Over the years I have been listening to professionals struggle with how to get their message out there into today’s marketplace that is interrupt-driven. So much noise, so many outlets to participate in. Who has the time or the expertise to find their online audiences, deliver their value propositions and respond to inquiries?

People respond to me online mainly because I focus on two online best practices that ensure a high probability of success for any professional agenda. First is relevancy. If your goal is to engage and distribute relevant content to your target markets, you will succeed. Second is consistency. You must make it a daily priority to check, update and respond to what is being said about your industry. Experiment with your online persona to find ways that work for your lifestyle. Discover, curate, offer perspective and share on a regular basis and your efforts will be rewarded.

Compelling Evidence

We are all now marketers and need to position our businesses as valued informational resources that connect and stay connected with customers. According to Forrester Research, buyers are anywhere from two-thirds to ninety percent of the way through the buying process before they ever contact a vendor or salesperson.

Generate Conversations That Generate Leads

Julie Cottineau, founder and CEO of brand consultancy BrandTwist, says small businesses get caught up in using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and everything else—yet they’re not really sure how they should be using it, or for what. “Don’t tweet just because everyone else is if you are not clear on what you want to say and how it can build your business,” Cottineau advises.

Rhonda Page, chief differentiation officer at marketing consultancy Know Your Difference, concurs, noting that there’s a lot of noise in the digital realm and there’s a strong tendency to copycat strategies. “Something works for one person and everyone else copies and then it’s no longer different,” she explains.

What Small Businesses Should Do:

Focus on your company goals.

Define and identify your online audiences.

Choose the social platforms that you are already familiar with; make it a daily priority to get involved with it and make it work for you.

Expand and experiment from there by asking someone who knows. Be patient as this will take time and will not produce immediate results.

Ramp up your efforts according to what you see from activity on your accounts.

Social marketing is about engaging people through interactions; the awareness starts with that initial touch. For instance, following someone on Twitter who mentions an interest that pertains to your market or getting involved with a Twitter Chat session or Google Hangout. Follow and participate in a LinkedIn group that is of interest, follow a competitive brand, be aware of the use of a product in your business. Target the right conversations and be aware of the subsequent mentions. The quality of these interactions is what will drive your business awareness.

Be willing to modify your strategy, approach, and outlets based on what works and what doesn’t. Don’t take it personally if a strategy doesn’t work. Now more than ever social media platforms are changing and not for your benefit, but theirs. Changes occur all the time and without notice. What used to be free access now requires a premium membership or promoted ads.

Reach and Impressions Matter Most

Leverage what is currently working in your business and use social media as a means to access the touch points of your target market. The bottom line in evaluating the measurements of your efforts is reach and impressions. I connect with my influencers everywhere that we share networks so that our voices are heard repeatedly. I try to be the best place for your learning experience. I recommend that businesses use their social media profiles as a portal to all value delivered and that includes storytelling experiences. Most businesses simply post the same info that can be found elsewhere, like on websites, blogs, and within emails. You should use your online outlets to explain your customers’ pain points and how you solve them and say it in as many ways that you can think of (context) and in all the outlets that they are actively engaged in.

Set Your Business Up for Success

Keep in mind that it’s not what you do as much as it is why and when you do it that makes a difference. Driving awareness is all about connecting with the purpose of a business. What’s working in your business that is driving increased awareness? If you can’t utilize the time, talent and resources with your business, companies like mine are in business to assist with those efforts.