Startups with limited budgets must pick and choose their marketing efforts carefully. Social media offers increased visibility and a platform for engagement for startups, on top of being one of the most affordable marketing opportunities available. However, doing it right takes time and additional marketing efforts. Does the effort put into social media marketing result in a real payoff?

The answer is yes and no. If this answer is frustrating, consider it your introduction to the nature of social media marketing. Its complex nature means it can help a business slightly, catapult a business into the limelight, or perhaps not offer the return on investment (ROI) a startup really needs at all. Even if social media marketing does not result in an increase in your profit, it will at the very least get people looking at your startup. Social media is a gateway into the homes of millions of internet users across the globe. Once you learn how to use social media to your advantage, the reach of your startup increases exponentially.

If you don’t have your foot in the digital marketing door, your business may not survive. It sounds harsh, but it’s become the reality of marketing in the 21st century. Companies must be able to compete with startups similar to theirs, and the battleground is on the World Wide Web. Understanding what will get the most likes on Facebook, perfecting the timing of posts on Twitter, and making your company’s website user-friendly will boost SEO and put your company at the top of everyone’s list.

But if you don’t know what you’re doing, fumbling around social media sites won’t help you. In fact, it could actually do serious harm to your company. Customers will quickly turn away from a company who makes it obvious that they don’t keep up with current marketing trends.

How can you determine if social media marketing is the best route for your startup to take? Ask yourself these questions:

  • How large is my current client base? Are my current clients involved in social media?
  • How much money am I able to spend on marketing?
  • Do I have a firm understanding of content marketing, or am I willing to learn?
  • Would my business benefit from connecting with clients through social media?]

If these questions are pointing towards making social media a viable marketing option, seriously consider the pros and cons. Cons include keeping up with current trends, hiring content writers or doing the writing yourself, and having to continuously invest time and energy into your social media efforts

However, the pros can be limitless: your business can benefit from a new interface, connect people with what matters most to them, show a “human” side that is bound to attract new clients, prove your company can stay with the trends, and illustrate to competitors that you’re not going anywhere. Your startup can take off and find an entirely new business niche if social media marketing is well-executed and manned by the right hands.

Current marketing trends show that social media marketing has the potential to boost a startup’s numbers exponentially. Percentages of revenue growth and customer satisfaction are at the top, with ROI, customer retention, and customer growth tying close behind

Producing more social media content, however, is not a foolproof way of improving your numbers. Ensuring your company comes out on the right side of the social media market means developing a strategy, measuring your successes and failures, and choosing which social media site is right for your business.

In your strategy, be sure to precisely determine what your social media marketing goals are, how you will go about reaching them, and what you will do if your goals cannot be met. Have contingency plans – if the social media outlet your heart is set on doesn’t do it for you, try Plan B. You might be surprised which social media sites will enable your company to really shine the brightest.

Managing a social media campaign without measuring your progress is like training for a race without knowing how long it is. Measuring your success is crucial for startups venturing into social media because it allows you to judge your ROI and how much your social media campaign has paid off. Set a time frame for the endeavor, and use checkpoints to measure how well you’re doing. If the numbers seem to be fading or dropping off, assess what needs to be done moving forward.

To help you choose which types of social media sites are the best outlets for your company, ask yourself if the company is B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer). If it’s B2B, sites like LinkedIn are a wise choice since it allows companies to market to other companies. If it’s B2C, use social media favorites like the current bigwigs, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Blogging is another growing favorite of this generation and can increase the foot traffic of your website. Stars have been made out of great bloggers who knew what their consumers were interested in reading.

Regardless of the route you choose when developing your social media strategy, keep in mind the best way to promote on social media sites is to truly believe in your business. Today’s youth don’t just look for business experts to tell them what they need – they want to see a real human, just like them. Social media can be the key to identifying with your target clients in a verifiable, personal voice.