Many small business owners simultaneously know about–and are confused about–social media. They know that having a strong and current presence on social media platforms is good for business: That social media can drive sales, win customers, spark repeat business and fuel other things owners need to rev up and keep running.

Social Media can drive business, increase sales & make a big impact

Social media: building blocks for business growth

But which social media platforms or tools to use? Why? And how? And with new plugins, sites and functionality popping up all of the time, it can feel overwhelming.While posts that periodically review a “best of” or “the latest” are useful, this piece takes a bigger picture view.

Use these simple tips to ways to increase your social media success. It’s not a list of recommended tools. Rather, it’s a short list of small steps to take that can lead to a big impact.

Banish Assumptions

This might not seem like a step at all. Let alone one related to making magic on social media. But stay with me for a moment: No, “everybody” is not on Twitter, yet. “Everybody” in your industry is not a social media star. Nor, is “everybody” more fluent with social media lingo than you. Using a social media consultant to guide and manage things can absolutely bestow benefits. You could take on the work yourself, though, which keeps you engaged and aware. If that idea appeals to you, don’t psych yourself out before you even get started with the next step. Read on…

Focus First On: “Why?”

Questions about where, when and how, as they relate to the social media realm, are nearly limitless. Those three questions incorporate formats, platforms, tools, subscriptions and so on. Yes, those decisions and issues matter. Yet, they are influenced, if not determined, by the answer to “why.”

Why is your business ramping up social media presence?

This is not always simple to answer. Different businesses, in different industries, selling different products or services to customers in different locations will have totally different reasons. The only “why” that matters is yours. When you figure it out, though, make sure to target audiences with messages they need to hear or know. Your customers, or potential ones, need only to know why your message matters to them!

Pick Favorites

Once you’ve narrowed in on your primary social media goal (the why) the next step is to zero in further. See, with social media, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. So many apps, tools, new lingo, and, and, and… Take a deep breath. Now, refocus on just your main social media objective–the current one, if you’ve devised more than one phase. Based on that, get picky. Not only do you not need all of the latest and greatest social media shiny things, you only need a few–to start with, anyway. Will you create a LinkedIn page for your company? Do you need to be on Google + more than Facebook? Maybe you need to know more about Twitter and how it can boost the bottom line.

Your objective will be your guide because some capabilities and channels will be better than others in advancing it. What you don’t need to do, all at once, is be everywhere. It’s much more important that the channels you use on social media further your main goals and represent an active, current way for your target audience to find you, interact with you and get to know you. Think of growing your reach in phases. You don’t have to limit yourself to these initial favorite platforms once you’re up to speed.

Explore with Curiosity

The answer to almost anything you’ll want to know about something about social media is already waiting for you. As you attempt to pick your favorites based on your “why,” it’s common to feel confused. Benefits or attributes of one tool versus another will affect which programs you choose to write blog posts, share content or interact with your target audience. How do you decide? Search on-line. You’ll find blog posts, subject experts, reviews from users and straight talk about all kinds of social media topics. Social Media Today is a goldmine.

Look out for those whose opinions have an outsized impact. They’re known as influencers. They offer amazing insights to those who follow, read and learn from their content. By diving in and learning more, you’ll be able to choose your favorites. Observation is an awesome teacher! I’m a fan of becoming a social media apprentice.

Social Media Skill Drills

Each step of the way, after this point, is a matter of assessing, adjusting and proceeding with an open mind, as Forbes shows. After breaking down the process into steps, and taking the mystery out of how to be successful on the social web, it’s time to become more fluent and fluid. Yes, it takes practice. As Harvard Business Review reminds us: “experts are made, not born.”

Keep at it. Observe others you follow or admire. Read about new plugins, apps, or platforms. Some will be useful to add to your repertoire. Others won’t be. Sometimes you won’t know until after you sign up and use a tool for a bit. It’s all part of getting smoother, more effective skills (And making some missteps along the way–also a great teacher!)

As for the magic, follow these steps and you will find new customers, clients and business. If you already have, tell us what worked for you. Or, offer ideas about other steps you’d add to this list.

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