How social is your business? A lot of companies – particularly B2B firms – are still holding back from fully participating in social media. It should be a simple decision to get social, but many businesses are paralyzed because they’re not sure how to go about it. Plus, it seems daunting – a new social network pops up every few months, leading to the question do we have to be on all of them?

The answer to that question is No, but we’ll get to that in a second.

The Social Web is now an old concept, but many businesses, especially those in regulated industries, are still wringing their hands over how best to get involved. In many cases, they’re still wondering if social networks can bring value to their organization.

Consider this – social media is not new. LinkedIn was founded 11 years ago. Facebook moved out of the Harvard dorms nine years ago. Twitter is seven years old. So these social networks – as well as many others – have been around for quite some time. But still, many companies have not addressed the issue of whether to dive into social media, let alone how best to utilize these communications channels.

Let’s start by agreeing with the premise that your customers are on social media. Because they are. Maybe they aren’t spending their entire days tweeting everything that happens in their lives, but they most definitely are sharing information with friends on some social network, and that’s an opportunity. In order to optimize the opportunity for your business, it’s critical to be strategic. And that means assessing both where your audience is spending its time and the resources at your disposal that will enable you to connect with them.

Here are the questions you should be asking your marketing team:

What are your social media goals?

Brand-building? Customer acquisition? Pure Thought Leadership? To a large extent, social media marketing is a matter of execution – you just need to join the network and starting sharing content. However, it’s critical to understand why you’re doing it before you start; otherwise, you’re just wasting time. So before you start, have well-defined goals.

How will we measure success?

Identify metrics before you start. What will you track, and where do you expect to be in six months? A year?

Where is your audience?

A-ha! The critical question! It’s important to go where the audience is rather than attempt to attract them to a new platform. Are your prospects on LinkedIn? Is the industry conversation happening on Facebook? Don’t waste time on social platforms that don’t fit your business. Or instance, Facebook is not going to be an effective channel for most B2B firms – yes, it could drive traffic to your website, but it very likely won’t be meaningful traffic. The key is to be active on the channel that your audience uses when it’s conducting business. You can very likely make these decisions intuitively, but the best thing to do is some research – perhaps a quick online survey of your customers and prospects.

What are the resources available?

Do you expect all employees to get social? How much time will they spend? Are there dedicated social media managers that will be working fulltime on social media? There is no right answer here. But you need to match your goals to the resources you dedicate. And remember, social media execution is very much about the rinse-and-repeat action of the work – it’s not a project you complete; rather, it never stops.

What content do you have (or can you produce)?

It’s been said that social media is a cocktail party, but showing up without content is like being the boring guy in the corner of the party with nothing to say. This, again, becomes a question of resources. If the decision is made to curate content produced by others, you won’t need to dedicate as much time and effort to content creation – but you still need to be able to seek out good material.

These simple questions are what you need to consider before diving into the social world. Don’t get overwhelmed by the notion that you need to be everywhere at once. Be targeted at the outset. You can always grow from there.