Social media marketing is a vital part of your business. The number of people using some type of social media worldwide is at least 2.34 billion, with 81 percent of the U.S. population on social networking sites.

Social media marketing is a powerful tool for small businesses, but knowing which strategies are the best to use isn’t always as easy to determine. To figure out if your business is using the best social media marketing strategies, you first must understand what those strategies are.

1. Solve Your Biggest Challenges

Take time to look at what your most significant challenges are as a business. Whatever they are, how can you work toward a solution with a social media campaign? For example, if your business’ reputation is in tatters, you can start a goodwill campaign and share that information on social media. If you have too much inventory and it isn’t moving, offer specials for your social media followers. Looking at your challenges allows you to come up with future marketing campaigns for your social media networks.

2. Tell a Story

What makes your brand stand out from the competition? Telling a story engages consumers and makes them more likely to do business with you, because they begin to care about you and your story. Your story can be heartfelt, informational or humorous. The key is to entertain your social media followers. You can tell the story with words, but video is highly effective as well.

Peel offers a humorous video that shows what happens when someone orders one of their thin phone cases. They play up the aspect of how excited they get over every order by releasing confetti, dancing around the office and breakdancing on the floor. It’s a funny look at their philosophy that every customer matters.

3. Push Content

Do you have a lot of fabulous content on your website, but you aren’t quite sure why your site traffic remains low? You can’t just produce great content without promoting it. Sure, some users might find your content via a Google search, but relying on Google isn’t the best idea, as their algorithms that choose whose site is in the top of the search results change on an almost weekly basis. Instead, push your content through your social media networks. Not only does this offer something of interest for your followers, but it drives that traffic to your real estate — your website.

4. Integrate Photos With Shopping

If you sell a product that meshes well with sites such as Instagram or Pinterest, you’ve likely noticed people might like a photo, but that doesn’t translate to sales. You have to figure out how to get them to your site to order the product. You can do this by offering a free consultation, a lookbook or some other link that will interest your social media followers. While not all will flock to your site, some will.

Magnolia Market makes an effort to tell visitors to visit their profile to link to their site and go shopping. Instagram seemed to experiment with allowing tags on actual photos, but those examples are not easy to find, so they may still be working out bugs in their system. Imagine, though, that in the image above, you could click on a tab above the potted plant or the wall hanging and go directly to the site to order that item. Keep an eye on Instagram for this capability, which enhances social media marketing further for brands.

5. Add Images

Make it a rule to always add an image to any social media post. Posts with an image get about 18 percent more clicks than those without graphics on Twitter. The percentages vary, depending on the social media platform, but across the board, social media posts with images get more engagement. Make sure the image is relevant to the post and unique if at all possible. If you’re posting a recipe that shows users how to use your famous chili sauce, make the recipe and take beautiful photos of the steps and the finished result.

6. Involve Users

Speaking of engagement, figure out ways to involve users in your social media posts. Engaged users are much more likely to revisit your page, since it entertains them. There are many ways to increase engagement, including contests, encouraging comments and various hashtag-based campaigns that ask users to use a specific hashtag and post their own photos. This approach also allows you to gather user-generated content, saving you time and money.

ASOS uses their #AsSeenOnMe campaign to encourage customers to take a photo of themselves wearing a piece of clothing they purchased from ASOS. That allows them to fill up their Instagram feed with great content, but also gets customers involved in the process, which also allows the company to reach the followers of those customers without any additional effort.

7. Create a Sense of Community

One thing people love about social media is the overall sense of community. It’s a simple way to look up old friends from school, stay in touch with neighbors who’ve moved and watch your cousin’s children grow up even though you live halfway across the country. Grab onto that sense of community by asking your audience to answer questions and sharing personal stories about yourself and your employees. Share a few of your followers’ posts instead of only expecting them to share yours.

8. Make Joining Simple

If you want people to join you on social media, you have to make the process as simple as possible. That entails allowing them to join without forcing them to share a bunch of personal information and making links to social media easy to locate on your website. You should also offer some incentive if they follow you on social media, such as discounts only available to your followers or information they won’t find anywhere else. It does require a bit more effort, but your followers will appreciate it and stick with you.

Giant Nerd makes joining them on social media as simple as possible. This outdoor equipment company posts images of outdoor sports, but also makes it super simple to shop on their site by adding a “Shop Now” button to their Facebook page. Also, on their main website, they offer links to all their social media channels in the footer of every page.

9. Ask for Help

If you have a few customers who adore your product or service, ask them to share what they love about your brand. Make them brand ambassadors and give them free items if they share info about the things they love. A referral from someone else is something social media users are more likely to sit up and take notice of.

Best Strategies for Social Media

At the end of the day, the best strategies for your social media marketing are the ones that work for your specific business. Every year, the way people interact online changes a bit more. Be open to new ideas and try new strategies until you find the ones that drive your target audience to your social media pages and, ultimately, to your website.