Social media has radically redefined how modern brands think about marketing to consumers, but many small businesses struggle to hit the right note with their customers. Without the proper direction, your social media efforts will likely fall flat. If you’re tired of lackluster results from your social marketing endeavors, use these five simple steps to develop a more effective marketing plan for the new year.

1. Consistency: Sticking to Your Commitment

Many businesses join networks like Twitter and Facebook with the best of intentions, only to flake on their marketing efforts a few months later. Think of your social campaigns like a snowball rolling down the hill. The snowball starts small, but it can only grow if you keep pushing it. Use this simple guide to understand how frequently you need to post to maximize engagement.

You also need to ensure that your status updates feel cohesive. The Content Marketing Institute recommends considering the imagery, tone, and subject matter of your updates. Don’t confuse your followers with a disjointed message.

2. Engaging: Remember, Social Networking is a Conversation.

Plenty of small businesses treat their social networking efforts as little more than a promotional vehicle. Instead of stepping on your soapbox and yelling about your upcoming sale, use your social platforms to engage with your customers. Respond to their messages, and don’t be afraid to inject a bit of personality into your conversations. Effective social marketers foster better relationships through consistently interactions.

3. Relevance: Does Your Content Matter?

The world’s most successful social marketers understand the importance of sharing content that is relevant to a brand’s message. Unlike blog posts or newsletter copy, social shares are often brief and to the point. This doesn’t mean relevancy should fly out the window, however. Focus on crafting updates that make sense as part of the bigger picture. This will help you grow your following organically, while converting casual followers into fervent brand devotees.

4. Sharing: Forget the “One & Done” Approach

Most marketers use their social accounts as a way of sharing content from their website, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this technique. It’s important to remember, however, that only a small fraction of your followers see each individual update. Kissmetrics advises sharing your content multiple times, in order to connect with the largest audience possible.

5. Images: Boost the Impact of Your Updates

It’s always easiest to share a small written message with your followers, but images have consistently been proven to increase engagement on social networks. For example, including an image can increase your retweets on Twitter by 150%. If you’re feeling ambitious, you might also want to consider using video to further captivate your digital audience.

Much like any other marketing tool, social networking takes plenty of hard work. By building a thoughtful marketing strategy as you head into the new year, you’ll ensure your social efforts don’t go unnoticed. Make updating your accounts part of your daily routine, and with a bit of luck, you should see your engagement increasing as time moves forward.