These days, virtually all businesses are expected to be on social media—and with good reason. As of the first quarter of 2018, Facebook had 2.19 billion monthly active users, and Instagram had more than 800 million. So the question isn’t if—it’s how and why. Why should your business be on social media, and how can you make it work for you?

When used properly, social media can help you:

  • Attract and engage an audience
  • Represent your business
  • Respond to customer questions and comments
  • Generate sales
  • Keep customers loyal

As a small business owner, you must wear many hats and fill many roles, but nearly every decision comes down to time or money. Which can you afford, and which do you need to budget? Balance is key, and social media management is no exception.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding whether to tackle social media on your own, or hire a specialized social media manager.

Are you social media savvy?
Do you have a good knowledge and understanding of different social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Google+? Do you enjoy using them? Are you aware of the latest updates and features?

Can you maintain an active presence?
Social media moves fast. You’ll need to keep your channels fresh, with a mix of images, infographics, promotions, reviews, videos, blog posts, and maybe even research data. The exact type of content will depend on the business, of course, and some platforms require more effort than others; but regardless of business or platform, consistency and frequency are key. There’s nothing worse than looking up a business’s account, only to see it hasn’t been updated for six months. Do you have time every day/week to dedicate to social media?

Can someone else authentically represent your business?
Photos and information regarding your business must be shared in an authentic way. You shouldn’t be afraid to share a real “behind the scenes” look at your products or services. They don’t need to be studio professional shots or videos; those can look too clinical, and more genuine posts attract higher engagement. You already know your business inside and out—but will the social media manager you hire be able to represent it faithfully to the world?

Can you afford to hire out?
Understanding cost is a big part of this decision. If you do decide to hire a manager, how sure can you be that you’ll get a return on your investment?

One option for those who don’t have the money or the time is to try out a student or intern. Today’s youth are usually very social media savvy, having grown up using it. On the other hand, they may lack the necessary professionalism. Your social media manager needs to be able to represent your business in the right way and judge what’s appropriate for your customers. You’ll need to find a student or intern who is mature enough to trust with access to your business’s page. It takes years to build a reputation, and only seconds to ruin it with the wrong post.

Do you know your market/audience?
Are you clued into what your audience likes and responds to best? If you want your social media to be effective, you need to put time and effort into learning about your target demographic. Then you can create engaging content. Don’t be afraid of trying things out and retiring those that don’t get the desired response.

Do you have a plan?
This is key. Posting randomly with no rhyme or reason only creates a disjointed experience for your audience. For optimal results, you need to create and follow a plan. For example, say you’re having an event you want to tell your customers about. Simply posting the day of said event is not enough. You need to let people know beforehand, get them excited, and then continue to remind them in the days leading up, without coming off spammy. Having a plan lets you do this in a clear manner.

By now, you should have a good idea of whether to continue doing social media yourself or bring in some expert help. Be honest with yourself about how much time you have and whether your level of knowledge and experience is good enough. With the right strategy and maintenance, social media can be an excellent tool to help your business grow.