I remember when I applied to study communications at university I had to write an essay on ‘new digital media’ and where the news landscape was headed. This was in 2001 when Mark Zuckerberg was just 17 years old, the only tweeting that was happening was by the birds outside my window and mobile phones were only used for ringing people.

My how things have changed! In just 15 years the way people communicate has shifted dramatically. Research has found that on average people spend around 6 hours a day online, with 1.72 of those hours or 30% devoted to social media usage. The data also shows that more and more of our time is spent online with the figures growing over the years.

We rely on the web for the most basic of daily functions – want to order a pizza? Do it online and track it to your door. Want to know what that nasty rash is on your arm? Turn to Dr Google. Want to find out what the weather will be like on the weekend? Check your weather app.

Businesses are becoming more aware of the power of social media. A minor player can become an overnight sensation through the simple click of the share button. But how can you get your posts to go viral?

It all starts with the basics of social media.

Know your purpose – What do you want to achieve through your social media presence? Engagement? To build a community of followers? Sales leads? By thinking through what you want to get out of your social media, the kind of content you need to post will become clear.

Pinpoint your audience – Who are you wanting to engage with? What are their likes and dislikes? What are their values and attitudes? Where do they live? Do some research and build a profile of your typical user. You can also use the promote page option. This is paid advertisement but it is very targeted with the option to focus on specific demographics, locations and interests.

Build engagement – Once established, keep your social media presence firing with regular posts. Post things that will prompt an emotional response in people – you want to get them commenting and sharing – that’s when things start to go viral.

Be there for your community – Social media is not a set and forget type of medium. You need to be regularly checking in on your pages to respond to any comments and questions. There’s nothing worse than a page that looks completely inactive.

Do you want to venture into the world of social media for your business but don’t know where to start? Get in touch with Belinda Galbraith to create a social media strategy.

Belinda Galbraith is a Communications Consultant and Freelance Writer based in the Southern Highlands of NSW.