5 Ways to Get More Out of Social Media in 2012Whether you’re just dipping your toes into the social media waters, or you’ve already jumped into the deep end, there’s always ways to improve your social media marketing and to reach your target audience more effectively.

The social media phenomenon continues to grow as more and more businesses realize how many of their customers are already taking part in it.

As 2011 comes to a close, and the new year is just over the horizon, here are five ways you can get more out of social media in 2012 and beyond.

1. Evaluate How You Did in 2011

Evaluate How You Did in 2011

The first thing you need to do in order to get more out of your social media activities for next year is to evaluate how you did this year. Did you start a Twitter account in 2011? Did you launch a Facebook Page?

Have you received any positive feedback from your customers, prospects, partners, or other members of your social media community? Did you measure your social media activities to see what worked and what didn’t? If you answered yes to any of these questions, congratulations — you probably have a pretty good social media foundation going into 2012! If you answered no, then these are some obvious places where you can look to improve your social media footprint going into next year.

2. Make a Social Media Roadmap for 2012

Create a Social Media Roadmap

The questions mentioned above are really only the tip of the iceberg. In order to know if you’ve asked the right questions and to make sure that your answers lead you to where you want to go, your business needs a detailed social media road map for 2012.

Have you made any sales, leads, contacts, or partnership opportunities as a result of your social media activities to date? Think about how you can either leverage these results to benefit your bottom line, or think about what you can do in 2012 to generate more of these results.

Conversely, if you haven’t gotten any tangible results from your current social media efforts, then you may need to evaluate your implementation strategy or perhaps try a new social media strategy entirely. For example, if your Facebook Page hasn’t been generating new leads or providing the brand exposure you expected, consider getting a Google+ Page and compare the results with your Facebook Page. If you have a local storefront, perhaps you’d benefit from a marketing campaign on Foursquare, augmented with brand integration on a variety of smartphone mobile apps.

Don’t just randomly pick social media platforms, strategies, or tactics, however. Give careful consideration to your brand message and your target audience then formulate a plan that will best bring these two vital elements of your business together.

3. Spend More Time on Social Media

Spend More Time on Social Media

No matter what path you choose for the next phase of your social media journey, know that it will take time and effort to succeed. In fact, the more time and effort you put into social media in 2012, the more benefit you’re likely to get out of it. Though there are many social media management tools to increase your efficiency, don’t expect to get something out of social media unless you’re prepared to invest some time.

Look at the number of tweets or status updates you did in 2011. Make a plan to top that in 2012 — not just for the sake of hitting a numeric milestone, but rather to actually interact with more people next year than you did this year.

Reach out to your community and host a tweetup. Or take a closer look at your competition and see what intelligence you can leverage for your own business. Instead of broadcasting, try listening more. For example, perhaps you actually need to unfollow some people in order to focus more on the people who really mean something to you and your business. Sometimes less is more!

4. Hire a Social Media Expert

Hire an Expert

To paraphrase a famous quote, we all know that the best laid plans can often go awry. Even with the best intentions and plans in place, some business owners simply throw their hands up in frustration, citing a lack of time or knowledge as reasons for why their social media activities have not yielded positive results.

As a savvy business owner, it’s your responsibility to know what jobs you can do yourself and when it’s time to call in the experts. For example, just because you can fix your own POS system doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. Sometimes you need to rely on the expertise of others so that you can focus on your core business activities.

With regard to social media, this could mean contracting an external social media consultant or even hiring an employee to handle the social media marketing for your business. What’s more, you can even use your existing social media networks to put out the call for help. No matter if you live in a town of 1000 people or a bustling metropolis, there will be someone within your network who will either have the skills you need, or who can recommend someone who does.

5. Reach Out to Us

Reach Out to Sprout Social

At Sprout Insights, and our parent company Sprout Social, we live and breathe social media for business. If you have questions about your social media strategy or things you’d like to try in 2012, we encourage you to reach out to us.

Not only do we offer a powerful social media management tool that was just updated with a ton of new features, but chances are we’ve either written about topics you’re interested in or we can tap our resources to steer you in the right direction.

We publish case studies, interviews with industry professionals, and we even ask for story ideas from you. Of course, we talk about social media at @Sprout_Insights, @SproutSocial and @Sprout_Dining, and you can also interact with us on Sprout Social’s Facebook Page, or our Page on Google+.

Social media is an intrinsic part of our world and barring some unforeseen events on a global scale, it’s likely to be with us for the long haul. If you have not yet embraced social media, or if you feel like you could do more with your social media marketing in 2012, there’s no better time than the present to formulate your plan and take action.

This post discusses Sprout Social, our social media management tool for businesses. To learn about our editorial ethics and our commitment to objective coverage of the social media space, visit our About page.

[Image Credits: john.herrit, Caston Corporate, joschua, William Warby, kandyjaxx, myrrh.ahn]