Facebook, Twitter and Google+ don’t all need to be used by every small business. Owners should pick and choose which ones work best for their particular audience and customer base. (Justin Sullivan/GETTY IMAGES)

To understand the problem that small business owners face with their use of social media, consider how many sites exist, what they each promise, and how many of them ask for the same information.  Already strapped for time, entrepreneurs and business owners are asked to establish profiles, explain their value proposition, and post graphics and contact information – all in the name of increasing sales and enhancing brand visibility.

But small business owners may be falling victim into a “brand dilution” trap that damages the brand by causing over-sharing and over-joining. The following are some tips to help you get your social media act together and get value for the “sweat equity” you invest in these sites.

First, ask yourself whether you are equipped to handle the commitment of keeping your social media sites up-to-date (which costs time). If you can’t do it, then you’ll want to hire someone else (which costs money). Only you know which you and your firm can more readily afford.

Moreover, what is the purpose of having several social media profiles going all at once? That answer can be elusive, because one size – or in this case, one site – does not fit all. Your company may rely more on word-of-mouth than on social media, in which case you may look to increase your visibility with actual events, such as live promotions and contests, rather than pouring your resources into exposure building exercises on LinkedIn and Facebook.

It is easy to get caught in the hype of social media and to expend too much energy, time and money in order to keep up with those efforts. Understandably, business owners want to feel connected and want to ensure they aren’t being left behind – but this should not be the guiding light for your social media strategy.

Think about it: if you can’t handle what you currently have, what makes you think that you can take on more?

Let’s get back to basics. Many social media sites are geared toward sharing with a particular audience, so it is smarter to just go with the big sites that almost everyone is on – that way you don’t have to run around trying to reach people that haven’t seen your various profiles. These days, Facebook and Twitter seem to be the best bet. Google+ launched late last year, but most say it’s a ghost town over there, so perhaps it’s not worth your time there if no one is going to see what your company has to offer.

Keep your messages consistent. Many business owners aren’t aware that you can connect your Twitter to your Facebook so that posting a message on the former also posts on the latter.  Ta da! You just saved a few minutes logging into each account separately and typing up a new status update. The key here is to work efficiently via social media. You should be making sales, not networking all day!

Finally, do your homework when it comes to what other people are doing that is increasing their visibility and level of engagement with the public. Use # (hash tags) to join a trend (or even start a new one), comment on other people’s posts and on recent news, and share stories that may be of interest to your followers. People listen to people that have something of interest to say to them.  

Eric Yaverbaum is a best selling author of six books and chief executive of public relations firm Ericho Communications.

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Please tell us about your social media strategy in the comments below. What seems to be working? What would you change?