It’s no good being on social media simply because you feel you ought to be there; you need to have a specific goal in mind.

Are you trying to raise awareness, get feedback and reviews from customers, drive direct sales, promote a new product?

Understand what you are trying to do
Jordan Stone, head of social media at Vodafone UK, says: “Be clear about what you are using social media for. There is no single way, but you need to define what you want to achieve and then really focus on a plan.

“There is no shortage of things you can measure on social media – a like, a retweet, a reaction, an engagement rate – but if you are not clear what you are trying to achieve, you could end up measuring the wrong thing.”

Take the time to understand how each platform works
Every social media network works differently – so observe them closely before jumping in and take advantage of the tools and advice they offer small businesses on their websites.

Listen as well as talk
Social media is a conversation, not a monologue. Make sure you really notice the people you are engaging with. Acknowledge people’s interactions, and respond quickly and carefully to questions and complaints.

Don’t spread yourself too thin
Don’t try to be everywhere at once – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and LinkedIn all offer great opportunities, depending on the business. Master one or two that are right for your audience before adding more. Stone says: “If you try to be everywhere, you will water down your resources and end up not doing anything effectively.”

Get the pace right
You still need to maintain a regular presence, but one great post a day can be far more effective than endless screeds of mediocre content.

Stone says: “It is about quality rather than quantity. The number of times you post a day matters less than what you are posting and who you are targeting it at. Even a single tweet needs to be carefully crafted in the right brand tone of voice.”

Make it visual
The best way to make your post stand out is to make it look good, either with high quality images or by using video. Be creative and recognise that all platforms are prioritising image and video.

Don’t be obsessed with chasing likes
Yes, it’s lovely to be popular, but the number of likes or followers you have is a very basic way of monitoring the effectiveness of a social media campaign. Stone says: “Engagement rates are just part of the mix, they are not ends in themselves. They need to serve one of the wider objectives you are setting.”

Get targeting
You can generate a lot of value by paying for “targeted” posts – where you ask Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to use their data to make sure your posts are seen by specific people who might be interested in your business. For example, you could target people in certain locations, in a set age bracket or who have specific interests or hobbies. Use an expert to help you craft your campaign and think hard about who you want to speak to.

Think mobile
Social media sites are increasingly being accessed on smartphones rather than computers, so make sure your posts still work on a small screen alongside all the other things users will be looking at.

Be patient
It takes time to build a strong social media presence. It doesn’t happen overnight. Be committed to making it work.

A blog by Vodaphone.