Social media is big business, with more than 1.6 billion active users on Facebook, more than 250 million users on LinkedIn, and more than 30 billion shared images on Instagram since its inception in October 2010. Other major players in the world of social media include Twitter, Snapchat and Foursquare, in addition to a litany of other start-ups across the globe.

In addition to using social media to meet new people and peruse funny videos, today’s users also look to social media for information on the products and services that they use every day, which is why businesses should be mindful of their social media presence. Here are four social media tips that can help you to transform your business into a trending topic online.

Set Goals

Creating a Facebook page might seem like a great way to get started, but every business owner should set goals before launching a social media campaign. A careful understanding of the direction and purpose of your social media pages is crucial if you want to reach your target audience and portray your company in the best light possible. Here are a few things you should consider as you set your social media goals:

  • Demographics: Think carefully about who will most likely respond on social media and what kinds of things your chosen audience is looking for. For example, if you know that the majority of your customers and social media participants are married parents in their thirties, your posts should be about kids and families.
  • Purpose: Talk with your co-workers, if you have any, about what you hope to accomplish by having a social media page. Are you trying to build interest in a new product? Educate the public? Understanding what you are trying to do can help you to craft posts that have a streamlined purpose.
  • Brand representation: Before you branch out into a new field of marketing, take a few minutes to think about how using social media will represent your brand. Think about how to use your logos, how to make the page professional and how to avoid offending loyal patrons.

After you know what you want to accomplish using social media, focus on choosing the right social media platform to meet your needs.

Understand Social Media Platforms

Social media platforms are as different as the day is long. Although some sites are perfect for sharing quick comments or showing off a nice product, others are better for things like instructional videos, explanations, and product overviews. Some social media platforms are more casual than others, which could leave your business looking less-than-professional if you aren’t careful.

If you need to share pictures or video, Instagram or Snapchat might be right for you. On the other hand, if you want a social media page that includes information about your company and offers employees a place to post information, Facebook would be more helpful.

Also, remember that each social media platform caters to different demographics. For example, in 2013, research found that 64 percent of all Instagram users were younger than 35. Meanwhile, Edison Research and Triton digital found that between 2013 and 2014, Facebook was most popular with 18-24-year-olds but didn’t see much growth with users between the ages of 12-17 and 25-34. Knowing your target audience will help tailor the campaign for best results.

Facebook users by age
Source: Data Charts

Engage with Customers

One of the most intimidating aspects of social media to business owners is the reality of having customers comment about their experiences right on your page for the world to see. Although it can be nerve-wracking to respond to negative feedback, avoid the temptation to ignore complaints.

Instead, engage with customers gracefully, and use their comments as an opportunity to build your company’s brand. Here are a few businesses that excel at customer engagement through social media and their secrets for success.

  • To make their social media pages more positive and organized, Nike and Starbucks have separate Twitter handles to deal with custom questions and complaints. In addition to freeing up their main pages and keeping the tone upbeat, separate Twitter handles make it much easier for customer service professionals to respond to comments.
  • Xbox currently holds the world record for being the most responsive social media brand. Responding to more than 4,000 Tweets a day, Microsoft has 12 backup support accounts to handle the traffic.

Taking the time to answer questions, address criticism, and engage with customers can make your company feel more in-tune with the general public and sympathetic to issues. Before you launch your social-media campaign, think carefully about who will manage the accounts, how quickly you will respond, and how to keep interactions positive and productive.

Give It Time

Don’t be disappointed if your social media page isn’t wildly successful overnight. As with any marketing campaign, you have to give it time to see the full benefit of your efforts. For example, the ‘Dada ding‘ ad that released by Nike earlier this year in India showed an inspirational montage of women taking part in various sports.

The upbeat ad set against a euphoric hip hop anthem didn’t directly sell any product but instead sent out a powerful message that combined the subjects of women’s empowerment and fitness. Not only was the ad a massive hit, the hashtag #DadaDing eventually went viral.

Instead of worrying about the immediate success or failure of your social media pages, focus on creating quality content and catering to your customers. Making something beautiful for the web will help to build your brand—even if it takes a while.

Ryan Camomile is a co-founder and the CEO of Infogenix, a web-design, programming, and marketing company based in Orem, Utah. The company began in 1998 with Ryan as the sole web and graphic designer, but he also became interested in AdWords and Search Engine Optimization when he realized that there was more to developing a site for success on the Internet than having an excellent design. He has now been an expert in the design, SEO and PPC fields for over 18 years. He uses his diverse experience and unique perspective to help his clients’ projects and ideas to flourish. You can reach Ryan at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ryancamomile or https://twitter.com/RyanCamomile