I recently had the privilege to attend,  and speak about Pinterest for business, on the panel at Social Media Marketing World in San Diego. The conference drew 2,000 attendees from all over the world eager to hear advice, best practices, and strategy from social media experts.

One of the biggest themes I heard from the sessions I attended — whether they were about Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, or Google+ — was that the best way to succeed on social media, is to not get hung up on the size of your audience.

This is great advice for anyone using social media to promote their business or organization, but it’s especially important for small business owners trying to make social media work for their business.

Don’t worry about getting millions of fans. The fans will come with time. Focus on the followers who are passionate about your brand. They’ll be your loyal customers and the key to finding new customers. So how do you nurture that group of loyal, passionate followers?

Here are four of my favorite tips from Social Media Marketing World:

Tip #1 Make your content visual, memorable, and easy to digest

Ekaterina Walter, co-founder and CMO of Branderati, said that we’re experiencing infobesity with the influx of information from all the social networks we subscribe to.

Your business can cut through the clutter and get noticed by sharing what your audience wants — visuals. Walter said that images and videos act like shortcuts to the brain and capture people’s attention much faster than text. Images also don’t need translation; they transcend cultural boundaries.

They’re also easy to create. Use your smartphone to capture photos and video. This is a great way to share your expertise, your products and services, customer success stories, and behind-the-scenes details with your fans and followers. You can also create word images using free tools like PicMonkey or Canva. Or curate content — share visuals from other experts in your industry that are interesting to your audience.

Tip #2 Give your audience something they want

Facebook contest apps have made it easy for businesses to run contests and award prizes. Social media strategist Andrea Vahl, suggests that the prize that you give away needs to be relevant to your business and it has to be something they want. Sure, an Amazon gift card is very useful, but is that a prize that represents your business? If you’re not sure what kind of prize your audience wants, ask them! Vahl spoke about one company that surveyed their Facebook fans before launching a contest, so they knew what prize would get the most engagement.

Try running a Facebook promotion, and give away a prize, downloadable content, or a coupon. Your fans’ excitement and engagement during the contest will help spread social word-of-mouth about your business.

Tip #3 Put the spotlight on your fans

When Dunkin Donuts joined Instagram, many of its loyal customers were already on there talking about the brand, posting coffee selfies and photos of coffee cups dressed up for Halloween.

“If there’s a strong following and a passion for our brand on that channel, it’s like a party happening without us,” said Public Relations and Social Media Manager, Jessica Gioglio.

Dunkin Donuts created the hashtag #mydunkin to easily find fan photos, and they share them across social media. The #mydunkin posts also inspired a series of commercials in a new marketing campaign.

Create a hashtag for your business and encourage your fans to post photos about your products or services. You could stick to one network, like Instagram, or ask fans to post photos across your different networks and you can then find them using a tool like Tagboard. Share your fans’ creativity and make sure you engage with their work — comment on, like, and share their photos on your business’ social networks.

Tip #4 Solve their problems

People turn to Pinterest to find and pin products they like, but did you know that people also use it as a search engine to find information and get inspiration for their next project?

According to Cynthia Sanchez of Oh So Pinteresting, if you use Pinterest for your business, you can connect with customers by asking the question: Who am I trying to reach, and how can I use Pinterest to serve them?

Sanchez said the best Pinterest accounts are ones that are useful, inspirational, insightful and engaging to their followers.

If you’re using Pinterest for business, go beyond sharing your products and services, and pin things that are interesting to your audience or will empower them to solve problems. Create and pin how-to information, guides, tips, eBooks, or videos. Share curated content like infographics, blog posts, and inspirational quotes.

Your biggest fans will help you grow

If you make your social media content about your fans, they will engage with you, talk about you, and recommend you to their friends and family, who will become your next customers.

When you nurture their needs and interests, you’ll be on the path to social media success.

What do you do to keep your fans engaged? Tell us in the comments below!