Over the last seven years or so, I’ve consulted with and spoken in front of hundreds of organizations and executives. Mainly my message has focused on digital marketing, personal branding and emerging technologies. I’ve watched industries slowly adopt social media strategies, and can confidently say that – unfortunately – many executives and sales people are wasting their time with social media. Below I’ve shared five common downfalls along with tips on how you can turn it around for a successful strategy.

1. Social Channels Are Not Online Billboards

Yes, I was one of those consultants beating the social media drum early on. I stood on stage delivering keynote presentations urging people to get onto social media. I warned them of looking old and out of touch if they weren’t out there. Many in the audiences heard the message and jumped into the deep end of the social media pool. Unfortunately, most missed the bigger message, which was this, “you can’t simply exist on social media, you have to use it the way it was intended.”

If you have a profile but aren’t active or optimized, then you are probably doing more harm than good. However, if you are truly committed to social media (and it can bring clear ROI to agencies who use it well), you need to invest the time to create a game plan, be consistently active on your profile(s) and integrate your activities across platforms, including your public website if you have one. Another option is hiring a third party to assist in this process.

2. You Never Have Enough Content

Most people now have a decent structure in place. They may have a blog that they post on sporadically, and maybe even a social media presence that’s connected to their site. That is the easy part. In order to be relevant and effective, you have to be a content creating machine. That is easier said than done. We recognize that most executives aren’t wired to sit down and write a blog. We also see the struggles that agencies have trying to get producers and owners to blog or create other content. It’s like herding cats!

Best practices shows that you need to be blogging regularly and updating social media multiple times per day to be effective. It’s the reality of the environment. We know that this is very difficult for most organizations, regardless of size.

3. Social Needs Your Personality

If you have not identified your personal brand, or do not see this as a strategic initiative, then there is really no point in participating in social media.

Social media is one of the most powerful tools any professional has today to manage their personal brand, increase awareness in their expertise, grow their network and ultimately increase their book. If you have not identified your personal brand and developed a plan that includes social media, then you are not taking full advantage of social media’s potential.

Step back and think about your personal (or company) brand, what sets you apart, and how you want to portray yourself both in person and in the virtual world of social networking. Only then can you start crafting a unified social strategy.

4. Likes and Follows are neither Leads nor Sales

We see a lot of millenials and tech-savvy, seasoned producers hide behind technology. Most company owners are admittedly not great at new technology, especially social media. These savvy individuals recognize this and give a false sense of accomplishment by increasing ‘likes’ and ‘followers.’ It’s too easy to fall into the trap of equating those activity metrics with success. Social media can help your business, but that business is still insurance, not follower-gathering.

Make sure your social media monitoring goes beyond activity and focuses on new leads generated, positive customer engagement, cross sells, referrals, etc. It’s not always easy to quantify these sales and retention metrics, but the earlier you put tracking systems in place, the better you can measure your true results and ROI.

5. Do You Know What Winning (Results) Means?

If you want to be active on social media, you need to know why you’re doing it. Social media gives you a digital presence. It can help you to establish credibility online, increase traffic to your site, convert that traffic into leads and eventually turn that into sales. That needs to start with a strategy and plan. You need to have specific targets and constantly measure your results (as mentioned in #4 above). That information can then be used to adapt your presence to suit your needs. We know that people are wasting their time if they are unclear about the expected results and how to get there. Social media is about more than stabbing in the dark – it takes a clear plan, consistent execution and ongoing measurement.

The truth is that social media works. Companies that are successful on social media tend to be successful, period. If you are going to put any investment (time, money, resource) into social media, you need to have a plan and clear objectives on what you want to accomplish. If you don’t, you will most likely be wasting more than just time.