The days of using newspaper ads and PR placements to market your small business are dwindling. With the ever-increasing digitization of society, social media has become one of the most effective ways to get word out about your venture. With that said, however, don't think it means you can just create a Facebook page and walk away. To get it right, it's essential that you have a handle on the comprehensive process involved and that you know exactly what you're doing. For a primer on how to get started, read on. 1. Start Slow Opening up seven social media accounts on seven different websites all at once is sure to overwhelm you. Instead, start with what most agree have the widest reach – Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Creating profiles on these sites is easy, and once you get going on the big three, you've got a solid base from which to build. 2. Build a Following Next, focus on building a following. Post links regularly to blog articles on all your pages and consider throwing in a few other helpful tidbits on Twitter, as well. Automation is a popular strategy for social media marketing, just be sure you use it with caution. The last thing you want to do is overwhelm your followers with content. 3. Make Your Content Stellar Along those same lines, be sure all your content is top-quality. Everyone's busy these days so, to begin with, make things brief. Get to your points quickly and reduce unnecessary verbiage. Tie your articles in with current events whenever appropriate, and make sure everything you post is 100% factual. Put up something erroneous or incorrect and you could do serious damage to your brand. 4. Analyze Your Results You're never going to know how to effectively tweak your social media strategy moving forward if you don't analyze your results. Google Analytics is great, but if you want a more in-depth look, consider HootSuite. The paid subscription service unlocks all its available features, and trust me, it's money well spent. 5. Engage Your Readers Besides posting high-quality articles, use other methods to get your readers engaged as well. Votes, polls, and surveys are all great forms of content that can attract readers and get them involved in discussions. Up the ante by raffling off an inexpensive gift card for those who respond to your poll or survey question. 6. Expand With Caution Once you're fully immersed with the big three social media players, consider some other emerging sites. Google Plus, Pinterest, and Instagram are all significant players now. Investigate each and try them out if you think they might be a good fit. 7. Consider Bringing In a Professional You might find that as you expand, your social media tactics take on a life of their own. If that's the case, consider bringing in a professional. A well-rounded social media strategy involves a lot of hard work, and if it causes you to ignore other areas of your business, your organization could suffer as a result. Research one of the many outsourcing websites for a social media professional you can hire without busting your budget. While keeping track of your competition is always important, don't automatically think their social media strategies are going to work for you – every business is unique. Just be sure to track your progress, and if a particular platform is netting you results and improving sales and revenue – whether the competition is using it or not – keep doing what you're doing. Scrap any avenues you don't find success with and move on. Social media is an essential element to business marketing nowadays, so take advantage of its many benefits. Remember, though, that it is a strange animal, so the sooner you get used to its peculiarities, the better off you're going to be. What is your business currently doing with social media?