Social media is here to stay and businesses who don’t adapt and adopt social media marketing will fail to make it. According to research, more users are using social media and internet searches to find products every year than the year prior. Brands must incorporate social media marketing in order to capture this mobile-first market. As with other forms of marketing, social media marketing has its own rules for success. Here are the top seven rules of social media marketing that delivers leads that actually convert.

Deliver Quality

The first rule of social media marketing is to focus on delivering quality content. The content you post online should be as high quality as your other marketing materials. The focus should be on quality rather than quantity. Quality content is more likely to be shared by others, which increases your brand’s reach. Substandard content, no matter how frequent, will not create engagement at the same rates as infrequent but invaluable content.

Diversify Content

The internet isn’t just text, and social media content shouldn’t be either. The best social media marketing uses a variety of content: text, polls, images, and videos as part of a larger social media strategy. This will ensure that customers will pay more attention to what you’re posting, rather than it getting lost in the stream. Another item to diversify? The social media platforms you use. Not everyone is on Twitter and Facebook. For fresh followers, try Tumblr, Vimeo, or LinkedIn and tailor content to each platform’s unique benefits and challenges.

Build Relationships

Unlike direct mail marketing, the selling that’s done via social media marketing is conversational. It’s about building relationships that promote engagement and a community mindset around your brand. Relationship building involves following others back, sharing posts you find interesting, and responding to messages and tweets directed at your brand. For example, if a user on Twitter comments on how much they love a product, your brand’s response would be to respond to them by name (mentioning them in the Tweet) and thank them for their mention.

Automate Content

Not every task can or should be done manually. In order to meet social media subscribers on Twitter, for example, you would need to post and repost your content over 24 hours. This is on top of sharing the content of others, responding to messages from followers, and interacting with the community. The more you can automate, the more time you have to engage personally instead of performing routine tasks. Those do social media marketing well automate:

Mentions of their handle or page (to make finding conversations easier) Post analytics (to A/B test headlines) Daily content schedule (especially useful for vacations and busy seasons) Tailor social media posts to each network

Reciprocate

Social media marketing is about community, which is why one of the most successful marketing tactics among social media marketers is to reciprocate. This works in two ways. In the first instance, let’s say that you share valuable content created by others and mention or thank them by name. Thanks to the law of reciprocity, they’ll be more likely to reciprocate in return. Twitter is a great example of the law of reciprocity in action, since those outside of celebrities are also those that follow back and interact with others via discussions and retweets.

Be Consistent

Finally, be consistent in your efforts. Keep only a schedule that you can consistently maintain. If only a few social media accounts is all you can work right now, then work on those on a consistent enough basis that you can interact with the community effectively. It’s just like going to a business organization in that if you show up once and don’t show up again, you won’t connect. Social media lead generation happens when you are consistent.

Shift the Focus

You wouldn’t talk to a customer without using their name. Yet it happens all the time on social media when businesses refuse to interact with their followers, refuse to answer questions, don’t personally interact with others, and don’t talk about anything other than the business needs or sales pitches. Social media is not about tooting your business’ horn, since that only values the business. Instead, post content that enriches the lives of others outside the sales pitch. If it doesn’t build community around your brand or creates an “us versus them” mentality, think twice about posting it on social media.

In short, social media is networking for your business. In order to succeed you must show up consistently, you should have a message that’s valuable, engage with the community, reciprocate value for value, and automate where you can. By following these techniques, you can grow your business brand in a way that will become self-sustaining. When you create and deliver value via relationships, you’ll create community which in turn will create brand ambassadors.