Social media is everywhere. Yes, brands and businesses are adopting the medium at a rapid pace, but the truth is that many are still struggling when it comes to executing social media strategies. It’s critical to be present where your customers are, but don’t let knee-jerk reactions and fear lead you into the wrong strategies. Create a presence on social media, but take a reasoned, prepared approach.

It seems like every week another study or infographic surfaces detailing social media’s adoption by industry. While valuable, these statistics can also send the wrong message to companies that are just starting to or haven’t quite figured out platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Specifically, it can put unnecessary pressure on socially savvy businesses to try to do everything at once without putting in the time to truly understand the platforms in question.

There are a lot of benefits to integrating social media into more traditional marketing methods, and that will only become more true. Just remember that while the idea that you might be missing out on something is a powerful motivator — it’s what keeps a lot of us plugged in throughout the day — from a business standpoint, it’s not the most effective.

Fear leads to impulse. And with new and shiny options popping up every day, it’s easy to feel like you have to try everything right away. But while knee jerk reactions and bandwagon jumping might calm some of your anxiety, it’s better to have a conversation about the merits of new and even existing social networks, and how best you can use them to align with your long-term goals.

Market research about where your customers are is critical. There’s no sense in joining one social network only to later abandon your profile because you discover they’re mainly using another one, and you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Not only will you get less out of it, but any customers who happen upon it might assume you’re not active because you don’t care.

Similarly, you don’t want to ignore the platforms customers are using just because you don’t know how to use it. But before you impulsively create an account and try to wing it, talk about it with the rest of your team. Maybe a colleague will know more about it than you, or perhaps you’ll all agree to hire a social media manager. Additionally, many social platforms offer best practices and case studies — use these to your benefit before investing time and energy.

If we take a look at yesterday’s article about brand engagement on Pinterest, it could come across that brands are doing a terrible job and missing out on huge opportunities to connect. Another train of thought could be that brands are creating compelling content on other platforms, such as their websites, and as a result have created a self-sustaining community around their content on Pinterest. If anything, the article should be taken as a reminder to share valuable content regardless of the platform, not to panic and start pinning every single product you have.

Keep that example in mind as you continue to come across social media studies. If a headline scares you, keep a level head and talk about it with your team. That said, don’t be afraid to experiment with new tools, but do so with specific goals in mind. And most importantly, know when to ask for help. Even well-oiled social media teams can become overwhelmed at times.

[Image credit: Thomas Abbs]