Using social media to market your business online can seem like a pretty daunting task. With so many different (and overlapping) social networks, review sites and possible placements for advertising, it's easy to feel lost in a very crowded, very noisy marketplace. And while this hustle and bustle can be a little overwhelming, it's actually a good thing: a crowded marketplace is a much better place to set up shop than an empty plaza.

[Better to be here:]
Crowded Market

[Than here:]
Empty Market

So how can you best take advantage of the crowded social marketplace?

Be present. You can't win if you don't show up. Luckily, it's never been easier to establish your business' online presence (click here for a more in-depth look at the process). By creating profiles on the various social networks (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest) and by linking them together, you can easily upload content and update potential customers and clients across the social media spectrum. You'll also want to maintain a presence on dedicated social business networks like BizPagesAtCA. Creating a member account at BizPagesAtCA allows you to reach out directly to members of your community and receive feedback from them about their specific wants and needs.

Be easy to find. A lot has been written about “Search engine optimization”, or SEO (the process of making your business as easily “searchable” as possible through the various search engines) and while this can certainly be helpful, there are some common-sense approaches you can use before you worry about tweaking your HTML to try to game Google's algorithm. Make sure your website's name is easy to type, easy to remember, and hard to mix-up with someone else's. As importantly, make sure that people in your community can find you, not a comparable business on the other side of the country. The advantage of review sites such as Yelp and social business networks like BizPagesAtCA is that they make it easy for people to narrow their search to businesses within their own communities.

Cast a wide net. The great thing about social marketing is that the barrier of entry is very low—you can establish a presence in a variety of places at minimal cost. It's not about looking for the “ perfect” social network for your business, but rather creating and maintaining an identity in all of them. Marketing in the social media world isn't like archery, where every shot needs to be a bulls-eye. It's more like a shotgun, where aim and timing are important, but not as much as persistence.

Word of mouth: the original “social network”. With all the focus on the Internet today, it's easy to forget that online social marketing is an extension of—and not a replacement for—good ol' fashioned word of mouth. For a small business, the best way to attract—and to keep—customers is by respecting them, offering them a valuable service as professionally as possible. No matter how much the rise of the Internet has changed businesses, it's still very true that ultimately, “good people is good business.” Repeat customers and referrals are the lifeblood of any small business; by creating online accounts and profiles as a key component of your strategy, you can make sure that as many potential customers as possible can find out how great your business is in person, and then—whether online or in line at the grocery store—tell their friends all about it.

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