After we've helped clients launch their website, the next step is usually for them to begin marketing their business. Most clients already have a strong, offline network of customers; however, their online presence has been either scarce or non-existent. My advice to businesses is to immediately bring their offline friends online, and there is no better place to do this than Facebook.

Pre-Internet and pre-Facebook, businesses survived on the strength of solid referrals and good testimonials. Technology has changed, but this fact has not: there will never be a more powerful marketing tool than word-of-mouth. Yet despite years of bantering with customers offline – swapping stories, sharing photos, or providing DIY or industry-related secrets – something happens when those same confident and inviting business owners stare at the blinking cursor on Facebook. What we often hear is: “What do I say?” or “What should I talk about?” or “I feel like I’ll post too much.”

I've seen many businesses fail to start a robust social presence due to fear of the unknown. To those who have spent years in business nurturing tangible, faithful relationships, social media seems foreign and (dare we say?) fake. But it doesn’t have to be. Social is about sharing. And sharing is what successful business owners have done for years. As long as you continue to be you, you’ll slowly gain an online following just as you’ve done for years offline.

Here are guidelines for the newbie to Facebook, to the trepidatious, to the procrastinators among us.

1) Start typing! Over-thinking will always keep you away from the keyboard. Start simple. Start short. You’ll gain confidence with each post – and with each like!

2) Type how you talk. If you’re a small business, people have interacted with you offline and expect a certain tone. We each have our own cadence and phrasing. Authenticity is crucial. Whether you’re a professional or a down-to-earth hipster, people want to read your “voice” in each post.

3) Talk about what you love AND what your customers love. You’ll be most apt to write about topics that fuel your passion. Additionally, if you know your customers, you already know the topics they love, too. Use this to your advantage. Your goal is not to write the funniest post or entertain the masses. Your goal is to connect with your audience and foster strong, lasting bonds with your brand.

4) Don’t be afraid of over-posting. One hesitation we often hear is, “I don’t want to annoy people.” Remember that everyone is in charge of their newsfeed. If they feel your posts are becoming too much, they can always choose to hide your posts. However, unless you’re sharing uninterested links, or topics completely unrelated to your brand, ever hour, you’re probably safe. Posting once a day is NOT too much! It’s okay. I promise!

5) Be personal, yet professional. Small business owners wear two hats. Not only are they business owners, but they’re the soccer mom at the game, the neighbor you met at the cookout, or the early morning jogger. When you’re a small business owner, people know you. Sharing information about your life is okay. Have a great holiday pic of your family? Go ahead and post that! Often, family and friends were the ones who pushed you to follow your passion. Sharing a little about yourself helps keep you grounded and makes the business feel more accessible. Simply remember to keep everything in moderation. After all, you do run a business. :)

Stephen Palacino