Given that 71% of all adult internet users are active on Facebook, 23% on Twitter, 26% on Instagram, 28% Pinterest, 22% on Google+, and 28% Linkedin, it stands to reason that social media marketing is absolutely central to building your brand online.*

Here are a few simple rules to abide by when constructing a social media marketing strategy:

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Start small: You may be overwhelmed by the number of social media platforms out there, but your business does not need to be on all of them. In fact, we advise our clients to stick to no more than three or four. Most businesses should have a presence on Twitter, Facebook, and either Google+ (mostly male users) or Pinterest (mostly female users), depending on your target demographic.

Specialize: Once you establish a solid social presence, you should emphasize one platform over the others, depending on the niche that you operate in or if you are trying to target a specific geographic region. For instance, if you are a photographer, then Instagram makes more sense than Linkedin, but if you are an IT consultancy firm, the opposite is true.

Respect the power of sharing: The main reason your business should be engaging in social media marketing is that it gives you another way to share your content. The more you share helpful (not spammy!) content, the more likely you are to gain followers and gather hits on your website.

The key to sharing is to restrain yourself to promoting your company directly in every update. Think of social media like a party where you make some small talk, get to know the people in the room, and then try to help them to the best of your ability. Social isn’t about taking, it is about giving and sharing.

Be the expert: When you find a channel that works for your company, you want to build a reputation as the go-to person for information on a particular subject related to your business. Then you will be talking to people who are qualified prospects instead of random individual, which will eventually translate into decent sales. Remember though, it is not just about you personally sharing your content through social media. If people like what you share then they will share it with their friends and family, and those people may in turn share it on too. A single post that you make, providing it is useful of course, could potentially be seen by hundreds or even thousands of people. There are companies out there who have seen their business explode overnight simply because they shared a decent piece of content to the right channel.

Put relationships above business: Social media is a great way to reach your target market because it allows you to determine exactly who gets your marketing message. Remember, if somebody likes your page then it is more likely that not that they are interested in the products or services that you have to offer. Think of these people as friends, and by sending the right content to them, it may spur them to purchase from you the next time they or someone they know is in the market for your product or service.

Be real: Finally, social media enables you to engage with real people. People absolutely love it when a company is shown to have a face, and well-placed humor goes a long way in ‘humanizing’ your business. Also, learning to answer questions or handling problems on social media will help to boost your brand and reputation in your niche. You want to be known as the company that provides helpful advice on products, and even deals with complaints in a decent manner.

Those are just a handful of the simple, but powerful rules that we follow for our social media marketing clients. If you found this helpful or know someone who would, please share it with them on one of your social media platforms.

*Source: Pew Research