As a social media manager, I work with small businesses that want to use social media to increase their client base and create more sales. They know that it's supposedly helpful, but most of them aren't which platform to use for their situation, let alone what messages they should post. Does this describe you? While each business is different, similar best practices will apply across the board. Follow these tips for how to use social media to promote your business:

  1. Use the most appropriate platform for your business.
  2. Be careful not to over-promote yourself on social media.
  3. Engage your audience on a personal level.
  4. Find ways to provide unique value.

1. Use the Best Social Media Platform for Your Business

Business owners are often overwhelmed by the options. Should they use Facebook or Google-Plus? Is it important to have a Yelp page? Does it make sense to have a YouTube presence?

Each business has different needs. You don't need to have an account on every social-media outlet. You're better off only having one or two active accounts than six ones that you don’t touch.

Choose your social-media outlets based on what will be most relevant to you.

If you own a restaurant or other food-based business, Yelp is important. Google-Plus, on the other hand, may not make sense. If you’re a freelance graphic designer, you may want to put your energy into Instagram and LinkedIn.

In short, where is your audience? You don’t have to do what someone else is doing. It’s best to draw up a strategy and make a conscious decision to be on a specific platform. You’ll be more successful.

Further Reading: Get tips for using Groupon to your business's advantage.

2. Dont Over-Promote

People get tired of hearing the same message. If you’re constantly telling them how great your business is, you probably won’t get many followers. People who feel that they are being sold to will frequently turn away from the messaging. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should never promote your business. You want to be on social media to bring in more customers or clients, but over-promoting will hurt your brand rather than enhance it.

Instead, promote your business only a handful of times while also posting other content. It’s easy to post content that revolves around topics that are relevant to your audience. For example, if you sell popsicles and summer is coming, you can support a conversation around staying cool in summer.

3. Engage Your Audience

One great aspect of social media that traditional advertising can't do is that it allows you to engage the audience on a personal level.

Asking questions and developing conversations between businesses and customers is something that a television ad can never do.

Business owners with an online presence can engage their audiences in new and unique ways. For example, an author might ask followers which book cover they prefer. Or an ice cream shop may ask customers what new and interesting flavors of ice cream they want to try. Meanwhile, a hair salon can poll followers on which celebrity has the best haircut this summer. All three of these posts give the audience an opportunity to engage with the business, helping the customer feel connected and valued.

Some businesses will use a site like Twitter or Facebook as the only way a customer can receive support or provide feedback. If you have someone managing your social media accounts, customers can receive more immediate responses than they could through email correspondence. This will increase their satisfaction, as well as their likelihood to recommend your business. Delta and American Airlines are well-known for their public customer care on Twitter.

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4. Provide Value

With so much information on social media, it might be difficult for customers to sort through what’s useful and relevant to them. Business owners can help by posting a mix of messages, engagement posts, and self-promotion blurbs that will provide value to their customers' lives. For example, there's an auto-body shop that often posts before-and-after pictures of damaged cars they fixed. However, one of their most popular recent posts is a link to information about auto recalls and defects. Unlike their earlier posts — which only a handful of people clicked on — over 250 people found the recalls and defects to be relevant enough to click through.

How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Business: Final Thoughts

Some business owners don’t see the value in having a social media presence. However, businesses that use it effectively may be rewarded with more customers and better sales. With a little research, social media can absolutely help your business grow.