There’s never been a better time in history to become a new entrepreneur.

Over the last few decades, I’ve had a successful career writing, teaching and mentoring others in business, and I’ve seen how conditions have changed over time. This experience has given me the perspective to say one thing with certainty: If you’re starting out today, social media is one of the most profoundly important weapons in your arsenal.

If you can learn to harness the potential of social media, you can radically improve your odds of succeeding in business.

Why social media is critically important for new businesses

Social media is essential for new entrepreneurs for several reasons. First, it’s an invaluable resource for building the kind of networks any new business needs to succeed. Social platforms help you find customers, workers, suppliers, investors — virtually everything you need to compete effectively. In the pre-digital era, cultivating clients and identifying the best workers were far more time-consuming tasks, though no less essential.

Along with having the reach you need to assemble networks, social media also provides new entrepreneurs with a cost-effective platform for marketing and brand-building work. Years ago, new enterprises with limited startup capital often couldn’t afford traditional advertising channels. Instead, they had to painstakingly build their audiences through word of mouth.

Today, a well-designed social media strategy can amplify a brand to an extraordinary degree at a relatively modest cost.

Tips for successful social media promotion

Getting greater traction from social media is a goal for most businesses. If you’re just starting out, you’ll need to ensure you have a presence on the major platforms: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. It’s important to understand how these platforms differ from each other and how they can best serve your needs.

LinkedIN, much like a website, is a public face for your business. It’s also a great resource for finding local workers and publishing professional, thought leadership-style content. Twitter is more promotional in nature, a place to keep your audience in touch with your latest offerings. It’s also a great vehicle for relationship-building and consumer engagement.

Facebook, because of its enormous reach, should be a key priority for social media marketing — a staggering eight-in-ten U.S. residents are on the platform. Instagram, with its focus on the visual, is the preferred destination for artful photos and product displays.

Knowing how each platform is differentiated is one of the keys to social media success. Facebook and LinkedIn’s demographics skew older, while Instagram and Twitter tilt younger. What may seem within the bounds of professionalism on Twitter may not be appropriate for the more business-focused LinkedIn.

Entrepreneurs that create compelling, actionable content — and effectively share this content across their platforms — will have the most success. It’s important to keep audiences engaged, so posting often and in a consistent fashion is a must.

Using Hootsuite or another content management platform can also help you become more effective. These platforms can automate some of the work of social media management. You can also pre-schedule posts to appear at regular intervals.

It’s also important to closely monitor your engagement with your audience. If you aren’t generating enough likes, retweets and other interactions, consider adding more photos or videos to your posts, or increase your own number of interactions with others on the platform.

Finally, it’s always a great idea to get the attention of the people who have the most influence in your niche. When you interact with others with large social followings, some of that attention reflects on you. This means it’s essential to cultivate influential people.

Your next move

For entrepreneurs who are just starting out, I suggest writing down a social media plan that articulates how your company will leverage these resources and how social media fits into your overall marketing mix. If you’re already active on social media, I encourage you to conduct a social media audit every 12 months, in order to see what you’re doing well — and to uncover any opportunities you might be missing.

Remember, social media is a powerful tool. If you use it well, I know you’ll have the kind of success you’re looking for! Contact me today for advice on how to get started.

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