You own a business, you’re an expert in your field and your clients and coworkers are telling you to leverage your brand on social media. Maybe you’re already using social media sporadically, but you have a tough time seeing the point of all the effort.

First thing to know, you’re not alone.

So many small to mid-sized local businesses find it a struggle to keep up with the demands of social media. Usually it’s because all of their hard-working employees already have enough to do, like take care of clients! It’s tough to find one person in the office who you can task with managing your online voice; however, here’s the kicker – most likely someone is already talking about your brand online. Wouldn’t it be better if it was you?

If you’re not sold on the importance of social media for business, read The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media. It may take you a very long time to read all of this, but it’s worth it. Or, you could just take my word for it.

Let’s say you actually have something you want to share, like a special you’re running or a project you’ve completed or tips you think your customers would benefit from. The first step is to determine what social media platforms make the most sense for your business. The list of social media sites available is long. From newsy sites like Facebook and Twitter to image-based sites like Pinterest and Instagram, there’s a social media site that addresses nearly everything.

How do you know which social media sites are right for your business?                     

Some may call this cheating, but I think the best way to see what kinds of social media a business should be sharing is by looking at several of their top competitors. Let’s say you own Dan’s Doggy Daycare and you have decided to take a leap into using social media. Well, why not take a look at your biggest competition’s online profile (Ex. Al’s Doggy Daycare).

Is Al tweeting? Is he a Facebook fiend?

Does he have an Instagram account of all the furry friends he boards daily?

Do people love it? Does he have “likes” and “retweets” and “shares” and more?

Then do what Al’s doing, or at least choose the same social media platforms.

Choosing your social media platforms also just comes down to common sense. It’s always a good practice to create a profile for your company on each social media site, so you can claim your brand name. You wouldn’t want Dan’s Doggy Daycare on Facebook to be claimed by the Russian mob (or even worse, claimed by Al’s Doggie Daycare).  However, if you’ve never created a video for your business, there are probably other social sites that can provide more immediate benefit for your business then Youtube.

Yes, I know signing up for these things is a pain. I know you don’t have time.

Do it anyway.

Sit down one evening, pour a glass of Pinot and just do it. Create a spreadsheet with links to all of the social media sites and the email address and password you are using to claim them. This shouldn’t take more than one bottle.

Yes, I can help you prioritize the social media sites!

Below are just a few of the many social media sites out there. I’ve included the most commonly used by small to mid-sized local businesses. Keep in mind, Google pays attention to social signals. Meaning, the more your content is shared virally, the better for you. Also, most of these social media sites have a way to advertise to your niche market – and they make it relatively easy to set this up.

The Big 4:

Your business cannot go wrong by setting up all of the Big 4. If you do nothing else, at least do the first three.

Facebook. People visit Facebook every day. Your business should be there. Pour your first glass of Pinot and set up your Facebook business account.

LinkedIn: What do you mean you’re not on LinkedIn? Every business should have a LinkedIn page and this is why. Get yours.

Google+. You may need an entirely separate bottle of wine to set up Google+ for your business. It can be, how do I say, challenging. However, it is absolutely necessary – especially if you own a local business with a storefront. First, if you don’t already have one, set up a Gmail account. This is the account you will use to manage your business’s Google+ profile. Once you do that, do this.

Twitter. If Dorothy Parker were alive today, she would be using Twitter. That doesn’t mean that you have to. Personally, this is my favorite social site, but it’s because I’m #snarky. Own a funeral home? Twitter might not be your cup of tea. Set up your business on Twitter.

Image-Based Sites:

Do you build homes? Fix landscaping? Take photos of dogs, paint houses, decorate, do floral design or make desserts? If your company is even vaguely visual, you should have at least one of these three accounts.

Pinterest. Think of Pinterest as a giant cork board that lives in the Internet machine. You can make a cork board that showcases photos of the dogs you groom. You can also make a board that showcases your favorite dog toys, pinned from other people’s boards around the globe! Try it.

Houzz. Are you a home builder, Interior designer or landscaper…you know what? I already wrote about how important Houzz is. Check this out.

Instagram. Hate writing? Have photos? This one’s all you. Check out Instagram for businesses.

Video Sites:

Vine. If any of your clients are Millennials with absolutely no attention span, you should use Vine. These are six-second videos that can definitely surprise you. For example, this is a Vine of a chicken sneezing.

YouTube. If you’ve got awesome videos to share, do your business a favor and get a YouTube account. Here’s the deal though, be sure to set it up through your Google+ account.

Don’t Tweet What You Should On Facebook, Facebook What You Should Feature On LinkedIn or Feature On LinkedIn What You Should Just Keep to Yourself. And Then There’s Google+ 

Finally, just a note on content. Every bit of content you share should be written specifically for the social media site you’re using. Don’t set your Facebook to post automatically to your Twitter page. Twitter allows 140 characters, plus there are hashtags you can incorporate that people are searching for.

Here are some Facebook posting tips.

You can find tips for posting to Google+ here.

And should you begin Tweeting, here’s how to do it.

Hopefully by now you’re feeling a little less anti-social about social media. Yes, there’s a lot to take in, but know that you don’t have to do it all! Pick the social media sites that make the best sense for your business, have some fun and, more importantly, start managing the voice of your brand online so that someone else doesn’t!