Once upon a time, the only online pres­ence a start­up need­ed to wor­ry about was a web­site. Not long after, a Face­book busi­ness page became anoth­er vir­tu­al neces­si­ty. Next came Twit­ter, where news is so often report­ed — and even made –before any­where else. And there’s more: Nowa­days, if you’re a busi­ness that relies on visu­al brand­ing, an Insta­gram account is a must. More­over, if your cus­tomers are B2B, LinkedIn is a plat­form that’s only grow­ing in impor­tance.

An effec­tive social media strat­e­gy can be a boon to vir­tu­al­ly any start­up or busi­ness. But, where do you start? Based on my expe­ri­ence advis­ing entre­pre­neurs on how build­ing an effec­tive social media strat­e­gy can increase the val­ue of their online busi­ness, here are six tips to get your social media strat­e­gy on the right track.

Stick to a pub­lish­ing sched­ule.

When it comes to devel­op­ing a suc­cess­ful social media strat­e­gy, con­sis­ten­cy is essen­tial. Entre­pre­neurs are busy peo­ple. It can be easy for you to let days, or even weeks, fly by with­out pub­lish­ing a new Face­book post or tweet. That’s why a com­mit­ment to sched­ul­ing is so impor­tant. If your audi­ence mem­bers can’t count on your busi­ness to deliv­er rel­e­vant con­tent in a time­ly man­ner, you’ll find it dif­fi­cult to keep them engaged.

Luck­i­ly, there is an abun­dance of social media man­ag­er apps out there to help keep your con­tent cal­en­dar on track. Two of the most estab­lished and pow­er­ful are Hub­spot and Buffer. Both han­dle sched­ul­ing across a num­ber of plat­forms and offer “for­ev­er free” plans so you can get your social media cal­en­dar up and run­ning at no cost.

Main­tain a con­sis­tent voice.

For an effec­tive social media strat­e­gy, tim­ing is not the only area where con­sis­ten­cy is impor­tant. Vital to your brand’s health is uni­for­mi­ty in voice and mes­sag­ing across all your chan­nels. The brand per­sona on your web­site — in emails and on social media — needs to be kept con­sis­tent; oth­er­wise, you risk con­fus­ing and alien­at­ing your audi­ence.

Main­tain­ing a con­sis­tent voice may be easy when you’re a solo­pre­neur or you’re work­ing with a small team; but as your busi­ness grows, you need to be vig­i­lant to ensure your brand stays on mes­sage. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly true when you look to out­source your social media and con­tent mar­ket­ing.

Karl Kan­gur, man­ag­ing direc­tor of MRR Media, a con­tent mar­ket­ing agency for SaaS busi­ness­es, places a strong empha­sis on the impor­tance of con­sis­ten­cy: “I stress to each of our clients when they come on board how impor­tant it is to have a clear­ly defined brand per­sona,” he told me. “We work togeth­er dur­ing the onboard­ing process to achieve this.

This is vital to our mutu­al suc­cess, as the brand per­sona informs every piece of con­tent we cre­ate: from blog posts and tweets, to Face­book posts and email mar­ket­ing.”

Show your (brand’s) per­son­al­i­ty.

Con­sis­ten­cy is impor­tant, but “con­sis­tent” doesn’t have to mean bor­ing. Post­ing on Twit­ter, Mer­ri­am-Web­ster has even found a way to make the dic­tio­nary enter­tain­ing. Of course, your own brand’s per­son­al­i­ty needs to be tai­lored and authen­tic to the audi­ence you are try­ing to reach. Con­sid­er giv­ing your fol­low­ers a peek behind the scenes of your busi­ness. Intro­duce your team mem­bers and show cus­tomers who and what makes your com­pa­ny tick.

Anoth­er strat­e­gy that works well for many brands is to have a “cor­po­rate” Twit­ter account that is infor­ma­tion­al in nature along­side the founder’s and team mem­bers’ per­son­al accounts. While still pro­mo­tion­al, what you write there can be more opin­ion­at­ed. An excel­lent exam­ple of this strat­e­gy in action is con­tent post­ed by Elon Musk and Tes­la.

Con­tent is king.

When it comes to social media mar­ket­ing, the temp­ta­tion may be to focus too heav­i­ly on quan­ti­ty and lose sight of qual­i­ty. While apps like Buffer and Hub­spot make it easy to sched­ule posts and tweets, don’t give into the temp­ta­tion to just plug them into your con­tent cal­en­dar and have them shuf­fle and repeat.

For your social media strat­e­gy to be suc­cess­ful, your audi­ence mem­bers must feel they have an authen­tic con­nec­tion to your brand. To achieve that kind of con­nec­tion, there is sim­ply no sub­sti­tute for shar­ing high-qual­i­ty, fresh and engag­ing con­tent in a time­ly man­ner.

Be selec­tive.

Cre­at­ing qual­i­ty con­tent con­sumes sig­nif­i­cant time and resources. With that in mind, don’t feel oblig­at­ed to have a pres­ence on every plat­form. Focus on craft­ing supe­ri­or con­tent for the plat­forms most close­ly aligned with your business’s cus­tomer seg­ment. While Face­book and Twit­ter might be con­sid­ered almost manda­to­ry at this point, think care­ful­ly about which addi­tion­al chan­nels you want to take on.

The rea­son is that each plat­form you add to your social media strat­e­gy means addi­tion­al respon­si­bil­i­ty to cre­ate high-qual­i­ty con­tent unique to that chan­nel. If you’re a fash­ion brand, per­haps you can’t do with­out Insta­gram or Pin­ter­est, but do you need to be cre­at­ing con­tent for LinkedIn? Focus your efforts on the plat­forms most rel­e­vant to your busi­ness.

Lis­ten; don’t just speak.

One of the unique strengths of social media is that it gives brands a plat­form to engage in a dia­logue with their audi­ence. This is a big part of what makes social media social; lis­ten­ing to your audi­ence is just as impor­tant as speak­ing to them.

Many busi­ness­es dis­cov­er that their cus­tomers won’t hes­i­tate to share their expe­ri­ence with a brand — pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive — on social media. How a brand responds to cus­tomer com­pli­ments, ques­tions or com­plaints will go a long way toward deter­min­ing how suc­cess­ful­ly they man­age to engage their cus­tomers through social media.

Final thoughts

Whether you’re an estab­lished social media maven or your busi­ness is just now embark­ing on its social media jour­ney, eval­u­at­ing and recon­sid­er­ing your strat­e­gy using the six tips out­lined above will help set the course for an effec­tive social media strat­e­gy.