The 2012 business year officially starts today. With the mini-breaks and shortened weeks gone, all that’s left to do is tackle that To-Do list that’s twice the length of your arm once and for all. If you need help figuring out where to start or what habits to pick up in social media this year, below are 10 social media resolutions every small business owner would be smart to make.
We’ll start slow.
1. Claim everything: Your brand is your identity in business. If you haven’t already taken the steps to protect it and claim your username  throughout the Web, start the year off by doing just that. Knowem is a fantastic service that allows you to easily search and claim more than 550 popular social networking sites at little cost. Even if you don’t plan on using all 500 (or even five) of these sites, protecting your username will ensure that you’re able to use them in the future should you change your mind AND that no one else can hijack your brand’s identity and speak to your customers. It’s your first step to social media success.
2. Pick two social media sites and focus on them: Just because Knowem allows you to claim more than 500 social media profiles, doesn’t mean you have to use all of them. Instead, focus on 2-3 social media sites, sites where you know your audience is and that may already be delivering traffic, and really invest in devoting time there. For example, maybe you’ve found that you get a lot of traffic from Yelp. Why not invest more in that site by optimizing your Yelp profile, using their analytics, and taking advantage of their specials? Instead of worrying about being everywhere, focus on developing a strong presence where it counts for your business. Once you get the hang of those first two sites, you can spread your wings to some of the others.
3. Build ears: Before you really engage, work on building your ears. Listening in social media will help you identify the people you want to be talking to, the conversations worth your time, and may just prevent you from royally putting your foot in your mouth. If you need help, iGoogle can help you build a free social media dashboard  or check out a service like Trackur  which has cost-effective plans to help SMBs stay in the loop.
4. Agree to schedule social media into your day: If 2012 is the year you’re finally going to get serious about social media, then you really need to get serious about it. And you do that by scheduling social media into your day the same way you schedule all of your other tasks. Because that’s the only way it’s going to get done. Find a way to dedicate 30 minutes a day into updating Twitter, responding to people on Facebook or commenting on industry blogs. If you don’t schedule it, you won’t do it. It’s as simple as that.
5. Increase your online reviews: When I broke down my 5 Internet Marketing Trends for SMBs to Watch in 2012 , I talked about online reviews as becoming an increasingly important social signal for the search engines. The engines are looking at reviews to help bring accountability back to the Web and, frankly, so are users. Creating a full-on online review strategy may sound intimidating, but all it really means is is encouraging your customers to talk about their experiences on the sites you want them to do the talking on. That’s nothing to be shy over. Use your Web site, your emails, your newsletter, you advertisements, and your face-to-face interactions to help them do that.
6. Blog more: Hey, I know. Sometimes it can be hard to find the time or the motivation to blog. We’ve already helped spark some blogging inspiration , now it’s time for you to dedicate the time to doing it. Even if you’re just blogging a couple times a week, it’s going to help you build a community, have something to always share with your audience, and help you in search. If you’ve been putting it off or not blogging as often as you should, 2012 is the year to fix that.
7. Read other blogs: A great way to always have something to say and blog about it is to keep up with what others are saying. Use Twitter or Google Blog Search to help you identify authoritative (or at least interesting) blogs in your space that you can use as conversation starters and as a way to stay up to date on what’s happening in your corner of the world.
8. Attend a tweetup: Do something crazy this year and leave your office. Go find out where people who do what you do are meeting and join them. Talk to them. Share with them. Online interaction can only go so far before you have to take it offline.
9. Find ways to reward fans with social media exclusives: It’s not enough to simply BE in social media. You have find ways to reward fans and give them “the why”  for why it is they should like you, follow you, talk to you. Fifty-eight percent of users expect exclusive content or discounts for “liking” a brand on Facebook. That’s pretty significant. So if you’re not using your social media presence to reward customers for their interaction with you, you’re letting them down.
10. Promote your social media accounts: Have you read the nine previous resolutions? There’s some work involved there. And if you’re going to be putting in the blood, sweat and tears needed to create a powerful social presence, then you darn well better be promoting these accounts at every turn. That means making them visible on your Web site, putting their logos on your customer receipts, highlighting them in your email newsletters and on business cards, and linking to them wherever you can. Don’t hide your social media. Flaunt it.
Above are ten social media resolutions I think all SMBs would be smart to make this year. What’s your biggest social media goal for 2012? How are you making it happen?