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Too often, small business leaders become overwhelmed by the idea of social media and fail to use sites like Twitter and Facebook to their advantage. One reason for feeling overwhelmed? The social media audience is huge: More than 56 percent of Americans engage on social media networks, providing a huge audience for businesses to communicate with online, Hispanic Business contributor Adam Brimmer recently pointed out.

Brimmer reported on a presentation given by Meghan Gargan, a social media marketing expert. For marketers overwhelmed at the thought of the all those eyes out there to be captured via Facebook or Twitter, Gargan provided some valuable advice. Begin a social media strategy by defining a target audience from among the general social media audience.

“Whether she's trying to reach customers of a Fortune 500 company or teenage Girls Scouts or scout alumni, she works from the same premise: Define the target audience, develop a strategy to reach that audience, find a voice and tone that will be instantly recognizable to that audience and push content,” Brimmer wrote.

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The target audience you choose will impact every aspect of social media outreach, including which social networks to focus on. MySpace may have become a punchline for some people, but the site is still popular among music fans. In early 2012, it saw 1 million new accounts created within 30 days of introducing a music player. So, if you’re targeting audiophiles, MySpace might be a great place to focus. If you’re after creative types, Pinterest is a standout. And LinkedIn is of course the premier site for reaching a business audience.

After deciding which social media site to target, it’s important to “push content,” as Brimmer put it, but the content should be tailored for the audience. This might mean posing questions or providing information that will resonate with your target audience and create a discussion. A little research can determine the type of content that will work well. Moms frequently use the internet to search for health-related information, so if moms are your target audience, sharing an article about cold remedies might be just what the doctor ordered. Women also are more apt to watch video online than men, and new parents are very interested in technology that gives them more flexibility in scheduling their time.

Another smart tip is to include images on posts, since "visuals are important," the Hispanic Business article stated. And, while consistency is key on all social network sites, a small business should not make duplicate posts on multiple social networks, but make posts unique for each site. No matter who the target audience is, content posted on social media should include calls to action, such as encouraging users to "like" content on Facebook or retweet a post on Twitter … or comment on a blog post. So, what do you think? Do you have any tips for engaging with a target audience on social media? Share your thoughts in the comments.