Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Flipboard 2 The Social Media channel is very misunderstood. Businesses and brands alike are all jumping on the social media bandwagon – with little understanding of how it works and how to really leverage their efforts. Couple this with the fact that Social Media is increasingly becoming the most important qualifier for backlinks and search engine optimization efforts. It’s important for businesses and brands to understand this channel. So what do marketers and entrepreneurs need to know and do to effectively utilize this dynamic channel? Here are a few dos and don’ts to remember when get you started: 1. Do make a commitment: There’s a difference between just dabbling in Social Media and seriously engaging with it. This isn’t a channel where you can opt-in or opt-out as you go. Think about Social Media like going to the gym: It isn’t just about showing up… you won’t get any results that way. Not only do you have to do it with intention, you must do it consistently and plan to do it routinely. Decide if you are ready for that commitment. (I hope you are!) 2. Don’t just do it: Establish your definition of success before you start. I wouldn’t classify Social Media as a new channel anymore, it is now an emerging channel. And regardless of how you perceive it, its still a marketing channel. Like all things in marketing, in order for an initiative to be successful, you need to define what success means. Setting objectives, articulating what’s important and why it’s necessary is key. Is it followers? Subscribers? Ranking? Engagement? Retweets? Entrants in a contest? Whatever it is – define it or you may be misplacing your energy and effort. 3. Do have a plan… please!: With so many Social Media outlets making their mark in the channel, it’s a real challenge to keep up with the latest and greatest. Even with the proven, tried and tested sites like Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram (the list goes on and on!), it’s hard to keep up. A handy piece of marketing advise that I always adhere to: If you can’t afford to do everything, pick one thing that will garner your brand or business the most return and do that initiative very well. 4. Don’t underestimate what’s involved: You can’t just fit Social Media in! It isn’t a part-time proposition or an additional task for an existing employee – chances are that role is already maxed out. This is a marketing channel that takes a dedicated, consistent approach. You need to add value, contribute, comment and engage. It doesn’t just happen. It takes research, understanding of messaging and proper brand tone and voice. It’s not just about knowing the platforms, it’s about integrating them and working them. If you want to build a community, you need to be social. It isn’t good enough to just say follow me!… you need to build a solid foundation. 5. Do your homework: Niche is where it’s at! Marketing has always been about segmenting and carving out marketing profiles of targets. Until recently, segmenting (or nicheing as I term it) was cumbersome and sometimes expensive. The beauty of Social Media and it’s digital channels is that it allows you to segment down to a minutia difference in characteristics. It can be as local or as global as you need it to be. And if there’s a defining characteristic of a target, believe me, there’s a group, a page, or a forum out there that is a perfect fit. And it there isn’t… well, isn’t that a wonderful opportunity! All this to say, businesses and brands alike should get out there and get social with mindfulness and intention. I’d be interested to hear your comments on the dos and don’ts of Social Media. Please share! Want to know more about social media? Download Social Media Understood here. Twitter Tweet Facebook Share Email This article originally appeared on 3H - Hoop!a Blog and has been republished with permission.Find out how to syndicate your content with B2C Author: Miriam Hara Follow @3Hhoopla Miriam is the creative core of 3H; bringing together strategic business savvy with an all encompassing creative vision to product and service marketing. Miriam's true strength is in developing compelling creative which speaks to the target audience with clarity, acuity and elegance. She has over 30 years of strategic and… View full profile ›More by this author:Creating Creative: A matter of trust.Social Media Brand Trust: The Pitfalls and Realities of Earning It.Stop Selling. Start Sharing. It’s What Social Media is All About.