If you’re like many small business owners I talk to, you don’t consider social media a vital part of your marketing plan. You may have dabbled a bit – created a company Facebook page or LinkedIn profile, perhaps – but aren’t really sold on the benefits of social media for your business.

I’m here to tell you why your business needs a social media presence, and assure you that any size company is up to the task. In fact, small businesses are ideally suited in many ways, because it is a way to gain new prospective customers and enhance your brand recognition for a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising.

Reach new customers

One of the main benefits of social media is the ability to reach new audiences (new prospective customers) quicker and cheaper than any traditional media or advertising.

For instance, an interesting link shared on Twitter could be retweeted a few times and suddenly you’re in front of thousands of people who never heard of you – if they like the content you shared, they may check out your Twitter bio and click through to your website.

Yes, it takes some work to build a following and create or find relevant, interesting content to share, but then your content speaks for itself. If people like what you post, they may pass it along to others… who may be interested enough to check you out (see above).

And don’t forget, if you’re not on social media, your competitors may be—reaching the audiences that you’re not.

Establish yourself as an expert

If you fix lawn mowers, you want prospective customers to know you know your stuff. If you’re a personal trainer, you want to showcase your expertise on nutrition, fitness and overall wellness. Social media is a great venue to establish that expertise.

  • If someone is searching for a chiropractor in the area, which will impress him more: a standard website, or a site with a robust blog full of educational information, case studies and personality?
  • Or, say a friend of a friend follows your car dealership on Facebook and loves all the information you share on how to take care of a car, driving tips, etc. Where do you think she’ll go first when she needs to buy a new car?

Manage your online reputation

Years ago, when people had a negative customer service experience, they might complain to a few friends or family. Today, they share it with their hundreds or thousands of followers online. Same with positive interactions – and that’s valuable free press. But if you’re not on social media, you won’t hear the grumbles or the endorsements. People will talk about your company online whether you’re on social media or not.

Developing a social media plan includes social brand monitoring to hear what people are saying about you, good and bad, so you can take advantage of the positives and do the necessary damage control for the negatives.

Create repeat business

Social media is also an opportune way to build relationships with those who have already purchased from you. In fact, this is the easiest audience to target because you can proactively search for and connect with them.

Connecting with these customers on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn – and then sharing valuable content – will help strengthen that relationship and turn them into loyal, repeat customers.

Get started fast

One of the most common questions I hear from people about social media is "What the heck should I be posting?" Start with this list of 42 social media post ideas that you can use over and over again.

© 2015 Alicia Olsen