By Danielle Dandridge

There is no doubt that social media is a vital component in internet marketing, visibility, and branding. However, when done incorrectly, it can actually become detrimental to your company. Here are my top ten ways to use social media effectively.

1. Identify Your Purpose – Your social media strategy should be a stand-alone plan which requires nothing else to sustain it. Your plan should not aspire to improve your search engine rankings, as there aren’t usually many backlinks that come from it. Approach your social media strategy as if there were no such thing as search engines. Some things you may want to consider in identifying your purpose include:

* Branding – Start building a strong brand for your company!

* Exposure – Give your company and website some visibility!

* Networking – Get involved in the community and make connections!

* Relationship/Trust Building – Potential clients are more likely to become actual clients when they have a relationship with you and know they can trust you!

* Customer Relations – Use social media to build good, solid customer relations!

2. Fresh, Consistent, Relevant Content – Make sure there is a high level of consistency in the content you share on social media sites. Consistency is important regarding frequent updates (fresh content), as well as in keeping with the purpose of your social media strategy. Consistency in your message and your branding also establishes relevance for SEO purposes.

For instance, if you are a Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Consultant, provide quality tips on SEM and internet marketing, as well as useful articles, resources, and links. Try to link to (connect/contact/friend/follow) other members in your industry or similar industries, like search engine optimization (SEO) or network marketing.

This can assist you in achieving your branding ambitions and enable you to engineer your own company’s brand recognition. This offers you some control over how you and your company are perceived. Your social media presence can help strengthen your company’s webutation (web reputation). Your online friends, business contacts, and “followers” should be able to give a brief description of what your company does. If they cannot, you may want to reevaluate #1 and reexamine the content you’re sharing.

3. Concentrate on Content, Not Marketing – All too often, people go about this the other way around. Allow your content to do the marketing for you by focusing on valuable, consistent, relevant content.

Digging, liking, bookmarking, etc. your own content can actually damage your credibility. It is better to write compelling content that your readers will give an unsolicited digg, like, or bookmark. When people like what you’re saying, they will share it! When they do, search engines will notice, so write something noteworthy and let the rest happen organically!

4. Be a Valuable Asset – When you think of social media, place the emphasis on “social”. It is not called self-promotional media for a reason. Always keep that in mind when considering what to share on your social media sites.

Posting nothing but self-promotional links, information, and requests will inevitably make you a part of the social media noise, and you will eventually be filtered out. Worse yet, you could be regarded as a “spammer”, which is the fastest way for your webutation to take a downward turn. You may not lose friends, contacts, or “followers’ over it, however, they will begin to skim your posts without even realizing it, or they may ignore you altogether.

You can avoid this by becoming a valuable asset in your niche. One example of how to do this is by posting links to resources and domains that are not your own. This does not mean to post links to your social media profiles, your own squidoo lenses, etc. This means do not post any domains with which you are associated. You can; however, occasionally post links to your own site. Just be sure that you don’t do it so often that it becomes noise or spam.

Believe it or not, you should attempt to befriend your competitors and even promote them. I know this seems counter-intuitive, but interlinking and networking are very powerful tools!

5. The Client Always Comes First – Now that you’ve identified your purpose, contemplate what your client (or ideal visitor) is searching for. (Write for the audience you want.) Imagine your ideal, potential client distinctly in your mind, and consider what they may be perceiving through the information that you share. You want to make a good first impression on them, as they are the ones you want to attract to your site.

6. Get Involved and Build a Rapport – Participating in discussions, replying to forums and blogs, and asking for feedback (and responding to it) are all exceptional ways to get involved in the community and build a rapport with other members. This allows people to view you as a real person, instead of a robot that does nothing but post links repeatedly. (If you’re going to post links, ensure their relevance.) Other people will warm up to you and be more likely to become a friend or contact if you humanize yourself. Social media sites provide you the opportunity to show your personality, so use them in order to truly connect with your target market.

7. Warning! Do not Over Optimize – Of course you desire top search engine rankings for your specific keywords, but tread lightly here. It is possible to over optimize. If you use the same anchor text on every site you link to, your site will leave what is referred to as a “digital footprint”, which can be a sign that you may be trying to exploit or manipulate search engine results.

In order to refrain from this, use natural alterations in your anchor text for the links which point to your original site. A certain amount of “click here” (or similar links) are necessary to balance your optimization strategy.

8. Start Linking to Your “Deep Links” – Everyone wants to link their public profiles to their (main) homepage, but deep links (or links that point to internal pages on your site or blog) provide depth and authority. Let’s assume that there are two identical websites. The one that has accumulated more deep links will always outrank the other. This method will also gain more exposure for your site in search engine results because your internal pages will begin to rank for relevant keywords and key-phrases.

Deep Links Tip: You may not want to share the link to your homepage with someone you meet on a business network or social media site. Think about linking to your “About Me” page (if applicable) in order to give a more personal introduction to your site, or try linking to your “Company” or “Services” page (if applicable) to give your visitor an overview of what your company does.

9. Link Deliberately with No Apologies – When someone “friends” you, follows you, or subscribes to your blog and/or updates on social sites, it is because they are interested in your most recent information, news, tips, resources, etc. If they should discover that they are not interested, they will simply stop following you, which is not a big deal. This is not a “popularity” contest (regardless of what some people may think), as the “quality” of your “followers” is what matters, not the quantity of them! This is a way to syndicate and socialize with like-minded individuals in a professional and personable setting.

As with anything else, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about hyperlinking to content and resources on social media websites. Here is the wrong way: “Read my blog!” or “Check out my site!” The correct way is achieved by sharing a helpful link (it can be your own, or something else of interest to your audience) and encourage a discussion about it. For example, if you are a SEO specialist, you could share a link to a Google article about their latest SEO standards and ask for your readers’ opinions on it. Since most of them will be in your field or a related field, the article should be of interest to them which should inspire some discussion.

10. Utilize Social Networking – In order to genuinely accomplish a successful social media strategy, you should engage in social networking, as well. Replace the word “competitor” with “colleague” in your social media vocabulary. Other webmasters, companies, consultants, and individuals in your niche are your allies in the brave new world of social media!

Make it a goal to locate as many of your competitors (who are on your level or within an acceptable range) and develop a cadre or key group of professionals, friends, and/or business contacts. These are people you can share with, exchange links with, and even embark on joint ventures with. Don’t view them as your competition anymore. Start exploring ways to leverage one another’s positions in the marketplace!

About the Author: “I’ve been the CEO and Website Solutions Specialist of Paradigm Shift Website Solutions, LLC for 3 ½ years. For information on our services, you can contact me at