Social media presents one of the best opportunities to speak directly with existing and potential customers.

It’s easier than traditional PR, and dramatically cheaper than mass-media advertising.

But there’s still millions of websites, so there’s a lot of noise you have to break through.

How can you get your message across to prospective clients, when your busy schedule makes it seem impossible?

Here are 3 simple ways that you can start using social media marketing.

1. Plan Your Social Media Strategy

If you want to establish a successful social media presence, then you need to pick your actions carefully.

Start by evaluating the needs of your target audience. This is based largely on your specialization and experience in your field. But you can also begin with the most common complaints or concerns that a customer usually asks.

You can create a simple strategy based on the anticipated needs, and your current internal resources.

Start with a business goal, like (1) increasing your brand awareness, (2) improving your customer service, or (3) increasing revenue.

Then identify the appropriate metrics to track:

Now all the tactical decisions, like what to put on Facebook or what type of content to put on your blog should be easy.

And more importantly, you can focus on the activities that support your main goal - while ignoring everything else.

2. Get Your Staff Involved

You shouldn’t be the only person in your organization that has to keep up with your social media presence.

For example, your staff can help generate fresh and applicable content. Identify key staff members who can write well, and be responsible enough to tell your Twitter followers, LinkedIn Connections or Facebook friends about it.

But make sure you’re not just focusing on what you do. Remember that people only care about themselves.

So focus on what your service does for your customers. How does it benefit them or solve their problems?

For example, orthopedic surgery sounds boring, right? That’s because it is to most people.

But you know what’s not boring? ACL injuries. They hurt and have a long recovery time (not to mention the high cost).

So talk about how common they are among female soccer players. And how expensive the average surgery can run a family of 4. Then give them preventative tips and exercises so they never have to experience that emotional and physical pain.

Almost anyone on your staff can do some basic research, and find interesting stories that make it emotionally appealing to people.

3. Use Tools to Help Manage Your Time

Social media can be a huge opportunity - or a complete waste of time. It’s all in how you use it.

Being active is good, but it can quickly spin out of control if you’re not careful. So it’s important that you define when you’re available and make sure it doesn’t take over your normal routine.

RescueTime is a great tool that will help you track and manage where you spend your time.

You can also use autoresponders to politely inform your visitors when you will be available again. And give your visitors helpful articles related to different types of concerns you expect them to ask.

There are a variety of other social media tools to help you manage and automate your online presence.

Hootsuite helps you filter incoming messages, and batch schedule your outgoing ones. Buffer helps you seamlessly queue-and-share articles with just one or two clicks. And will track the performance of your social links, so you can instantly see the results of your efforts.

Despite what people say, social media isn’t free.

It takes a lot of time and energy to manage it. But if you can focus on clear goals, set boundaries, delegate, and use tools to help you automate it, then social media will be the best performing marketing channel you have.

Author's Bio: 

Brad Smith is the editor for the The Doctor's Journal, an online publication that explores financial and marketing tips for today’s progressive physicians.

It’s owned and operated by the Physician’s Disability Insurance Agency, an independent insurance agency that serves physicians nationwide.