It is widely accepted that social media has transformed the landscape of marketing radically, and no longer can businesses - no matter their size or stage of development - afford to avoid social media. While the importance of developing one's brand online remains paramount - most obviously through the registration of a domain name - the proliferation of social media platforms can be overwhelming, and startups might feel compelled to register and interact with every service in order to quicken the spread of their name.

The multitude of social media platforms allow new businesses to establish their online presence, develop a brand and a message, and grow fans and followers - and of course customers - all without extensive investment in elaborate or costly marketing campaigns. The danger, however, lays in the proverbial "spreading oneself too thin" by attempting to make sure one's startup has a presence in every social media network.

While new businesses should certainly take advantage of social networking, here are a few tips to help avoid social media overload:

  • Avoid social-media-for-social-media's sake: Social media endeavors should always be in service of clear business goals, not merely an abstract notion of "user engagement." Develop a social media plan that supports your business plan.
  • Use the services which which you're most comfortable: Take advantage of social media networks to which you already belong and in which you are already active. It is preferable to develop a robust presence on one or two platforms than to create profiles on every possible site, particularly if these are in danger of becoming unused and out-of-date.
  • Engage: Despite the far-reaching power of social media networks, these services are not bullhorns. Use them to engage in dialogue with potential investors and customers, not merely to push information out to them. While social media can be a great place to share information, promote a service, and so on, it is important to be responsive - listen, engage.
  • Track, evaluate, and adapt: Many services offer analytics tools in order to ascertain traffic levels and engagement. Be sure to check these regularly to evaluate the ROI of a platform. And as the field of social media is ever changing, be prepared to adapt. For example, just because a service like Foursquare is popular now does not mean that you should be forever wedded to location-based marketing.

Although it is tempting to register for every social media site and to try to adopt every new tool, the drawback may be that in an attempt to network everywhere, your startup fails to network anywhere.