With many of your competitors off on vacation, or generally reducing their investment in marketing during the warmer months, you have a prime opportunity to learn how social media for small business can be a game-changer for your company.

While it's possible to spend hours each day trying to communicate with prospects and customers through social channels, when done well, social media marketing can be a valuable use of your time and resources. A few key strategies can help you connect with your target audience effectively and inexpensively. Here are eight strategies to try this summer so you can be a social media maven all year round.

Summer School: The Key to Social Media Marketing

1. Know Your Audience

Find out which social media platforms your target audience prefers. Are they most active on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram, for example? Consider using customer surveys, tools such as Facebook Ad Manager, and online research to find out where your prospects and customers are likely to be online.

2. Start Small

Choose one platform to focus on initially, rather than spreading yourself too thin by trying to be active on all social media sites. It's much smarter to do a great job of connecting with your target customers in one place than to do a poor job across several. Start small and expand from there once you've mastered one.

3. Stick to the Plan

Create a social media plan to schedule your weekly or monthly social media activities. Google Calendar is great for plotting your topics each day. Identify three posts you can share each day on your target platform and then schedule them. Here are some ideas for shareable content:

  • Post articles on topics of interest to your audience.
  • Share a blog post you recently wrote, with commentary up top to explain why it's relevant.
  • Share a useful tip or resource.
  • Post an eye-catching photo you took or a stock photo you bought and pair it with a quote. Canva is great for designing attention-getting graphics.
  • Host a contest to engage your audience.
  • Post coupons that entice prospects to buy.
  • Promote an upcoming event or product.
  • Shoot video of you demonstrating a product or sharing useful tips and share it socially.
  • Repurpose or reuse posts you shared months ago.

Not convinced you can come up with enough content consistently on your own? Subscribe to a service like BuzzSumo, which curates content relevant to your audience that you can share with them.

4. Direct Traffic

Drive social media traffic to your website. Not only do you want to connect with prospects and customers, but you also want to get them to visit your website, where you have much more space to tell your company's story and to share information on your products and services.

5. Assess What's Working

Analyze your results using a tool like Google Analytics, which can tell you how many clicks you're getting on your website thanks to your social media activities, and adjust your strategy accordingly. For example, if you see that your activity on Facebook is driving twice as much traffic to your website as your posts on Twitter, it may mean that your time may be better spent focusing on Facebook.

6. Keep an Ear to the Ground

Use Mention to be notified when your name or business or related keywords are mentioned on social media. It's like Google Alerts for social media.

7. A Little Money Can Go a Long Way

Boost traffic to your social media posts through advertising. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all have advertising programs. Spending a little money to boost your posts can significantly increase their impact.

8. Don't Go It Alone

Partner with complementary businesses to share each other's posts. By doing so, both businesses can gain access to a wider audience.

To position your business as an authority in your field, make sure to post consistently so that prospects and customers come to rely on you for educational, entertaining or useful information. When you make it a part of your everyday activities, social media for small business can be an effective and efficient way to engage your audience and grow your company's reputation.

That's all for today! Remember to check back in to Small Business Summer School next Wednesday when we'll be sharing our best tips to help you negotiate more effectively. See you then!

Tags: Business Strategy Summer School Social Media Marketing social media