Written by: Rieva Lesonsky

As a small business owner who wears many hats, just like you undoubtedly do, I have to admit that as much as I love social media, I inwardly groan a little bit every time some new social media site is unleashed or a previously obscure social site (like Tumblr) starts coming to the fore. One more thing to learn, one more task for my busy day!

There’s no doubt that social media marketing of some kind has become essential for many small businesses. But the fear that getting involved with social media requires your business to have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, etc., etc. paralyzes many small business owners so much that they don’t test the waters of social media at all.

Does every business have to be active on every social media site? Of course not. The key is figuring out which sites can accomplish what goals for your business, which sites your customers spend the most time on, and which sites give you the most return on time and effort spent.

Personally, I at least test out every social media site that I hear about. Why? Because my business is advising small businesses, so I need to have a valid opinion about the tools that are out there to help them. Similarly, if your business is marketing consulting, PR or communications, you’ll probably want to check out all the options out there to see what’s what. If you’re a plumber, on the other hand, you may not need a big presence on social media and might be better off focusing your efforts on creating a nice basic website, listing it in local search directories and optimizing it for search.

What are some considerations when deciding which social media tools to work with?

  • Facebook: By far the most dominant social media site, Facebook is the one to check out if your business is consumer-oriented. Starting a Facebook page is easy, and even posting as few as a couple times a week can give you an active presence.
  • Twitter: Twitter works for both B2B and consumer-oriented companies. Many restaurants, retailers, spas and other local businesses have found marketing success by tweeting out announcements and specials to their followers.
  • LinkedIn: This site is a great prospecting tool for B2B companies. It offers an easy way to get introduced to decision-makers you might never be able to connect with in real life, plus a way to see what companies and people are working on so you can tailor your sales pitches to their needs.
  • Pinterest: Pinterest is getting lots of buzz lately. Since this site focuses on sharing images, it’s worth investigating if you’ve got a visually oriented business like interior design, a clothing boutique or a hair salon where you can post photos of your work or products. However, photos can work just as well on Facebook, so if Pinterest is intimidating for you, you might want to check out Facebook first.

Your SCORE mentor can help you sort through the social media options and figure out which are right for your business. Don’t have a mentor? Visit the SCORE website to get matched with one and get advice for your business 24/7.

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky – CEO, GrowBiz Media
Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. | @rieva