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Social media accounts for 27 percent of all time spent online and has become a popular way for customers to discover and research brands, and for marketers to reach out to potential customers. 93 percent of marketers currently say they use social media for business, and in 2013 there was a surge in popularity of new networks like Pinterest, Vine, and Instagram. This year, expect more sites, specifically Google+, to gain additional traction and become a people’s daily lives. Before businesses jump into social media, here are the five essential steps to success in social media marketing.

1. Start with a Plan

1 in 4 small businesses have no strategy in place for social media marketing. If a business wants to be successful in driving sales and leads from social, they need to have a clear digital strategy that incorporates social media.

2. Create Quality Content

Quality content engages audiences, is shared across multiple platforms, and garners more interest in a brand. It also makes a difference when it comes to SEO.

3. Think Visually

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” but in social media, it may be worth more.

4. Be Active and Responsive

As customers and fans flock to a business’ social sites and post comments, they are going to expect the company to be social as well. Microsoft and Xbox support are two of many examples of businesses using Twitter for customer relations.

5. Measure Metrics

There are hundreds of millions of interactions across social media sites every day. Even though the majority of businesses believe social media is important, 25 percent of them have no strategy in place for measurement. Businesses that spend time and money on social media want a return on their investment, and measuring metrics is one of the best ways to see if this is happening and what can be improved.

One goal of social media marketing is the same as any traditional marketing strategy, to increase sales. However, it is important to keep in mind that brand awareness is just as important. By keeping track of these metrics, businesses can use them to adjust tactics to increase efficiency and ROI, which is the bottom line for determining if any digital marketing strategy is effective.

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