If you have an online business, you need to develop a strong presence on social networks.

Don’t roll your eyes at me for stating the obvious. “Develop a strong presence on” isn’t the same as “have.” It’s going to take some work. With me?


1. Hang where your customers hang

Meet your customer where they are. If you have a sophisticated IT solution for businesses, don’t spend all your time on Pinterest. LinkedIn is a better choice. If you’re targeting consumers, you probably want to focus on Facebook. Tip: Pew Research Center tracks social media platforms by various demographics. .\

2. Think globally: It’s a big world out there

If you sell products to customers abroad, join the social networks dominant in those countries. Knowing where to present your message is  as important as your message itself, unless you like talking to yourself.

Share updates in their language or hire someone who can. Social network etiquette and culture vary across the world. You want to speak the language, literally and figuratively. You don’t want to insult potential customers. (At least, I hope not…)

3. Let them get to know you

Are you more likely to buy from a person or brand you know something about? Of course you are. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes: What would you want to know about a company and its products before you invested in it? Share that. Offer useful tips on best practices, access to white papers, etc. At a loss? Ask you audience what they want. Conduct surveys. Seek feedback. Use that insight to improve your social media presence and show customers you’re responding to their input.  Consider asking customers to send you pictures of themselves using your products (be sure to provide an incentive for doing so).

At the same time, remember it’s not always about you. In its guidance for small businesses, American Express contends only one of every seven posts should be an overt promotion.

4. Measure!

How will you know if these approaches work? You know the answer. Let’s all say it together: You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Track results. Are your approaches approproate for your audience and to your products? Figure out how popular your campaign is and assess how many sales your campaign generates.  Adjust  accordingly, and repeat step 4 as needed.

None of this has to be painful. (It’s SM, after all–not S&M.) But you have to stick with it. Social media is littered with the corpses of dead campaigns. Keep yours alive.