Social media has become an important part of many company’s small business marketing efforts. Over the last few years, I’ve noticed that there are many folks who don’t really understand the impact of social media generally and aren’t careful about how they approach the medium. The following are 10 tips that will help your social media efforts be a success: \tGet in the Game: Whether you think you need to or not, people are talking about you and your business on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. At the very least, you need to be online so you can follow, learn from, and respond to what they are saying. Social media is a great way to learn from what your customers and potential customers are saying about the products they want and an even greater opportunity to engage in a two-way dialog with them. \tLearn from Donald Trump: Be thoughtful about what you say and how you say it. Following the election, Donald Trump said a number of things that didn’t cast him in a very good light. You might not have the millions of people watching what you say on social media like the Don, but running off half-cocked is never a good idea (even if your network is only 200-300 people). My own personal measure for whether or not I post something on social media is this: 1)Will it embarrass my company and 2) will it embarrass my Mom. If the answer to both of those questions is “no” I feel OK posting. Every time I have ignored one of those rules I have regretted it. \tBe Consistent: I don't think it's important that you be everywhere—especially at first. If you feel like your customers are mostly on Facebook, spend your efforts there. The same goes for Twitter, Google+, or YouTube. As a rule of thumb, a couple of posts before noon and another couple of posts in the afternoon is a good place to start. If you only update your Facebook (or any social media status) every week or two, people will lose interest and nobody will follow you. Give your customers a reason to keep in touch with you by providing information that they will find interesting, will be helpful, or is fun. \tYour Social Media Presence Comes to Represent Who You Are: When I first started working with social media, I decided that my professional and personal personae would happily co-exist. I talk about my hobbies and what I’m doing—I sometimes even share my opinions about current events. However, I don’t post anything personally that would make me look bad professionally. You might think, “My personal persona and my business persona are different.” They may be different, but anyone interested in you will be able to connect the dots. There is no hiding in the social media world (refer to #2). \tMind Your “Ps” and “Qs”: Make sure you take just a second or two before you send out a status update that you’ve read it at least once. Although I have made the mistake a time or two, I know of a couple of highly competent professionals who regularly misspell words and use poor punctuation. I know they may be in a hurry and it’s “only a Tweet” but it reflects poorly on their personal brand (particularly to people who don’t know them). It doesn’t take much time to review an update before you hit the send button. I’ve even had someone point out a proofreading error in a blog post before. It’s embarrassing and doesn’t instill confidence in whatever I might be talking about. \tDon’t be Offensive: Take another look at #2. A great example has been the last year of offensive tirades made by my Facebook and Twitter friends. I get their passion and I understand their political point of view—they made it a point to jam it down my throat over the last many months. Unfortunately, although I still consider them to be my friends, because they didn’t care whether or not I (and others) might be offended by their pontificating, I think a little less of them. Sarcastic diatribes are not a good idea—unless you don’t care what people think of you. I try to keep the dialog civil, even if I disagree with you. What’s more, even if I think you’re an idiot, I likely will not say so on Facebook or other social media—just like I wouldn’t say it to your face over the dinner table at a restaurant. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. \tChoose Your Friends Wisely: A couple of years ago an old friend from high school reached out to me on Facebook. Of course I friended him. A couple of months later I got a call from my son who asked why I was publishing porn on my Facebook stream. This old friend had made an obscene status update and it was on my wall. Because many of my Facebook friends are professional colleagues (and I am personally offended by pornography), I quickly deleted the post and blocked him from my stream. It was very embarrassing to have one of my adult children call me to ask me about what I was doing online. A word to the wise is sufficient. \tSome Things are Better Left Unsaid: Several years ago I was in a marketing meeting where we were talking about a great campaign idea. I loved the idea and thought I’d test the message out on my blog audience. It went over really well until the V.P. of Marketing saw the post and felt like I spoiled the campaign by tipping our hand. I probably should have thought twice before I did that. Additionally, if you take a sick day and check in at the spa or ski resort, it might not go over well with the boss. \tBe Positive: I have a professional colleague I’ve known for years who spends most of his time on social media complaining. I have another friend who is incredibly positive about everything. I find myself paying more attention to the updates of my positive friend and often ignoring my negative friends posts. It’s easy to get sucked into the idea of talking about what’s wrong with the way someone does business or a political point of view, but if that’s all you talk about you soon are considered a “Debbie Downer.” That’s not the image you or your business want to portray. \tDon’t Rely Exclusively on Social Media: Although I’m an advocate of social media, I wouldn’t pin my company’s marketing success exclusively to the social media bandwagon. Traditional marketing media and approaches still have their place, although I happen to think that social media and content marketing are fast becoming a key driver to creating dialog and establishing a brand. Lendio online marketing via pay-per-click drives a lot more leads than this blog, our social media, or any of our content marketing, but it’s an important part of what we do everyday to share information and build relationships with our customers and future customers. I’m convinced that social media should play a part in the marketing efforts of almost any small business. These 10 tips will help get you started in the right direction.