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Like it or not, one dinky website isn’t going to cut it anymore. It’s time to follow the herd, bite the bullet, and give in to the popular tide; you need to create the social media properties your business needs to thrive. In the past, it might have been fine to content yourself with a marketing campaign consisting of a well-painted brick-and-mortar storefront and a few signs scattered across town. Maybe, if you went wild, you might have even bought out a billboard on the highway leading into town. But today, paved highways don’t draw in flocks of eager customers, digital ones do. A strong foundation of online properties will give you the platform you need to share your brand’s message, attract customers, and forge a direct line to your industry’s latest trends — if you build it well.

Like any real-world storefront, an online foundation must be constructed thoughtfully and maintained carefully to stay strong. Would you buy your goods from a sloppily-built building with neon advertisements slapped haphazardly over its front? Probably not — so why would you expect your customers to do the same with your social properties? You’ll need profiles that will enable you to reach your target audience effectively; however, you don’t want to sign up for a swarm of social profiles for the sake of having them, or you’ll risk overcomplicating your strategy and falling back onto spammy marketing tactics.

You need to understand your product, company goals, and intended customer base before you institute a social media strategy. According to a 2015 Pew study, a full 68% of U.S. adults use Facebook, 28% Instagram, 25% Linkedin, and 21% Twitter. Given this data, it might seem logical to build these four and focus on the two most popular — but taking that approach will undercut whatever boost you could have gotten from demographic targeting on the others. Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and Instagram are all powerhouse properties, but each services a slightly different audience.

Let’s say that you’ve developed a time management app for business professionals. From your early assessments, you’ve established that your primary audience will be men in their mid-twenties who have some college experience, live in urban areas, and earn around $75k a year. Judging from social media usage statistics from Sprout Social, your target demographic uses Linkedin — and that’s the property you should direct the brunt of your efforts towards. Does this mean that you should give up on Facebook, toss Instagram, and leave Twitter by the wayside? Not at all! Each of those properties is valuable in its own way. Demographic targeting helps you determine which social properties will connect you with your consumer base the most, not hone in on a platform to use exclusively.

Yet, building out your properties is only one step in establishing a compelling brand. Even a strong platform can only hold your business up so high; to find real altitude, you need to circulate clear, consistent, and attractive content for your audience. As the marketing sage David Ogilvy wrote, “I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don't want you to tell me that you find it creative. I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”

This idea is key. You want your business to communicate and be recognized in a glance by the colors of its brand or the shapes of its logo. You need to develop a cohesive style across all of your social media profiles so that when an Instagram fan stumbles across an ad on Twitter, they recognize you. By that same token, you need to think outside of the box when it comes to developing messaging. What you do will depend on your company and goals; maybe you circulate industry-related blogs with eye-snagging headlines, or create splashy infographics that can’t help but catch attention. Maintaining interest beyond that initial glance can be difficult. You’ll need to develop materials that position your company or product as a helpful problem-solver instead of a social media ad spammer; a provider of something that will make a consumer’s life easier or more interesting. You need to, in other words, develop a brand that people can connect to and build a relationship with.

As with any sturdy structure, building an online presence takes time, effort, and strategy. It won’t appear overnight, but if you set realistic goals and set a plan to achieve them, you can cement a social media foundation capable of drawing in customers from the digital highway.

About the Author(s)

David Kleinhandler

David Kleinhandler is a New York-based investor and entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience founding and funding financial startups.

Founder and President, Vest Financial Group