If you went to high school in the 80′s or earlier, you may have a healthy fear of promoting your brand and business with social media. After all, we remember life without laptops, cell phones and wireless anything. Although I live and breathe social media today and have no problem adivsing others on strategies and tactics, I still find myself feeling slightly hesitant before I hit the “share”, “tweet” or “post” button for myself. Call it perfectionism, call it being middle-aged (yikes!), it just isn’t second nature. I see the same hesitancy in many of my clients.

After introducing one of my clients to the wonders of social media, which has been an incredibly positive vehicle for his business goals, he told me about the night he couldn’t sleep after he had posted something slightly controversial on Facebook. I have found that this is not uncommon among many business owners.

So, how do you overcome your fear of using social media to promote your brand and business? I have found 3 tips that should help:

1. Align your social media activities with your overall marketing plan. If you have a marketing plan and a marketing calendar, you will be less likely to send out random messages that don’t serve the purpose of engaging with your potential advocates and customers. If you don’t have a marketing plan, consider working with a company that can help you build one. You’ll find that having a structure will take some of the guesswork out of what you want to accomplish.

2. Imagine the worst case scenario. When I spoke to my sleep-deprived client about his fear of possibly offending someone with his Facebook post, we determined that if someone had taken offense, he could have used that as an opportunity to further engage with that person. The worst thing that could have happened was that he offended someone and then took some time to use his quick wit and sincerity to diffuse the situation and engage with people. Studies have shown that the public has a pretty short attention span when it comes to social media mistakes. If you don’t intentionally offend someone or get into what amounts to a digital shouting match, you will find that people move on quite easily.

3. Look at successful examples of social media experiments. I call them “experiments” because the world of social media is constantly evolving and there is no magic formula that will work for every single industry and product or service. Take some time to observe and figure out what your favorite brands are doing online. Watch your competitors and make notes of what you like, what you don’t like, and what engages people in a positive or negative way. The beauty of social media is that a marketing experiment doesn’t have to cost you anything more than your time.