Everywhere you look, you see articles and blog posts telling you that your business must be involved in social media – no ifs, ands, or buts. So you comply and create accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You create MySpace and Friendster profiles too, but your friends laugh at you, so you delete them. Then you hear about Google +, and you make sure you’ve got a profile there too. Whew! You’re finally on social media!

Let the Games Begin!

Now the fun part. You spend hours “working” on your social media marketing. You’re making friends, checking out their status updates and tweets, and chuckling at the silly YouTube videos they post. (Ah, those laughing babies are so funny!) You make sure to let everyone know about your business, what you do, how you do it, and why they need what you have to sell. You’re posting links to your site everywhere. Once in a while, you throw a cool quote in there or comment about how bored you are. You think to yourself, “This is so great! I don’t even have to spend time and money on marketing anymore. I can just spend all of my time doing social media marketing – for free – and it’s so much fun!”

In the meantime, you’ve stopped attending networking events; you’re social networking now – no need! You’ve stopped spending money on marketing; social media marketing is free, isn’t it? You’ve stopped spending time on building your business; you’re busy building up your friends and followers, not to mention your Klout score, instead.

Reality Check

One day, you decide to see how well your social media marketing efforts are paying off, so you take a look at your Google Analytics.

Nada. Nothing. Not even the slightest uptick.

You think, “How can that be? With all the time I’ve put in, this must be a fluke.” So you dig in deeper and increase the amount of time you’re spending on your social media marketing.

After a couple more months of working like mad to get your business out on every social media platform you can think of, you start to get the feeling that you’re spinning your wheels. You’ve seen no increase in traffic to your website, and your sales have actually decreased! Not only that, but you’re way behind on everything because of the excessive time it has taken to manage all your social media efforts.

Social media is killing your business! Why the heck does everyone say you have to be on social media? You’ve heard social media can take time to see results, but this is ridiculous. It clearly doesn’t work. Sure, it’s fun for chatting with your friends and checking out their latest pics and life updates, but it just doesn’t seem to be effective at all for business.

Brace Yourself for the Bad News

Does any of this sound familiar? Can I be frank with you? It’s not social media – it’s you. More accurately, it’s the way you’re using social media.

But it’s not your fault – not really. Social media marketing is still a relatively new marketing concept, and if you’re like most people, you probably just jumped right in and started getting social. After all, social networking isn’t difficult, and with all of the information out there about how many people are doing it, just how hard could it be? And that’s partly right.

The Silver Lining

Here’s the good news: Social media marketing does work. When you hear someone say, “Social media doesn’t work,” or “Social media doesn’t work for my business,” the truth is, they simply haven’t found a way to make it work well for them. Social media marketing can be very effective for literally any business type, and many businesses have produced amazing results with this form of marketing. Even better, it doesn’t have to take up all your time to make it happen.

In future posts, I’ll go into more specifics about creating and implementing social media marketing plans. For now, here are a few pointers:

  • Don’t be a follower – It’s important to understand that hardly anyone is doing it “right”. So if you’re going with the crowd on this one, stop. Instead, look for information from people who really know what they are doing – the ones who have achieved obvious success through their social media marketing efforts.
  • Talk WITH your friends and followers, not AT them – Remember: social media isn’t like traditional marketing. Don’t just blast your business message out there. Focus on making individual connections and building mutual relationships. This, more than anything, will help you make the biggest impact on your success.
  • Make a plan – Without a “map”, it’s easy to get lost in the social media maze, so create a social media plan that includes exactly when and for how long you will work on your social media marketing, as well as where and what you will post. This will ensure that you stay on track and on target.
  • Keep it simple – There are several great automation tools (such as HootSuite) that can help you add consistency and focus to your social media efforts. They aren’t replacements for interacting and engaging with your audience, but they can help supplement your ‘live’ posts and allow you to manage most of your activity from a single application.

Above All…

Keep in mind social media has a way of pulling you in and not letting go. Engaging in social media is a lot of fun – probably more so than a lot of other tasks on your to-do list. It’s easy to spend hours on social media sites, only to find that you didn’t really accomplish much. Don’t lose sight of your objectives, and always make sure your revenue-generating activities take the front seat.

Again, there’s more to making social media work well for your business than the tips above, but this will get you on the right track. What other tips do you have for marketing in social media? Share your thoughts in the comments!