Whether you’re looking for customers or career opportunities you know you’ve got to be and be seen online. The question is: Where and how should you be seen so you get the right people to notice you? And, to make things even more complicated, should you figure out the answer to the question, tomorrow everything could change. That’s what social media has done not just to online marketing but marketing in general.

So, how do you make the right decisions for your business or career to invest your resources wisely? Here are a few rules of thumb for maximizing your social media ROI:

  1. Know Your Audience
    The more you know about the audience you’re looking to attract to your business, resume or skills, the better able you will be to develop the right strategy for success. So, gather as much detailed information as possible.
  2. Do Your Homework
    The Web gets a bad rap for being full of useless info (see countless YouTube videos involving pets), but it’s also chockablock with free articles, statistics, research papers, etc., which you can use to gain key insights about your audience, such as: the online tools they use and how they use them; when they’re most likely to be online, and, most importantly, what they care about.
  3. “Fish Where the Fish Are”
    Invest your time and energy in the social media tools used most often by your target audience. You might even try starting with the one tool they use most frequently or that the majority of your audience uses at least once a day or a few times a week. By understanding how your audience interacts with these tools you will also have a good idea of how frequently you need to engage with these tools yourself.
  4. Be Real
    Even if you’re representing your business (or somebody else’s), be a real person and engage with your audience in a genuine manner. If you’re looking for career and networking opportunities, be a professional across all of your social media spaces, posts and outlets—everything’s connected in cyberspace and nothing ever truly dies. Plus, the real key in successful social media marketing is having your information seen by other people’s networks of contacts because they “Like” you on Facebook, retweet you on Twitter, repin you on Pinterest, etc.
  5. Set Realistic Objectives + Goals
    Before diving into any of the social media streams, define your objectives for each tool. Set goals and targets that are realistic and based on how much time and effort you are going to invest. Be clear about the time horizon for achieving your goals, i.e., weekly, monthly, quarterly. Plan to invest at least three months in any one social media tool, like Facebook or Twitter, with the understanding that you will most likely need at least six months to see any real progress.
  6. Determine How You Will Measure Results
    There’s no way to know if your strategy is successful unless you have a way to measure how you’re doing. Define your measurement system along with your goals before you begin and be sure they’re set up to reflect your time horizons.
  7. Rinse and Repeat
    Use your results to tweak your strategy. If you’re not achieving your goals, reexamine your research and consider how you’re interacting with your target audience. Do you need a different interaction or messaging approach? Have you selected a narrow enough target audience? Are you focused on the right one or two social media tools? Continue to refine your strategy and measure results until you hit upon the right mix of audience, tools and interaction/messaging tactics.
  8. Remember, It’s Really (Not) About You
    In traditional marketing there’s a lot more of an equal relationship between how much information is about the prospect and their needs and how much is about you and your services, products, solutions, skills, experience, etc. However, in social media marketing, it’s really all about your target audience. You demonstrate your savvy, expertise, skills, and so forth, by providing helpful resources, answers, great customer service, incentives, and all that kind of stuff, but it’s all built around what your audience needs, wants, is interested in and “buzzing” about, which will hopefully get them buzzing about you.Focus on your audience and center your activity around theirs—cheer them on, help them out, raise them up—connect what they’re doing online with what you want to achieve and you may just have a blue ribbon recipe for social media marketing success.

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