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To maximize your business’s potential, you need an online presence. But in order to be successful with your endeavors into social media, there’s a foundation that must be layed. Here are four fundamentals, or building blocks, to get you started on creating your social media presence.

1. Set Goals, Make a Plan

Without a plan and clear goals in mind, you are already doomed to fail. Afterall, if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there? Or, more importantly, when you veer off course.

Think about how you will define success and how you plan to achieve it. Consider why you are using social media and how you’d like it to benefit your business. Also, put yourself in your desired audience’s shoes and try to discover what they’d like to see out of your profile.

The Digital Relativity blog has more on setting goals.

2. Tools

By tools, I mean the social media platform of your choosing. This goes right along with making a plan because before jumping in, you should be researching various platforms to make sure you are using the most effective one for your business.

If your target demographic doesn’t include women 18-30, maybe you can skip making a Pinterest account.

If you want to concentrate more on articles and written content, you may not need to spend time on Instagram, YouTube or Tumblr.

Not that you can’t manage more than one social media platform at once, but you’ll likely be most effective with your time if you narrow down your choice as much as possible so your message is most powerful and received by your desired audience.

3. Be a Credible Source

Once you’ve landed on the right site for you, become a source of constant, consistent, credible content. Not only should you create your own, but you can also share content from other sources. You can even share competitors content and add a little extra commentary to set yourself apart.

The idea is to send the message that your business is the expert in your field. Ideally, when people think of topics that pertain to your business, they’ll think of you.

4. Build an Audience

What good is any of this if no one is around to see what you’ve done? Certainly, being on the right social media platform is a great start. Boxcar Marketing has some tips for building an audience on specific platforms.

Having great content is also key to making sure you have users continually viewing your profile.

Once everything is in place, target influential users that boast a large following and send them your content in hopes that they’ll share it. This isn’t necessarily someone you personally think is influential, but rather someone your users will respect and likely be paying attention to already.

Also, be active on your profile and on other user’s profiles. If you receive comments on content you’ve shared, comment back and start an intelligent discussion. If you see interesting content shared by someone else, drop in your two-cents, which again helps you become a trusted expert in your field. Interaction will bring potential customers back more than sterile content.

Above all, be professional, be courteous and be relevant. Don’t stray off course from your business. This isn’t a profile where you share your views or you interests. This profile is for the users that need your service. Give them what they want.