So you’ve been using social media for awhile. And frankly, you can’t see what all the fuss is about. You’ve been posting status updates on Facebook, sharing stuff on Twitter, heck, you’ve even updated your profile on LinkedIn. But what’s the big deal? If this describes you, you’re probably using social media wrong.

Help the birdWarning Sign #1: You can’t figure out what all the fuss is about.

If you don’t know what all the fuss is about with social media, then you’re using it wrong. Social media is about relationship-building. I’ve brought in many clients via Facebook and Twitter over the last few years. Does that mean everyone can bring in business that way? Not necessarily.

But there are many different ways to use social media. You can use it to monitor your brand, you can use it for customer service, you can use it to reach out to your audience in new ways or even create and entirely new audience.

Now, having said that, every social media platform isn’t right for every business. There are cultures in each platform, so you want to find the social media platform that’s a good fit for your business and your goals. If you don’t know what all the social media fuss is about, you probably haven’t yet figured out the right way to leverage it for your business.

silly image

This, however, does inspire me. (image courtesy of Jason Padvorac)

Warning Sign #2: Your last five status updates were inspiring quotes.

If your idea of communicating via social media is to post inspirational quotes, you’ve got it all wrong. Believe me, I’ve read zillions of quotes and you posting them doesn’t inspire me. And no, not even if you add the quote to a picture of a recently deceased person or adorable puppy.

Posting quotes does not constitute communication. Just imagine if you were in real life, what it would look like if you walked around spouting off quotes all day long. Would you, or would you not, look like a crazy person who needs medication? Aha! That is usually a good rule of thumb in social media, frankly. Just ask yourself, “What would this sound like in real life?” If you’d look like a raving lunatic, then that’s your answer.

Warning Sign #3: You can’t remember the last time you had a conversation in social media.

This is a serious warning sign. If you can’t remember the last time you had a conversation in social media, you’re definitely using it wrong. Again, envision if you took the social media experience and translated it to an in person experience. How are you communicating? Did you just post, “Sigh. Can’t decide what to eat for lunch. Spaghetti or ham sandwich?” or did you post something of use to your community?

The intent of social media is to be social. Sure, we’ve turned it into an ego-driven medium for every trivial thought we’ve ever had, but originally, social media was designed as a tool, a mechanism that allowed us to transform the in person experience into an online experience. When you post in social media, your goal should be to engage and create dialogue. Inspire people into discussion. Engender debate. Further the conversation in your industry.

Now, ask yourself…are you posting comments that inspire people to communicate and discuss or was that you I saw in my news feed, posting an angry diatribe about politics? Which brings me to my next point…

Warning Sign #4: You can remember the last time you had a conversation in social media- and it was a political/religious debate.

Remember that guy who used to stand on the corner of your college campus? Maybe he stood on a soapbox or a crate and he’d shake his Bible and yell at you as you walked to your Intro to Sociology class and he’d tell you that you were a sinner going to Hell?

Carl.

This guy. Whose name, apparently, is Carl.

Maybe that just happened to me. But you know who I mean. If the last conversation you had in social media was a debate about politics or religion and your business isn’t related to politics or religion, you should pretty much just cut that stuff right the heck out. Immediately.

I recently noticed that one of my Facebook friends posted fifteen status updates in one day. That might seem like a lot, but the volume isn’t what troubled me. What troubled me was that thirteen of those fifteen status updates were strong political posts, one was personal, and one was related to the person’s business, which, by the way, is not related to politics. Seriously? Dude, you are using social media wrong.

I don’t care what your politics are. If you’re posting about them, you’re alienating half your audience and you may very well be offending them. And please, don’t tell me that you’d rather just do business with people who share your political leanings. Would you really? Are Republican dollars not green enough? Do Democratic dollars not pay your mortgage? And if you only want to do business with people who share your faith, please, tell me why. Because last time I checked, the bank still cashed checks for agnostics and atheists, same as for anybody else.

People, unless you’ve closed your social media profiles to include only your friends and family members or unless it’s an appropriate part of your brand, you should not be posting about politics or religion in social media. These topics have no place in your business dealings.

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The button we all wish Facebook would add.

Warning Sign #5: You don’t know when you last updated Twitter or Facebook.

If you don’t know when you last updated your social media status, guess what? Social Media has forgotten about you. That’s how it goes. You know that friend who you haven’t talked to in ages, but when you get together it’s like no time has passed? Social media is not that friend.

Time passes faster in social media than it does in the rest of the world. So if you haven’t posted in three months, that’s like three years in social media time (multiply that by six for Twitter; divide by two for LinkedIn).

You can’t let your social media profiles languish. They’re not intended to be static web sites. They’re created to be living, breathing representations of you in the online world. If you don’t update them regularly, people will wonder if you’re dead. And quite possibly, you will be, at least online, for all intents and purposes.

Warning Sign #6: You don’t get any retweets.

Want to know why you don’t get retweets (this applies to “shares” too)? It’s because you’re not posting anything anybody cares about. Post stuff that’s cool enough to share and you’ll get retweeted. So if you’re determined to post about your lunch, then also post things that matter to your audience.

Also, share other people’s stuff, and they’ll be more likely to return the favor down the road when you post something good.

Warning Sign #7: Your following isn’t growing.

See Warning Signs #1-6. That’s why. Start doing things right and your following will grow. Keep doing all this stuff, and your following will languish. It’s just that simple.

Truth: Social Media Is Simple.

Social media is simple. It’s not necessarily easy, but it’s simple. Produce great content, be generous with sharing other people’s stuff, give back to the community, and engage in conversation. These aren’t the rules of the game, they’re the pathway to winning the game. As long as you’re using social media in self-serving ways that aren’t tied to any strategy in your business, you’ll continue to lose the game every day. And remember, in social media, your goal should be to gain ground. Not to lose it.