It seems that the number one question we get as marketers involves social media in one facet or another. It is this limitless, intimidating medium that seems to trip up even the most established entrepreneur simply because the “rules” seem to constantly be changing.

If you are thinking of entering the world of social media – whether through a blog, a Twitter account or Facebook fan page (to name but a few) – a word of caution is in order as well as a few helpful tips.

First of all, before entering this social media world you need to be committed to the process. This means that you have to allot a reasonable amount of time to developing your presence –  including the tone of the communications, the look of your page/blog, and content creation. Like anything of value, this is worth doing well. Make sure that your social media presence is consistent and enhances the brand you have so carefully and meticulously already created.  Realize that getting followers or “likes” on your page isn’t necessarily going to happen quickly – but it can happen consistently if you are committed to seeing this through and you have realistic expectations.

Secondly, create a content strategy that includes a fairly detailed editorial calendar. Two of the fatal flaws of new social media users can be solved through this one step. What are these flaws?

  1. Too much/Too little Updating: Tweeting 50 times a day is simply annoying, but creating a twitter account or Blog and never updating it next is also a sure-fire way to annoy your audience and squander a great opportunity to develop a relationship with your target market.
  2. Irrelevant/Annoying Content: No one, other than close friends and family, is terribly interested in whether you are sipping on a latte at the moment or you are off to your kid’s hockey game. Neither do your followers want to be hounded with sales material constantly. It is vital to remember that social media is meant for connection and conversation – it is a 2-way relationship with your clients/prospects so instead of talking at them,converse with them about the things that are important to them.

By mapping out the kind of content that you will be creating  prior to publication you mitigate the risk of sending out irrelevant or uninspiring messages or ceasing to use the medium at all. Depending on your time and resources you should decide how many times per week (or day) you can reasonably update your social media presence and be sure that 30% or less of your messaging is sales related. What I suggest is to make approximately a third of your communication value-add (links to interesting articles, tips, etc.), a third of your communication sales related (promoting specials, your unique value, etc.), and a third of your communication entertainment. This mix will help to keep your followers engaged and will help your social media team`s creativity.

Thirdly, you need to relieve yourself of the pressure to do everything yourself. Some simple research (ie. Google Alert or Social Mention) will uncover a variety of existing conversations that apply to your business.  You can join to gain exposure and engage with your target market on things that are important to them and gain credibility. As you practice the art of following and contributing to these online forums you will learn how to best articulate your value to the marketplace, and then easily to then transfer to your own social media presence.