Social media provides a powerful tool for outreach: Companies can share stories, talk about events or offers, or discuss services or solutions with interested customers or potential clients. But not every small business has set aside the time and money to establish an online strategy or presence.

Below, 12 Forbes Agency Council members share their top tips for small companies to improve their social media presence.

Clockwise from left: Ahmad Kareh, Summer Gould,

Clockwise from left: Ahmad Kareh, Summer Gould, Daniel B. Laws Jr., Ayelet Noff, Chase Williams, Matt Bowman, Starr Million Baker, Elyse Meyer, John Gumas, Kelly Samuel, Craig Klein, Gina Michnowicz.All photos courtesy of individual members.

1. Listen To Customers Rather Than Promote 

Social media offers an open-ended platform to communicate and engage with your customers, so use it as such. Utilize the little time you have on social media to understand your customers and address their needs, not to promote your product. This approach will not only help you better understand your customers’ preferences, but it will also help you create a loyal customer base who trusts your brand.   – Ahmad KarehTwistlab Marketing

2. Make A Commitment to Social Media 

Social media can be a real challenge. The top tip I can offer you is to make a commitment to yourself and your employees to make social media a priority for you. Start off by planning: Create a strategy and write it down. Make sure to take advantage of software like Hootsuite or others to help you automate. Check out what your competitors are doing: How can you do better? Don’t be afraid to start.   – Summer GouldEye/Comm Inc.

3. Establish A Goal Before Moving 

Develop a social media strategy the aligns with your goals and define your metrics for success. Don’t just jump into social media without a specific reason and a goal that you are trying to accomplish. Think about how it can help with customer retention, brand awareness, lead generation and sales, then take the necessary actions.   – Daniel B. Laws, JrDaBrian Marketing Group, LLC

4. Focus Your Efforts On Select Networks 

In today’s age, there are so many social networks to choose from and yet, as a small business owner, you can’t manage being active on them all. Based on your business goals and target audience, figure out which networks make the most sense for you to dedicate your time and efforts to, and then stick with those. Don’t overextend yourself. Focus all your efforts on the one or two which give you the best return on investment.   – Ayelet NoffBlonde 2.0

5. Automate Your Social Media Strategy 

There are a number of tools and resources that help business owners increase their social media presence. Business owners can set aside a couple of hours at the beginning of the month to schedule posts for the entire month using software such as Buffer or Hootsuite. Alternatively, they can outsource the entire process to a freelancer (via Upwork) or a social media agency.   – Chase WilliamsMarket My Market

6. Batch Social Media Tasks 

The key to establishing a great social media presence is engaging content development. For busy business owners, doing the work in batches can seriously cut down on the time wasted when switching tasks. Curate content a week or even a month at a time by breaking it down into smaller tasks and completing work for multiple posts at once (e.g. topic research, image design, copywriting and scheduling).   – Matt BowmanThrive Internet Marketing

7. Establish An Internal Team 

If you have a small team, you can establish a light-weight strategy for social media management. If you rotate the responsibility between team members by week, it can be a good way to keep your social media channels active and give team members a fun challenge. You just need to establish your tone up front to make sure you’re consistent on your channel.   – Gina MichnowiczUnion+Webster

8. Start By Following Other Leaders

A simple strategy is to start following other leaders in your industry. On many social platforms, there can be a benefit just in following others in the industry; the business leader can learn a lot by observing how others in the industry are leveraging social. Watching others you admire in your field will spark ideas and that inspiration will generate the will to invest the time.   – Craig

9. Structure A Content Calendar 

Many agencies haven’t completely warmed up to the idea of social media being a standalone service for digital marketing. It requires more than a post here and there to have an active community. Create a comprehensive calendar, mapping out which content will be posted when and on which channels, complete with social media copy.   – Kelly SamuelQode Media

Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?

10. Remember: Passion Helps Generate Content 

We find that one of the biggest hurdles to most social media programs is generating new content on a regular basis. We suggest that business owners pick a topic that they love and are truly passionate about. The more passionate they are, the easier it is to generate content that is relevant to the reader. Chances are there are many others who share their same passion.   – John GumasGumas Advertising

11. Monitor Your Channels To Stay Engaged 

Build your social media strategy, tone and guidelines for your company, and empower your employees to leverage social as well. Utilize software to help automate the process by publishing a month of social content in advance. Then you just need to monitor your channels for about 15 minutes a day to make sure you’re engaging in all of the right conversations. Always be present and stay consistent!   – Elyse MeyerPrism Global Marketing Solutions

12. Don’t Try To Be All Things To All People 

Small-business owners will have the most success with social media initiatives if they are very clear with themselves — and thus their audiences — as to their point. Being all things to all people on all platforms is unsustainable. Narrowing in on a topic that can be shared, discussed, and expanded on in both short- and long-form creates a path on which to execute and which audiences can follow.