If you search on Google about social marketing, the amount of information you will find will get your head spinning. Even if you're a seasoned veteran with in-depth knowledge of every social media channel on the Internet, you can't perform all the social media tasks that are recommended for success. For instance, take a look at this infographic by twiends on the right:

It has great information, but it's a mile-long image with 40 different suggestions of stuff you should do just to get Twitter followers. Like I said, these are all excellent suggestions; but as a small business with limited time and resources, the biggest question you need to ask yourself is: “Do I have the time and ability to do everything?” Most likely, the answer is no.

This means you need a game-plan of exactly what you’re going to do at the beginning of your social marketing journey, and how you’re going to develop it in the future. Our advice: keep it simple.

Specifically, try avoiding the major pitfalls that most business owners get into when reading up on all the uber-successful campaigns they hear about on the news. These pitfalls include:

1. I want a viral campaign: No you don’t. At least not right away. Sure, if you have an idea that you can execute and that you think will go viral, go ahead. But if you don’t have such an idea, wasting time and resources on that one big multiply-my-revenue-overnight idea could be a losing battle. A better approach is to start small. Aim to make your social profile interesting, and post relevant content that your followers want to “like” or retweet.

2. I want a million fans: Alright, calm down. Seriously -- as a small business you’re probably never going to get a million fans. And you know what, you don’t need a million anyway. That’s right; what you need is organic growth that you can sustain and build upon. Quality over quantity. A 1,000 fans who are happy, engaged, and motivated are a lot better than a 100,000 of those who don’t give you their full attention.

3. I want a presence on every social media channel out there: Not necessarily. It would be nice to get your audience from every possible avenue, but think realistically. If you’re a lawyer, Instagram might not be the best social network to spend your time on; if you sell pajamas, you’re probably wiser to spend more time networking on Pinterest than LinkedIn. Focus on the ones that are most important and relevant to your customers.

4. Social media is free: Not really. It may be free to create a profile on each social media channel, but it takes a lot of time and well-directed efforts to be successful. And who knows the importance of time more than a small business with limited resources? Therefore, while it is important to be on social media, it is even more critical to have a practical plan grounded in reality — a plan that takes into account the time you can spend on social media, the kind of campaigns you can run, the money you can invest, etc.

5. I want to use social media mainly for marketing: This is another fallacy. Social media is all about building relationships and managing your reputation online. Don’t get me wrong: obtaining real ROI is possible from social media, but chasing sales isn’t always the best way to go. The more customers you can please by offering top quality customer service, the greater your chances are of obtaining repeat purchases, which is the lifeblood of any business. Social media makes that extremely easy. You can dramatically reduce your response time by listening to your customers online and engaging them in discussions that matter to them as well as to you.

To summarize, create a simple plan that helps you do the following:

  1. Post interesting content regularly, and mix it with promotions that add real value for your customers

  2. Keep your customers happy by quickly responding to them on social media — especially on the networks that are relevant to them

  3. Listen to customers to identify opportunities where your products can satisfy a real need, and then offer them not only your product, but a good deal that relieves their trouble (read: How a Solid Reputation Can Save Your Business)

Once you have a handle on these activities and are successfully building a fan base, you’ll see that your understanding of your customers’ needs has grown, which will provide you with better insights for more effective campaigns (and who knows -- maybe even ones that go viral).