This sponsored post is produced by Salesforce. 

There’s no shortage of social media tips, how-tos, and advice for small businesses and entrepreneurs getting started and building a strategy. But if you’re like most business owners, you don’t have a lot of time. So here are 12 social media truths I hope can save you some time, avoid some common pitfalls, and focus your efforts on success.

1. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have.

People often fall into the trap of chasing follower numbers (or worse, paying for them). I’d rather have a network of 500 people in my industry who I can learn from and influence than 10,000 randomly-acquired bots and spammers and self-promoting chuckleheads. Build your networks by engaging like a real human being and helping people and you won’t have to worry about this.

2. You don’t have to be on every network.

I love Pinterest. These days I’m pinning ideas to spruce up our back patio. (It’s a thrill a minute ’round our place.) As a former social media snake oil salesman, I can make a convincing argument why any business can get value out of Pinterest or Instagram or Periscope or Glabberplat (I made one of those up). But if you have limited time, focus on providing value on the networks where your customers and prospects are most active. Better to not be somewhere than to have a presence there and ignore it.

3. You know your audience better than anyone. And if you don’t, ask.

You could pay a consultant to do an audience survey and explain the demographics of each social network and make recommendations about what networks you should use and what your customers want to see from you. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of smart consultants out there who can do that well. Or you could just spend the next couple of weeks asking your customers yourself.

4.Yes, your customers are on Facebook.

There’s, like, a billion people on Facebook. No, I mean literally. The number grows so rapidly that I check it every time I mention it. Your customers may not use Facebook daily to conduct business, but they’re definitely there, sharing pictures of their kids and finding out which Game of Thrones character they are and researching products and checking out local businesses. If you’re there too, and are interesting and helpful and human, they’ll appreciate that and remember you.

5. Social media isn’t free.

Have we thoroughly debunked this by now? Even if you only use free channels to engage and don’t pay to promote your posts, social media requires a time commitment, and like everything in life except making hamburger patties, the more time you put into it, the better it will be. Is your time free? Nope.

6. You don’t have to be a millennial.

Yes, “digital natives” have a lower learning curve when it comes to picking up apps and new social networks, but none of this is hard, no matter your age. Can you balance a checkbook? Can you do a Sudoku puzzle? I can’t, and I do social media for a living. Apps and networks won’t get traction if they’re hard to use, so the makers have an incentive to create a good user experience.

7. No, your cousin’s kid can’t do it for you.

Maybe Little Jimmy can build a wicked house in Minecraft, but does he know your business? Your customers? Does he have anything of value to add to a conversation about your industry? He can probably use a telephone, too (as long as it isn’t a pay phone, because how does that thing work and who even has change, gah!) but would you ask him to lead a call with your biggest client?

8. Yes, you do have time.

You’re busy. I’m busy. Everybody’s busy. Do you ever watch television? Then watch a little less and spend that time building your business. Need another example? I’m writing this post on my smartphone on the…train. (What did you think I was going to say?)

9. You can produce content. Yes. You can.

Have you ever sent an email to a business associate giving your take on the impact of some piece of industry news? Do you talk to your sales team about the potential ramifications of a piece of legislation, or a big move by a competitor or industry leader? That’s content. Just type it up next time. Your customers will find it valuable too. Don’t you want to be a thought leader? It’s so much better than being a guru. The hours are better and you don’t have to sit on the ground.

10. A blog post is whatever you say it is.

Some people think a blog post is a 2,000-word white paper. Some of the most useful posts I read are lists of links to important news in my industry. They might take 10 minutes to create, start to finish, but they can be very valuable. One paragraph that gets a customer thinking (and thinking about you) is a successful blog post.

11. Your customers really do care where you went on vacation.

Have you ever had a prickly email or telephone exchange with a new prospect or client, and then you met in person and found out your kids both play volleyball and are going to the same tournament in two weeks and then you were pals? That’s Facebook.

12. You can do it.

Building a social media strategy doesn’t have to be a big, hairy, difficult thing; in fact, it can and should be fun. Imagine having better, more human relationships with your prospects and customers, all the time. Social media can be the part of your marketing strategy you’ll actually enjoy. And if you’re having fun, your customers and prospects will have fun, too, and they’ll want to work with you. And that’s how you’ll know it’s working.

David B. Thomas is Senior Director of Content and Engagement at Salesforce.

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