It wasn’t long ago that companies would hire an inexperienced intern to manage social media platforms without giving it a second thought. According to BrandWatch, there are 2.3 BILLION social media users in the world as of July 2015. That’s a big audience for your brand; a little too big to trust an untrained intern with.

As social has blown up and evolved into the huge resource that it is today, businesses finally realize the value of a strategic social media plan to propel their brand awareness, gather feedback and convert fans into customers. Or, they risk doing the opposite — plummeting into a dark hole of negative reviews, inauthentic posts and spam bots.

While social media cannot be the only fuel for your inbound marketing engine, it absolutely must complement the rest of your marketing strategy.

The following tips should serve as a foundation for building out a solid social media strategy for your small business.

Find Your Voice and Don’t Let It Waver

A foundational part of social media strategy (or building a business in general) is understanding the audience that you’re trying to reach. Without a deep understanding of your customer base, you have no business putting together a strategy for your social platforms. At Hatchbuck, we’ve built very clear (internal) buyer personas for our software, and we take that into account when thinking through our social and blog calendars. All of our content (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blog and the like) is specifically written in a voice and tone that our audience can identify with. We understand that our followers are visiting  our pages and blog for valuable information on how to build, market and grow a small business. Charmin, on the other hand, has a very different customer base who they interact with very differently.

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The strength with Charmin’s method is not taking themselves too seriously. They understand that toilet paper isn’t the most easily marketable product and having a sense of humor takes away any stigma attached to the product. Figure out what works with your market segment and stick to it unabashedly.

Don’t Waste Your Time With Vanity Metrics

It is so easy to fall prey to follower counts and number of fans. But if those hoards of followers aren’t engaging with your content, you have a real issue. You’re either attracting the wrong type of follower based on your messaging or you’re not producing content that is valuable to your audience. Either way, you’re most likely coming off as inauthentic and jeopardizing your brand identity. Don’t be #teamfollowback if those followers aren’t genuinely valuable to your feeds. Think carefully about the content that you’re tweeting, posting and sharing. Don’t spam your followers with sales pitches or they may not be followers for much longer. Instead of focusing on quantity, focus on the quality of engagement with each piece of content you’re sharing.

Automation is Your Ally

When you’re running a small shop, you hardly have time to sit around and find relevant content to retweet, blog topics to write about and posts to share on a daily basis. By blocking off a window of time once a week, you can queue up personalized, relevant content to be shared at pre-determined intervals. There’s nothing less authentic than a brand that starts and stops their online conversations constantly. Figure out the right frequency for your audience and stick to it with tools like Buffer, Tweetdeck and IFTTT to make sure your accounts don’t skip a beat.

The tips should serve as the most basic steps to get your social media strategy off on the right foot. Once you’ve put a process in place, the possibilities are endless with your social channels. Don’t overlook the value of social media when marketing your small business.