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This post originally appeared on the Focus.com Group, where InsideView regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology for sales organizations.

Companies of all sizes are beginning to see the benefits of being a part of the social media landscape. The top 100 companies in the US have all made a big push into the space by setting up multiple Twitter feeds, Facebook pages and even started creating video content on a company YouTube channel. But smaller businesses shouldn’t be scared off by this. Truth is that small and mid-sized companies are able to more effectively use social media to their advantage because of the smaller budgets needed and the ability to be more agile in their social media efforts. [tweetmeme source= “insideview” only_single=false]

There are some specific positions a company can take when starting out in social media. Obviously the biggest platforms are Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, but there are hundreds of of other sites that companies should look into becoming a part of to be seen as leaders in their space as well as maximize the reach of their message to a targeted audience. This is all based around setting up some type of social media monitoring and there are many free tools available that can get you started getting in tune with where people are talking about you and your industry. Regardless of what platform you decide to dive into first, there are some key things to avoid when beginning a social media campaign. The answers from the Focus group cover this very well and I’ll add my thoughts.

Kirsten Knipp (@kirstenpetra) of HubSpot had some great takeaways such as:

  • DON’T Jump in without context. Start first by listening: it’ll help you find out what folks are interested in, learn how to engage in a lightweight way and help you figure out which channels matter most.
  • DON’T Post info/content that is out of context. Engage in the conversations that are relevant – share ideas, content, tips and opinions …
  • DON’T Spam. Try not to pitch … or if you cannot resist, soft pitch when accompanied by good info – and always disclose your affiliation with a company
  • DON’T Just watch. Participate. Start creating content of interest. A great way to start if you don’t have blog or other content ideas is to deconstruct your top 10 FAQs as topics that your audience is likely to be interested in …
  • DON’T Start then give up. Tweet, blog, share, interact … it will take time to build a community (just like making friends in a new town).
  • DON’T Just do it because. Measure your activity – use analytics (Google at very least) to measure how much traffic is coming to your site (if you link back), how many followers / comments / etc that you have … ideally, you are growing these metrics and eventually you can map them to specific business goals / activities

Only setup the profiles that you are committed to building a community around. Setting up a Facebook fan page just to become a black hole where there is no engagement is a quick way to tarnish your online reputation. You should know that social media is a successful marketing strategy if done right. In a B2C market the case studies are abundant but you can definitely use social media in a B2B environment also.

Your plan with building social media channels should be more about sharing content and engaging in conversations that relate to your customers. It can not be emphasized more that setting up your social streams to only promote your product and services is a big No-No. If your plan is to get fans and followers, you have to be seen as a destination for information that your customers are looking for. You’ll notice most companies have Twitter streams that are pointing to content outside of their own domains but are still relevant to their customers. It’s alright to drop in a link to a webinar or a new white paper that your company has, it’s even alright to do some other promotions to content on your site but if that’s ALL you do, you will probably only be relevant to people already invested in your company.

Build out your content and leave no stone unturned when it comes to new ideas and angles you can take with ways to share your message. Don’t make your social media networks islands unto themselves. Link all of them together and introduce new content to each. People don’t want to be a fan of your Facebook page if all it contains are the exact same links and messages that they can find on your Twitter stream. Mix it up a bit so that people want to be a part of these networks.

Do you have a question or would you like to add another key thing to avoid for companies using social media? Leave us a comment below.

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