Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve discussed how you can get the most out of some of the most popular social media channels: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Depending on your goals, however, managing your social networks could turn into a full-time job. The good news is that, contrary to what many social media advocates would tell you, there’s no law that says you have to use all of them. So how do you figure out which one(s) to focus on first?

It really comes down to the type of business you’re in, the resources you have, and the goals you want to achieve. Here are some tips to get you thinking:

Social Media Tip #1: Set some goals

First things first: Decide what you want to accomplish as a result of your social media efforts.

Do you want to broaden your reach in your market or industry? Boost relationships with existing customers? Attract new customers? Increase traffic to your website and/or blog? Increase sales? All or some of the above?

It’s important that you determine your goals first, because this enables you to decide which network can best help you achieve those goals. For example, if you’re a B2C business and want to build brand awareness by creating a large community of fans, Facebook would be a great network to start with. Recent research has shown that Facebook performs better for B2C businesses than for B2Bs.

And what works best for B2Bs? LinkedIn is ideal. This professional networking site offers members the opportunity to join and form groups based on industry, specific topics, etc., so you’d have lots of  opportunities for interactions with targeted groups of people that need to know about your products and services.

Social Media Tip #2: Get real about your resources 

You might have lots of big ideas about implementing a social media strategy, and that’s great. But you need to be realistic about the resources you can dedicate to the cause, especially in the early days.

With proper care and feeding, your social media networks can grow steadily over time and bring you rewards in the form of expanded brand awareness and increased revenue. But don’t bite off more than you can chew, especially in the beginning. For example, if you have one person in your marketing department, they probably have lots of responsibilities. You can reorganize their priorities, but you will still need to ask yourself how much time they can realistically spend on managing social media. If they can only spare spare a half an hour a day, have them focus that time on maximizing a single social media network. Let them get really good at posting regularly, joining conversations, responding to comments, etc., before adding a new network to their plate. And make sure you set expectations in advance, so there’s no confusion as to whether or not goals are being achieved.

Social Media Tip #3: Experiment, experiment, experiment!

There’s a ton of information out there about how to do social media “right”. But truth is, there’s no right way for everyone. The only way to find out what works best for your business is to just do it. Try out different networks and different approaches, and see what happens. It will likely take some time to figure out the right mix. It’s not going to be perfect at first, and that’s OK. Just keep at it. Keep refining your strategy, be persistent, and you’ll start to see results. There is no magic formula, but here’s an approach to help you put a loose structure in place:

  • Try something (post at a different time of day than usual, post with images, post a video, run a contest or promotion…)
  • Track your results
  • Tweak your approach based on said results
  • Try again
  • Repeat indefinitely

What about you? Have you been thinking about getting started with social media, or putting more effort into your existing networks? What’s your strategy? Let us know in the comments!