With nearly a dozen popular social networks now operating, it can be difficult for businesses to decide where they should devote their attention.

In order to get a solid return on their social media investments, small businesses need to have a clear-cut strategy in place, said Heather Wied, marketing director of publishing software provider Pubsoft. Without a solid plan, Wied said, the process can overwhelm many entrepreneurs.

To help small businesses, Wied offers five strategies for developing a social media game plan:

  • Let your target market be your guide: While that statement might sound a little oversimplified, consumer preferences are constantly changing, so you have to know the places where your consumers spend more time. For instance, despite the ubiquity of Facebook, fewer and fewer teenage users register accounts on the site, as older demographics increase. Does your social strategy reflect that fact? You may need some kind of Facebook exit plan, at the same time that you increase your Instagram and Snapchat presence, if your target market falls in the 13- to 20-year-old age range.
  •  Less is more: In terms of breadth of platforms, less is more if you're working with limited resources. If you want your social networking to be effective, keep in mind it's a long-term game. You really have to understand what you're trying to accomplish on those platforms and know how to use all of the features available to you. In addition, people are dealing with intense information overload. Most consumers' heads are swimming in information as media bombards them from every angle. It's all about making consumers form an emotional attachment to your content, products and services through community.
  • Free is a relative term: While it's free to sign up for every one of the major social networks, managing those accounts will still cost you in time. Keep in mind your availability and ability to produce quality content when choosing social networks. If you're strapped for time, stick to social channels that are more conducive to quick sharing, sites like Twitter and Tumblr. If you have more time and ability on your hands, you may want to tackle a blog on Wordpress or Blogger. If you are a visual person, and you want to share images that resonate with people, try Instagram. If you have more time to edit and refine, and some basic image-editing skills, Pinterest may be a good option for you.
  • Play to your strengths: Maintaining a strong social presence for your business takes work, so choose the network that you will enjoy and that plays to your strengths. If you're a visual person and enjoy making images or editing video, stick to the visual social networks. If you're more of a long-form writer, stick to networks that will highlight your word-smithing capabilities. If you think you've got an infectious personality, try vlogging on YouTube. Why mire through something that you really don't like if you have limited time and money? Your passion and genuineness will shine through if you're developing content that you actually enjoy producing.
  • Don't forget about the niche networks: Joining a highly visible social network means you'll be swimming in a vast sea of people searching for different things, and you'll face stiff competition from multiple different players. Depending on your product or service, and your target market, you may also be better served by joining a social network with a highly focused audience. It may take a little digging to find the right space, but you'll be significantly closer to network users, and you can often translate those relationships into relationships on the mainstream networking sites.

Originally published on Business News Daily.