Without a clear strategy in place, many small businesses are wasting their time online, says digital strategist Kim Scaravelli.
"It feels like everybody's on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and all the other cool social media sites, and no one wants to be left behind," Scaravelli says. "But if you think about that quote your mother used to tell you when you were a kid, 'If everybody's jumping off a bridge, would you jump too?'"
The first step for small businesses should be figuring out who their audience is.
"If your people are on Facebook, be on Facebook," Scaravelli tells NEWS95.7's The Todd Veinotte Show. "LinkedIn is my number one go-to, because that's where the people that are making decisions on digital marketing are."
People often think social media marketing is free, but Scaravelli warns that small fees to boost posts on Facebook can add up quickly.
"You'll start boosting posts and purchasing ads, and you get into the really murky world of maybe even buying followers so you look a little more popular," she says.
Scaravelli, who is also the owner of Trust Communications Inc., a digital marketing agency that has had clients ranging from Tim Hortons to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, says things that feel old-school like building a website and an email list can help build more brand awareness.
"Social media will not replace a really good website," she says. "I've seen smaller companies with Instagram accounts, Twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, but if you Google search them, they wouldn't show up."
Scaravelli compares websites to property you own, while social media is like space you rent from someone else.
"You could have 20 thousand Twitter followers, and tomorrow they could do some kind of a purge and you could have half that amount," she adds.
A good marketing plan should be all-encompassing, and not just focused on social media trends.
"There are a lot of other options for marketing your business online." Scaravelli says. "Social media isn't free, it isn't easy, and it eats up a huge amount of your time."
In 2019, there's no turning back from digital marketing, but Scaravelli wants to ensure people have a plan before they dive in.
"Unless you have a clear marketing strategy in place, you probably have no idea whether you are actually getting any return on your investment," she says.