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Social media is a great tool for business. You can reach a lot of people, it is cost effective and you can build a community which increases loyalty. But if you don’t use take some time to develop a social media strategy, you are just shooting in the dark.

A SWOT analysis (S-strengths, W-weaknesses, O-opportunities, T-threats) can help bring your social media presence into focus, allowing you to hone and mold it to meet your needs – and reach the customers who are looking for you. It can help you make the most of your marketing budget and help you identify available resources as well as weak areas in your marketing plan.

For instance, you may list your 2,000 Facebook fans as a strength, but upon looking at your budget and means of reaching them realize that you are paying a nice chunk of change per Facebook post in order to reach them. That would be a weakness.

You may uncover a great opportunity to better utilize your Twitter account to reach customers by linking your social media accounts. With Yelp growing by leaps and bounds, many business owners are utilizing the site to connect with their customers. Look for opportunities there as well.

You  need to educate yourself on what each social media channel is capable of delivering and what it cannot. Analyze each channel individually and then together to get a big picture effect of your entire campaign. This is particularly important because most channels can link, thus working together to reach even more customers.

One thing to note, social media traffic has not enjoyed a reputation for having a very high conversion rate, but it has shown a lot of promise for customer retention and customer loyalty. The social media landscape is also shifting as more people are getting on board and it is easier to share their experiences with their favorite businesses. It has birthed a whole new aspect of word of mouth advertising.

In this day and age, social media is vital to the survival and growth of most businesses. But you can’t dive headlong into it without first having a plan. Doing a SWOT analysis on your social media marketing and using it to develop a social media strategy will save you time, money and a whole lot of headaches.