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For Social Media Marketing, Go Pro Or Go Home

Our training firm, Social Media Marketing University, recently did a survey of entrepreneurs, executives, marketing pros, and social media practitioners, and discovered this fact: 65% of those executing social media campaigns were self-taught.

What makes social media so tempting as a marketing tool for businesses is the fact that, unless you opt for paid advertising on these sites, using them is absolutely free. However, that temptation can also be a trap. Because social media can seem so easy to use, it's also easy to misuse—in ways that can backfire on your business.  

Expertise matters a great deal when you're performing any business task, and social media is no exception. Trying to feel your way through a social media campaign can potentially create a disconnect between you and your target audience.

A recent Intuit survey shows a marked contrast between what companies believe attracts consumers and what those consumers think. Most small business owners (51%) feel that wall posts are the best way to engage potential leads, while only 18% of those potential leads agree. 37%, however, say that special offers and/or discounts are what really grab their attention.   

Being an amateur in any arena causes you to make mistakes you shouldn't.  In social media, that problem is magnified by the fact that you're making your miscues in front of the whole world. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is becoming more sophisticated about Facebook, LinkedIn, and the like—and that group probably includes your competition.  

So, the next time you think about updating your status, up your marketing game as well—and consider the following three important points: 

1. Creating an effective social media overall strategy is crucial.

Here's a frightening fact (at least to a business)—two-thirds of everyone who uses social media has never, ever "followed" a brand. That indicates that companies are not giving consumers compelling reasons to be "fans" on social media sites. If you don't have a real social media plan, you won't have a consistent and engaging presence that achieves your business goals.

2. Integration is integral to social media marketing.

Statistics show that there are 4.8 billion mobile phone users, but only 4.2 billion people with a toothbrush. We're not sure what that means about dental health, but we do know that any reasonable social media strategy has to take into account all devices and platforms in existence today. Remember, desktops are dinosaurs; handhelds are hot.

3. Just showing up is just not enough.

Here's a failure fact: over 60% of marketers using social media report that it has not improved their sales in the slightest. So, if you're patting yourself on the back for setting up a nice-looking Facebook fan page, or merely managing to type out a tweet a couple times a day, you may want to think about what that activity is really bringing you at the end of the day.  

Social media marketing is no different than any other type of selling; you must focus on customer engagement and building relationships that create results and put in place the proper tools to measure your ROI. Social media is an incredible opportunity to sell yourself to literally billions of people if you invest in learning how to do it the right way.      

[Image: Flickr user Extra Medium]