In 2010, Scott Monty, the head of social media for Ford Motor Company, had the amazing idea to launch their newly redesigned Ford Explorer exclusively via social media. This idea brought back an ROI of nearly three times higher than the average Super Bowl ad.

While this proved to be a major success, not every company has the time or resources of a Fortune 500 company. However, with social networks combining over 1 billion users and Google’s quest for providing the most personalized search results, social media should be on the marketing plan of every business.

So as a small business, where should you start?

1. Don’t Bite off More than you can Chew

Social networks are very successful at promoting a business through building a strong community of followers; however, if the community lacks a mediator then it can become a boiling pot of bad comments and a PR disaster.

To avoid this mishap, small business owners should only choose the social networks they have time to consistently update. This could mean having a face on every social network from YouTube to LinkedIn or merely having a Facebook page.

It is best to start small and choose the social network or networks that provide the highest ROI for their business, whether you are primarily in the business-to-business market and would benefit from LinkedIn or more in a business-to-consumer world and would do best with Facebook.

2. Convey a Consistent Brand Image

Businesses should strive to consistently convey the same message on their social media platforms. Projecting a consistent message makes it easier for followers to gain trust in your company and increases the likelihood of creating brand advocates that will spread positive word of mouth about your company.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean to put the same status across every platform each time you post, but to provide a clear message of the company values with every post. It is actually a good practice to diversify the information in your posts across your platforms, since users expect different types of content with each social media channel.

3. Develop Brand Advocates

Once your build a strong community, you need to start benefitting from your current fans. Through rating current fans that are extremely vocal, you can develop brand advocates by offering these fans exclusive promotions such as badges, coupons, or even free products.

Klout is a great way to look into your fan base and see how just how vocal your members are. The higher the Klout score, the more vocal that person is, which means they have a higher likelihood of spreading your content. These are the types of consumers you want to turn into brand advocates.

4. Encourage Engagement

Your main goal with your social media campaign should be to build engagement. Customers want to be an integral part of the brands they are support, which is best done through offering content that gives them the opportunity to interact.

Engaging content includes multimedia, thought provoking posts, emotional comments, and posts with calls to action, such as questions, click “like”, and leave a comment to tell us what you think.

It is important for small businesses to realize that it isn’t necessary to hollow out your budget with a social media campaign in order for it to be a success. By building a strong community of followers through quality content and inexpensive ads, you will build a cult-like following in no time at all. As a small business, would you rather have 50,000 fans that didn’t care or 5,000 that were actively engaged?

Today’s guest post was written by Maya Szydlowski. She is a Web Reporter for Veterans United Home Loans, the nation’s leading VA loan provider.