Social media has become one of the best routes to market when it comes to directly reaching your audience in a cost effective way. This is key to development and growth online and in the real world too.

Indeed there are many success stories you can look at on both a local, national and global scale where a growing range of social media platforms and channels have directly lead to increased awareness – which in time (with the right plan of course) translates to more enquiries, sales and customers.

Because of this many business owners eagerly dive head first into trying to take over their industry, telling the world why they’re great and outlining the very best offers available right now!

However lots of activity doesn’t always mean success. With the amount of time you can spend tweeting, poking, liking and pinning it’s essential to remember some key points to strike the right balance of time invested in your social media strategy and the right ways to get your audience hooked.

1) The most important part is your plan

 If you were to break down the different elements you should be undertaking as part of your social media strategy, the biggest slice by far should be the initial time you spend forming your plan.

You need to think about who it is you’re trying to reach or in other words who is your customer? How do they behave online, such as what pages do they already look at, engage with and what are their wider interests?

People don’t want to be sold to on social media and simply repeating your best sales offers won’t make you friends. You need to think about the topics your customers are already talking about and align yourself with them.

2) Focus on growth

There’s no point sitting there wondering why your 20 followers aren’t liking your posts or sharing your content, so in the short term you need to get the word out there!

Research who’s influential in your industry and start talking to them, promote their stuff and show you care about the same things they do. If you can get them doing the same for your content these opinion leaders will bring about more followers naturally.

3) Talk to your audience, don’t shout!

 Your existing customers will care about your best deals and offers but it’s essential to remember your social media audience aren’t your customers yet!

Therefore you need to imagine you’re trying to become a relevant hub of information and advice for them rather than making your business pages sound more like bid TV…

You need to write blogs which build trust digitally, offering tips and pointers or sharing best practice in your industry. Focus on what’s happening in the real world too, people tend to like this more than computers!

Again though, getting your content out there is just as important as writing it…

 4) Use the best tools to help you

 You don’t have to give up sleep to be socially engaged as there’s now a great range of tools which can help you manage your profiles and the process of sharing the blogs you write. These allow you to do helpful things like schedule your social media posts in advance and research the content you share – which is a great time saver.

However it’s worth bearing in mind that this needs to be balanced with keeping one eye on what’s going on in real time too!

Buffer and BuzzStream are two great industry tools to look at.

 5) Keep your chin up!

 Building your social media strategy is an ongoing task and don’t get disheartened if things take a while to get going. It is very much like pushing a snowball uphill in some extents as it’s all about getting the momentum going!

Set yourself small goals like finding 5 new social media influencers a week and start engaging with them for example. This will lead to more followers down the line.

If you focus on these key elements then gradually you’ll see the desired momentum from the time you invest in social media. It’s always worth remembering this should form part of the wider marketing work you’re doing around your new business too.