Social Media PosterWe are about to usher in another New Year and in keeping with tradition, another round of predictions. Here’s one theme — 2013 is the year that small to midsize businesses get “serious about social.”

If you are already well along on your social media initiative, this  may come as  a surprise. In fact, according to the SMB Group, the percentage of small businesses that use social in their businesses has jumped from 53 percent in 2011 to 58 percent this year. However, the research firm indicates of these, only 28 percent are using social strategically; the majority take a more informal or ‘ad hoc’ approach.

Moving your social media activities from ad hoc to strategic is going to require more of an investment of your time. Posting on Facebook and Tweeting helps to build and engage a following and gain visibility for your brand. Still to be most effective as a marketing tool, social media activity needs to integrate with your traditional marketing program. Think of social media as an extension of traditional marketing – not an effort unto itself.

Be clear on your goals

As you consider adding social media to your traditional marketing efforts, be clear on what you want to accomplish: drive sales, generate leads or persuade customers to switch to your brand are just some goals. You can’t effectively add a social media component to your marketing without first establishing your overall objectives.

Create campaigns

Think of campaigns when you are integrating social media into your traditional marketing. “12 case studies prove social and traditional media work better together” offers a number of excellent examples of social activities augmenting traditional media to boost marketing and sales. To boost business, H&R Block used Facebook and Twitter to provide consumers with access to a tax professional in the weeks prior to April 15th. The company’s “Get it Right” social media campaign garnered 1,500,000 unique visitors and answered 1,000,000 questions for a 15 percent lift in business over the prior year when there was no social media campaign.

Convey consistency

Your social media marketing should convey the same messages as your traditional marketing. Even the look of the campaigns should be similar.

Develop metrics

Hold your social media efforts to the same high standards you set for your traditional marketing efforts. Establish your measurements once you establish your goals. If boosting leads is your goal; measure the number of leads you got through your social media campaign.

We said in our “Big Trends for Small Businesses” that social media was here to stay. Now more than ever, it’s time to get serious about it, if you aren’t already.