Are you unsure how to make the most of social media? In today’s guest post, the experts at Manta, the largest online community for small businesses, offer these tips:

1. Understand that social media is free, but it’s not cheap: Demonstrating your expertise on social media is essential, but it requires a serious investment of your time. Formulate a plan of attack for your social media marketing efforts; determine what your goals are and the amount of resources you hope to dedicate to the program. Make sure your social media efforts are integrated with the other marketing and advertising programs your business is using.

2. Track your success: As you might have limited resources and time, it’s critical to measure your social media program to be sure it’s worth the investment.  Once you set your goals, make sure you have analytic tools set up to monitor your progress. Most social media applications have these tools within their platforms, so just take a look at the Help section. You also can measure engagement by the number of comments, likes and connections you achieve.

3. Communication is a two-way street: The social media space enables you to talk about your business and what you offer, but listening and engaging with others is how you’ll make lasting connections with prospects and your peers. Don’t be afraid to address both positive and negative feedback you receive from those you’re engaging with. The more transparent and authentic you are as a business, the more trust others will have in you and your brand.

4. Make time for social media: Social media isn’t something you can set up and just walk away from. As the owner, you know your business better than anyone else, but building your online presence via social media can be time-intensive. Ask for help and consider having one of your employees engage with your users on a regular basis with consistent interactions when you’re strapped for time.

You can learn more about social media and other business topics at Manta Connect, a new forum for business owners to connect with their peers, discuss new ways to reach customers and provide insight into overcoming common SMB challenges.  Manta experts also participate in the conversations to share best practices on topics from everything about how to leverage new marketing tools, drive sales from their website and understand more about search engine optimization (SEO).