less of a return on investment.

Consider the following before investing time in social media:

1. What are you hoping to achieve?

Now you’re probably thinking to yourself “sell, sell, sell.” You want
people to want your products and services and even more importantly you want them to purchase now! While increasing sales should certainly be on the list of what you hope to accomplish with social media, it is important to remember that your audience needs a compelling reason to follow and engage with you. (We’ll cover more on this in Part II  5 Best Practices for Small Business Success in Social Media)

Some other goals you may want to consider are:

  • Building brand awareness
  • Enhancing customer support
  • Collecting data to help improve your business
  • Creating brand advocates
  • Educating current and potential customers

2. How much time and resources are you wiling to devote? 

As a small business owner chances are you are no stranger to feeling like there aren’t enough hours in the day or staff on call to help you tackle your existing tasks. Even if you decide to start small and only be active on one social media platform, “going social” will require you to dedicate a few hours or more a day to engage with social communities and create valuable content. Avoid spreading yourself too thin by
determining how much of your time and resources you are willing to dedicate in advance. As a good rule of thumb, it’s always best to start with one social media platform, perfect your strategy and expand your presence across multiple platforms later.

3. Who are you trying to reach?

Understanding who you’re trying to reach is extremely important in social media. Are you trying to talk to prospects, customers, or both? Is your target male or female? What age group do they fall in? Knowing this is not only going to help you understand how to add value to your social communities, it will also help you decide which social media
networks you should target first. (Hint: More on this in Part II — 5 Best Practices for Small Business Success in Social Media)

Like any other successful marketing plan, social media marketing requires some planning and research. Once you identify the above, it will be easier to focus on a strategy that will get you the results you want.

If you’d like to learn more about social media marketing and how to implement it in your small business you can download my guide below.