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63% of Canadians follow companies, brands or product pages through one social network or another. What does this mean for your business?

When it comes to social media usage in Canada, the stats are pretty staggering: Almost 23 million Canadians use social media, and of those, a full 63% of us follow companies, brands or product pages through one social network or another.

What does this mean for you as a business owner? Being active on social media can demonstrate your business is dynamic, current and connected, and that you’re passionate about what you do. And it can go a long way toward increasing your company’s identity, boosting traffic (foot or online), and developing an engaged, loyal audience.

Five Tips to Make the Most of Social Media

There are many ways to use social media to promote your business, and there are a variety of networks, techniques and approaches to consider. To help you focus your efforts and resources, here are five tips to help you maximize your business’s social media presence.

1. Have a Plan

A large portion of your social media efforts will be dedicated to creating content for the platforms you plan to use — such as written or video posts on Facebook, updates on Twitter, photos on Instagram or articles on Google+. And if you want your content to be consistently strong, relevant and appealing to your audience, you’ll want to approach social media thoughtfully and strategically. As you get started, consider your mission statement and your goals. For instance, do you want to build brand awareness? Drive traffic to your website? Boost engagement? Offer customer service?

As part of your plan, you will also want to determine your budget, audience, platforms and schedule. Ask yourself: How often can I post content? Who am I looking to attract? What social media platforms do I want to focus on?

Here are a few things to consider as you work through your plan:

  • Facebook is the most popular social media network in Canada with 76% of Canadians regularly visiting and/or posting.
  • The next most popular networks are LinkedIn (48%), Instagram (34%), Twitter (34%) and Pinterest (33%).
  • Each network has a specific attraction for users — for example, Instagram is highly visual, LinkedIn is a hotspot for professionals, and Pinterest has broad appeal across many aspects of a user’s lifestyle.

According to the social media experts at Buffer, it’s a good idea to focus on two to three platforms and post content on a regular basis. If you expand beyond a select few, you could risk spreading yourself too thin and diluting your presence.

2. Be Proactive

For a successful social media presence, aim to post new and fresh content that will be of interest to your audience and create ongoing engagement. You want people to go out of their way to share, like or comment on information they feel is valuable, interesting or entertaining to them.

Not sure what to post? Take a look at what your competition is doing and see what their engagement is like. Is their content being shared, getting likes or generating comments? There’s no harm in fashioning your strategy against something that clearly works.

Keep in mind, you can also re-tweet, like or share existing posts that you feel will resonate with your audience – it doesn’t always have to be original content.

By being 'you,' you can more easily connect with your audience and create content that resonates with the audience you’re trying to reach.

3. Be Reactive

According to recent research, 32% of social media users who have attempted to contact a brand through social media expect a response within 30 minutes, and 42% of users expect a response within 60 minutes. And they don’t seem to care whether it’s at night or over the weekend.

While such quick responses might not always be possible, responding in a timely manner to comments and questions may be one of the most important ways to connect with your customers and prospects. Show them you truly care about their business. Thank customers for positive reviews and address any negative posts with ways you can make things right.

4. Use Photos and Videos When Possible

Over 69% of Canadians actively engage on social media through watching, sharing or uploading videos, and consumers engage and share posts with images more often, no matter what the platform. For instance, Hubspot uncovered that:

  • Tweets with images received 150% more retweets than tweets without images.
  • On Instagram, photos showing faces get 30% more Likes than photos without faces.
  • Facebook posts with images get 2.3 times more engagement than posts without images.

It’s a good idea to think about what visuals makes the most sense for your business. If you’re in retail, for example, consider photos of your products, your location and even your staff. If you offer services, consider how-to videos to help answer common questions.

5. Showcase Your Values and Tell Your Story

Social media is a great forum to show what your business stands for, how it helps customers and your community, and even why or how you got started. That’s why you’ll want to be authentic, show your personality and demonstrate your passion on the platforms you chose. By being “you,” you can more easily connect with your audience and create content that resonates with the audience you’re trying to reach.

And while some platforms offer on-site sales or promotions, keep in mind that if all your content is a sales push, you likely won’t generate the connection you’re trying to achieve with your audience. If one of your goals is to drive immediate sales, consider striking a balance between authentic conversation and product promotion.

If you haven’t yet ventured into the social media space, it can feel a little overwhelming. Just remember to have a plan, stick to one or two key networks, share engaging content regularly, react to messages promptly, and use the platform to share your voice and passion for your business.