The Like War: 9 Tips For Using Social Marketing as a Longterm Business Strategy

Social media marketing has been all the rage with most businesses and brands but the problem is that about 99 percent of companies are failing at executing social for business. Leaders of businesses across the country are misinformed of the true power of social marketing and are focused on the wrong metrics. We are in the midst of what I am calling The Like War -- where companies are spending tremendous amounts of funds and resources to get people to like their Facebook page and follow their other social media pages. I believe that social marketing is the most misunderstood tool in business today, but it has the most opportunity for those that look past the hype and focus on the true value.

Here are 9 tips that can turn around your failing social media programs.

1. Understand what social media means
Social media for business is much more than Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Social marketing is simply the way that businesses communicate with audiences and customers online across multiple platforms. I like to think of social marketing as all of the online content that represents your brand. Under this theory it should include blogs, video, graphic content, social media channels, guest blogging, podcasts, list management, and integrated email campaigns.

2. Put in real time
To be part of the one percent of companies that I believe are using social marketing the correct way, it is important to understand that you get out what you put in. Don't expect to only network for 10 minutes a day on social platforms and have results other than spamming out your content to your audiences. You should be marketing on a one-on-one basis to achieve the goals of your business.

3. Treat online relationships the same as real life relationships
A big mistake that many social media managers make is not taking online relationships seriously. You should treat every connection with another human being the same whether it is in person or via phone, email, chat, or social media. Today there doesn't have to be any difference between meeting a CEO of a company at a conference or on Twitter. At the same time, don't connect with people only because you are expecting to get something back. Let opportunities arrive by organic interactions.

4. Create a home base for your content
I believe that the home base of your strategy should be your blog. All of your social media channels should link and direct traffic to your home base.

5. It's all about the interaction -- not the likes, shares, or retweets
Your goal with social media for business should be to network with as many individuals as possible to spread the story about your brand. This is a surefire way to create opportunity for your team.

6. Don't push market
Social media has given us all the ability to consume the content we want, when we want it. However, it has also made all of us extremely skeptical when we are the target of marketing. Avoid push marketing at all costs when using social. You can accomplish this by telling your story naturally as part of every conversation.

7. Pay to play
Social media sites are making it harder and harder to reach consumers without paying for advertising options on their platforms. Facebook ads have tremendous value for reaching new people who wouldn't have been exposed to your brand otherwise. Twitter also has been rolling out their own advertising platform. However, there are still great opportunities to network for free on platforms like Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

8. Have realistic expectations
It is very important for anyone engaging in social marketing for business to have realistic expectations for your program and communicate them to your management team. We live in a need-it-now society. Unfortunately, many companies only worry about advertising, marketing and PR once their company is in dire need of additional sales revenue. Social marketing will never save your business in one or two business quarters. The trick with social marketing is to constantly be building community, which you can use for the rest of the life of your business.

9. There are no shortcuts
As a director of social marketing I spend a lot of time on webinars and webcasts soaking up information and strategy for our company. One of the questions that people always ask the speaker is, "How can I get more likes, retweets, fans, etc.?" There are no shortcuts. Your social media team is looking at years of work ahead of them to do this correctly. It takes tremendous amounts of time to penetrate all of the noise that exists. After all, your company and products are competing with content being produced by your audiences' family and friends. It requires extreme grace and tact to penetrate this space in a natural, informative, non-intrusive way. Social marketing for business is a very slow moving strategy, which I predict will have a lot of companies abandoning it because of frustration and misunderstanding. I feel extremely lucky to work for a company that has the foresight to see the long-term value of social marketing for their business. When you have an employer that gets it, the rest is just putting in the hours of work.