If you're just getting started with your business, then you probably know how critically important it is to get the word out about your products or services. After all, people can't support your business if they don't know you exist and what you do. It's no longer enough to have a good physical location; you need to have a strong online presence as well. Of course, there are many benefits to this because doing business online means that you can expand your potential market worldwide.

If you are new to marketing online and don't know as much as you think you should about social media, don't worry. Most social media tools are easy to use, and you will probably find that you are enjoying yourself as well, once you become comfortable with them.

Here are a few simple steps you can take to effectively launch your social media presence:

#1: Create a social media strategy

This is actually much easier than it sounds. You can start by deciding who in your company will be responsible for social media. You might want to have one person be responsible for all of it, but you might find the experience more enjoyable and effective if you make it a collaborative one. Ideally, you'll have several people in several different departments providing at least some input.

Once you've decided who is involved, you'll want to make a list of which tools you'll want to use for starters. Even though there are a lot of social media choices out there, at the beginning you'll want to focus on the biggest players. Right now, Twitter and Facebook are most influential in social media, and you'll want to have a blog presence as well.

As you become more adept at using social media, you can make adjustments and add or change some of the tools you use.

#2: Start a blog

This is one of the most effective ways to create an online presence. As a business, it will be worth your while to have a professional web designer set up your blog with custom templates and features and your own URL. While there is a lot of free blogging software out there, it looks more professional to have it hosted on your own domain name for a fairly low monthly cost.

A blog can be a lot of fun to maintain, because you can have multiple people contributing and you can write about all kinds of topics. You can start by introducing your company and products, give expert advice related to it, or editorialize about relevant news items. A blog is a great way to connect with your customers in a meaningful way, and a great way to make connections across your industry.

Just a few tips to keep in mind: Post fairly regularly. It doesn't have to be daily, but once or twice a week is good. Try to post on the same days, so people following it know when to expect a new post. Enhance your blog's SEO by adding keywords in your postings, creating links to other blogs and credible sites, as well as to other posts in your blog. If you pay attention to these things and archive a lot of posts, your blog will be more and more likely to appear in search engine results.

#3: Utilize Facebook

Facebook is another great way to connect with your customers. All you have to do is create a page for your customers to "like." If you are already on Facebook, you can send invitations for your page to everyone on your friends list and ask them to spread the word as well. Facebook is a good place to post shorter updates, advertise upcoming specials or product releases, promote contests, or set up little quizzes or polls. The key is to give your customers something fun with which they can interact.

You can also promote your blog using Facebook. You can either link to it from your blog, or set up a feed so that your entire blog post is transcribed in a Facebook note whenever you update it. As with your blog, you should try to remember to use keywords whenever you post so that your page gets indexed by search engines as well.

#4: Learn to use Twitter

There are around 40 million tweets daily on Twitter, so you definitely want to get in on the action. The feed is constantly updated and moves quickly, so you want to be sure to post something several times a day. Since you are limited to 140 characters, your strategy will have to be a little different from Facebook. You can post interesting quotes and facts related to your company, and links to articles and blogs that might be of interest to your customers.

Experts say you should follow the 80/20 rule when using Twitter: about 80 percent of your tweets should be retweeting other users or tweeting articles and other information from sources besides your own. 20 percent of your tweets can be about you and promoting your products and blog.

It's easy to get followers simply by following people who seem interesting to you or who have something in common with you and your business. The more people you follow, the more will follow you back. You'll be surprised at how quickly you can gain hundreds, if not thousands of followers, especially if your content is good.

There are a number of Twitter clients, like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite that make it possible for you to set up automatic tweets several times a day. Try not to overdo this, because there is nothing more annoying than a user who is clearly auto-tweeting 20 times in 5 minutes! Even with automation, you should plan to spend at least a few minutes every day on Twitter.

#5: Join the conversation

Gaining a presence using popular social media tools is great, but you should also get ready to interact with others in your field. Start following blogs of other companies in your field, especially your competitors. It's a great way to keep track of what they're doing, and if you comment regularly, you can actually drive traffic back to your blog. In this sense, the blogosphere is collaborative, not competitive.

When you comment, stay positive, give good information and always link back to your blog. A lot of people like to follow multiple blogs in a field that interests them, so they're happy to click on any links you leave in your comments.

Engaging with others in your area is a great way to establish your reputation and build a following as an expert in your field.

#6: Measure your results

Once you've had your social media sites up and running for a few weeks, you need to look at the numbers to see what is and isn't working. Maybe you're finding that your blog is gaining readers and you have 2,000 Twitter followers, but your Facebook page isn't attracting a lot of attention. You can experiment with different content and methods, but also realize that some methods just work better for some people and types of businesses. One thing that many Twitter and Facebook users find out is that there are ideal and less ideal times to post on the sites, so you might have to make adjustments in your posting times.

It's also important to find out which method is best at driving visitors to your website. You can install Google Analytics to give you in-depth information about your website and blog visitors.

#7: Adjust your tactics accordingly

Once you've become adept at using Twitter and Facebook regularly, and your blog is building a following, you might want to look at using some other social media tools. LinkedIn is a popular social networking tool and Google+ is beginning to make its presence known. As you use social media more and more, you'll learn what other people are using and what works well in particular industries.

You will find that using social media is an ongoing process. Fortunately, it's a lot of fun to use, so it can be very interesting to try new and different things. Don't be afraid to try different tools as well; you might be surprised at the results you get from trying something completely new.

The most important thing to keep in mind is consistency. If you establish a presence and update it regularly, people will come to rely on you for information and entertainment. There is no better way to promote your business than to have it be associated with positive and engaging content.

Author's Bio: 

Pamela Wigglesworth, CSP, is an entrepreneurship and marketing consultant, international speaker and the author of three business books. A resident of Asia for over 20 years, she is the CEO of Experiential Hands-on Learning. She works with organizations across multiple industries to help them increase brand awareness, increase leads and ultimately increase sales.

To learn more about Pamela, visit the Experiential website at www.experiential.sg or email her at courses@experiential.sg