Using social media correctly has a direct effect on your businesses growth and and reputation. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter ad others are tools to increase engagement with your community, and raise awareness of your business.

While they all have great potential, here are 4 things you should be aware of when starting ot planning a Social Media campaign for your small business.

1) It is only part of your marketing toolbox.

The real strength of social media involves connecting it to all your other marketing strategies. While SM can be useful on it’s own, it’s power is magnified by integrating with your traditional and print advertising. Social media is not an automatic replacement for traditional, so you’ll want to have a strategy that combines both.

One bonus to Social Media is that it lets you move faster and try new things — no waiting on someone else’s monthly publishing deadline — and it lets you test new ideas in a small, inexpensive way. You can go from idea to ad to customer feedback in an afternoon. You can use this knowledge to influence your more expensive traditional marketing.

2) Measure, measure, measure

Through things like click tracking and analytics, online marketing allows you to do a better job connecting costs and results. Ever feel frustrated by vague promises from traditional media? “We get your ad in front of 50,000 people”. Sure, but which people? Did they even notice the ad? Are those people who will never become my customers?

Wondering whether to spend your ad money on radio or print? Drive both to a SM campaign and check your measurable results. You need to know if those “50,000 people” ever turn into buyers. Each platform has it’s own set of tools and metrics and you should have at least a basic understanding of them to get the most benefit. They spend a ton of money and “brain power” on gathering meaningful metrics – it would be a terrible waste of your ad dollars if you didn’t take advantage of the tools they provide.

Before setting up a social media advertising campaign, set goals and anticipated results. Pay close attention and check the variables. Tweak one thing at a time. Learn to split-test. Continuously re-assess, update and go again.

3) Plan Ahead. SM takes time and effort

You need to schedule the resources to actually do Social Media. Don’t fool yourself into thinking social sites will only take a few minutes of your time and still expect to be effective. Social media management requires time and expertise.

Social networking may sound simple but each platform has its nuances and the learning curve is steep. Start with one and get past the learning curve. There’s no point in being on five different platforms if you can’t fully engage on one. There’s no value in an empty account – as a matter of fact, an empty profile, or one with 2 posts from last year, actually can hurt your reputation.

When you do pick someone to handle your social networking needs, be certain you want them to be the one representing your company. It isn’t enough to have a savvy computer geek, you need a geek with an engaging personality. Whoever you choose to manage your social media marketing will be the “Face” of your company.

You’ll also need to monitor your sites and engage with people.

Keep an eye on your social sites. You can’t just post things that are important to you without engaging in a two-way dialog with your customers.

Always remember, people love to be heard — especially when they are feeling unimportant or ill treated.. Social media is also a place where customers or employees can – and will – go to complain. You can’t leave some negative comment from a customer sitting unaddressed for days at the top of your feed.

4) Be a human

SM is more like a telephone than a megaphone. Conversations are the goal, not constant self-promotion. You won’t be successful shouting, “Look at my stuff, isn’t it great, buy my stuff”. You’ll just get tuned out.

It’s “Social” Media. Talk like a person. As a small business owner you get to interact more closely to your client base in a way a corporation cannot. Use this to your advantage. You can post pictures of your family and chat about things that will endear you to your customer. Skip the political rants and the questionable frat boy humor, but do try to be more like the people you want to attract. Share pictures of people enjoying your business, your best products, local community happenings and things like that.

Posting business promotional videos that are warm and welcoming are a good way to introduce people to your business. If you use them thoughtfully, social media platforms are a powerful way to brand your company and to inexpensively advertise to your perfect customer.