There are so many ways to get your business noticed these days due to the impact of social media, but does everyone utilize this to its fullest potential?

In a very real way, it’s harder today to get your business message out to the right people than it has ever been before. You’re merely a drop in the ocean on social media, and getting users to care about you takes effort. So, no matter how easy it is to set up those accounts, post photos and write quick blurbs, take the time to start with a plan.

In order to integrate your social media marketing successfully with your current branding, you’ll naturally need to know how to use various platforms and how to avoid wasting your time, or worse, damaging your brand’s image.

For some, getting serious about social media can seem daunting. It’s not necessary to flood the market, especially in the beginning. Take incremental steps that make sense. You can add additional social marketing platforms as needed to help you build credibility across the market. Just make sure you are always improving.

In order to get started on the right foot – and continue the race to the top – here are some mistakes you’ll want to avoid:

Not Defining Your Goals

Social media is a tool that can help you achieve specific goals, but you first have to know what those goals are before you post.

Making a profit is not necessarily the main goal: It’s often the result of achieving your goals. Be clear about what you want and how to get there, because it will help you define your social media strategy. Do you want to drive traffic to a specific page? Do you want to get a lot of people to discuss a new product or service before it launches? Asking as many questions as possible before starting will put a business far ahead of many of its peers online.

Taking a One-Size-Fits-All Approach

Different social media platforms have different audiences. Explore them all before you open accounts. Get familiar with how each platform operates and know the kinds of people you want to reach on each. In other words, have a plan. Nothing turns off users more than a brand that doesn’t understand the fundamentals of their platform.

Always Putting “I” First

Yes, there is a need to sell yourself, build your business, promote your brand and attract attention. But just as with any relationship, talking too much about yourself turns people off. Not only is it boring; it sends the wrong message. Take the time to “listen” in a virtual way. Take the focus off you and shine the spotlight elsewhere occasionally. Your virtual followers will respond.

Acting more like a member of a community rather than a leech goes a long way in earning the trust of potential followers.

Not Finding a Rhythm

The best way to handle any social media account is regularly. Develop a calendar for your posts – whatever they might be. Posting pictures of how projects are progressing, employee profiles, Q&A’s, showcasing user generated content – anything and everything that can be engaging and entertaining should be considered.

Do what seems right and on-message, and avoid the temptation to post whenever you feel like it or “when I have the time.” That’s a recipe for failure.

Avoid the temptation to post whenever you feel like it or 'when I have the time.'Click To Tweet

Overusing Hashtags

There are trends and causes that deserve notice. But not often and not always. Jump on the bandwagon of a parade that you’re passionate about, but forget the rest. Stay relevant, and stay true to your plan. Trying to ride the wave of completely unrelated tags can be, and is often seen, as disingenuous.

Many brand social media account make the huge mistake of not taking the time to understand trends before using them in a post. This can lead to disastrous results. Make sure to actually see what is posted in conjunction with hashtags, as often times the literal meaning is not the actual meaning.

Not Making Sense

The written word is important. Don’t rely too much on jargon, abbreviations, idioms and acronyms. Proper English, including correct spelling, punctuation, capitalization and grammar are still proper, even online.

Always proofread what you post – businesses are often held to a higher standard than the regular user. Stick to positive messages, unless your message is to right a wrong or point out an injustice. Avoid “reacting”, and stay within the bounds of what is still considered good taste.

Sounding Like a Robot

In a world filled with too many Siris and Cortanas, let your humanity shine. Don’t forget that “social media” is meant to be interactive. Encourage and respond to messages, questions and comments, especially if you get a few negative responses. Work to build trust and develop a following. Tell stories, laugh at yourself (but not too often), write about what’s important, and let your personality show. In other words, just be real.

Neglecting your Website or your Physical Location

Remember that no matter how many followers you have on Twitter or Pinterest, and how many likes you gather on Facebook, your real business, service or product often exists in another dimension. Social media marketing is a part of an overarching strategy, not the whole thing, so don’t get distracted.

Not Evaluating the Effectiveness of Social Media Marketing

Always be open to change. Evaluate the ROI of what you are doing on social media, just as you keep track of actual income and expenses. If your social media presence isn’t returning value, whether you pay to “boost your posts” or you pay a person to manage your accounts, make changes, and make them sooner rather than later.

It is important, however, to remember that metrics such as engagement can hold value as well. Branding over time can be a powerful tool for progress, so don’t be discouraged if your social media pages haven’t become the sales funnels you had hoped them to be in the first few months.

About The Author: Gary Ashton is the CEO/Owner of The Ashton Real Estate Group of RE/MAX Advantage in Nashville, Tennessee