With more than 1 billion active users per month, Facebook is one of the few true titans of the Internet. When one considers that users spend a disproportionate amount of time on the site (nearly 11 hours per month for mobile users) in comparison to other highly visited destinations like Google, Twitter and Yahoo!, its position at the top becomes even more impressive.

There can be little doubt that the website has changed the way that individuals interact with the Web and with each other. Whereas five years ago Facebook might have been seen as a novelty, it is now a force to be reckoned with – and one that isn’t destined to go away anytime soon.

If you are a business owner, you likely already have a Facebook presence (and if you don’t, you should). You are also likely already aware of the potential benefits it affords. However, there is a right and wrong way to approach social media platforms such as Facebook. If you want to maximize your social marketing, you’d do well to heed the advice below.

1. Engage with Your Followers

Perhaps the most defining characteristic of Facebook is that your followers voluntarily opt in to receive your marketing message. Don’t waste this opportunity or blow your chance of taking advantage of your good fortune.

If you are to be successful on Facebook or Twitter, you must constantly engage with your followers through conversation, unique offers, question-and-answer sessions, and the like. One tactic that some large companies are implementing is providing smartphones with unlimited 4g access to the social media department so associates are always connected and can update, respond and interact anywhere and everywhere.

2. Be the Resource that Your Followers are Seeking

There may be a number of motivations for someone to follow you on Twitter or Facebook:

  • He or she may like the products or services that you offer;
  • He or she may “like” your page by accident, not realizing that this in effect enables you to market directly to them;
  • He or she may be seeking coupons, discounts, and other special offers in the hopes of saving money; or
  • He or she may be seeking your expertise on a subject matter.

Whether you repair washing machines or offer consulting services, know your audience and cater to them by providing the information they are seeking.

3. Provide Suitable Incentive for Followers to Stay

As discussed above, you should strive to provide helpful, unique, and topical content to your followers. However, being a resource often isn’t enough. Your followers have voluntarily opted in to your marketing message, and they can just as easily opt out. You must provide them reason to stay. If this can’t be accomplished through special offers, then you may want to consider a different approach.

This may include a more personal relationship with your followers or an atmosphere that encourages them to return – viral videos may not be appropriate for every business, but they can certainly garner attention on those days when your message is struggling to come out.

4. Listen to Your Audience

Social media eliminates the age-old conundrum of not knowing what your customers want and trying to accommodate their needs anyway. It is important – nay, vital – to remember that social media enables a two-way conversation. Businesses large and small must be aware of this, and ready to embrace it, before ever setting foot into the social realm.

That being said, this two-way conversation can be incredibly powerful as it provides transparency. Listen to your followers and do what’s necessary to meet their needs. After all, they provide you with your revenue.

5. Ensure Continuity Across Social Channels

This isn’t to say that you should repeat yourself. Quite the opposite, in fact. One of the worst things that you can do is mirror your approaches across social channels; every one of your outlets should have a unique stream of content in order to entice followers. However, there should be a recognizable thread that connects these channels.

Don’t show favoritism to one outlet. Don’t take conspicuously different approaches in tone or content. Doing so would be doing your business and your followers a disservice.

6. Determine the WHAT and WHY of Your Social Marketing Campaign

Why is your business marketing on social media platforms? What does your business hope to accomplish? You should never attempt a social campaign, and divert the necessary resources to it, unless you can clearly answer these two questions. A rudderless social media campaign is one that is doomed to fail and cost your business. Determine your route before you leave home.

7. Be Consistent and Regular

One of the worst things that a business can do is approach social media half-heartedly. If your business doesn’t regularly contribute to its social media channels, it can have a number of effects:

  • You will lose followers, and in turn, your marketing base
  • You will lose the ability to gain new followers and leads
  • You’ll potentially damage your business’ reputation

If your business is considering undertaking a social media marketing campaign, you should not do so lightly. You will need to dedicate the necessary resources so that you can make it work for you rather than against you.

8. Own Your Approach by Establishing a Clear Perspective

What is your voice online? Clinical? Light-hearted? Passionate? Professional? Authoritative? Determining your business’ voice will help you approach your social media marketing with clear direction. It will also allow your followers to know what to expect from your social channels.

It is important to remember however that when establishing your company’s voice, you may be slightly painting yourself into a corner – be mindful of this when deciding on your approach to social media.

9. Integrate Social Marketing Into Your Company’s Practices

Something done half-heartedly is something that’s not done well. If your business decides that social channels are the best avenue for spreading its message, it is important that the company fully embrace these channels.

Be sure to secure your business name across platforms, even those that the company has no interest in using, and implement a cohesive design across all so that there is a clear continuity between your brand and your business’ social channels.

10. Be an Active Participant, Not a Passive One

Social media is named such because it’s intended to be just that – social. As with an in-person, face-to-face conversation, it requires that both participants be engaged. If one person is talking and the other is disengaged, it kills the conversation. The same can be said of social media.

Your business must be an active participant if your social marketing campaigns have any hopes of success. The medium simply does not allow for passivity.