The generation of today is defined by high-speed Internet access and social media. From 12-year-old kids to 21-year-old college students, 30-something professionals, and even middle-aged CEOs, they are all going online through their desktop PCs, laptops, smartphones and tablets to log in to their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Most businesses already realize the power social media has. It can build brands in days and ruin reputations overnight. It can reach out to millions and billions of people worldwide in an instant, and it can help boost sales through that awareness.

What some businesses fail to understand though is that social media is not a magic cure that will solve all their ills. It has its limits, and whatever success it can bring requires strategic thinking and long-term planning. Here are four truths to social media that businesses have to face when thinking of running a campaign:

1. Social Media in Itself is Boring

Some companies think that merely having a Facebook Page or a Twitter account for their businesses is enough. Putting up contact details and information about the products and/or servicesis important, but just providing those things and nothing else will make the accounts look and feel lifeless.

  • It’s not enough to post content regularly in a seemingly robotic fashion. Approaching social media like traditional methods of marketing will not gain any traction among customers, resulting in an empty page with little to no user interaction. An article I read on Salehoo.com regarding content strategies on Facebook can give you a rough idea on what types of posts are good for a certain social media network. You can tweak and apply these to any other social networks, as long as you mind which social site you are using!
  • Keep in mind that social media was created to connect people through shared relationships and interests. It is important to engage fans and followers to liven up activity in your accounts.
  • Create that personal connection. And the best ways to do that are (1) to tell your own unique stories and (2) to converse with your audience. It’s about tapping into that human desire to reach out and touch someone they can relate to. They need a reason to actually show up and express their thoughts.

People don’t want to be just sold things on social media. It’s the one place where they can directly communicate with “faceless” companies, so make them feel that they are cared for.

2. Social Media is Time-Consuming

As helpful as social media can be, it can also be a veritable time-sink if not handled properly.

  • People have hundreds to thousands of contacts in their networks constantly posting new status updates, Tweets and Retweets, Shares, photos, videos and so on, all arriving in real-time. They can end up spending so much time checking each one that they forget about more important things such as doing work and being physically around their loved ones.
  • This problem also applies to businesses looking to capitalize on the market’s addiction to social media. They can be focusing so much of their efforts and channeling most of their resources into just this one aspect of what should be a balanced marketing campaign.
  • There’s also the personal aspect to it, as social media marketing is so hectic with its rapid pace that the people in charge may lose out on their own personal relationships and pursuits.

One way to keep this from being a problem is disciplined time management. Using RSS feeds that neatly organize content which needs researching narrows down social media use to what’s important. Having a plan with clearly defined goals will also help in avoiding wasteful expenses.

3. Not Just Any Blog is Read

Blogs were once mainly used as personal online journals back when the concept was in its infancy. Now, they can be highly lucrative avenues and promotional vehicles providing all sorts of valuable content.

Businesses see those first two things but often fail to deliver the last and most important part. As a result, they have a blog talking about their products and services in the most mundane way with absolutely no spirit to them. If not that, they are simply spouting the same ideas hundreds of thousands of other blogs have already written about.

For a blog to get a respectable amount of readers, it has to offer something of value and it has to have some twist to it that makes it stand out among similar blogs (much like how a business should be).

Naturally, just one or two good posts won’t keep readers’ attentions for long. There has to be a steady stream of content published in a timely manner. Consistency is key to building authority and gaining the trust of more and more people.

4. Content Rarely Goes Viral

For every viral Old Spice YouTube ad that gets tens of millions of views, there aremillions of other videos that barely get over a thousand views. Businesses have to realize that not every piece of content they create will be an Internet sensation, even if the concept surrounding it sounds great.

For content to go viral, it has to be able to bring out some sort of emotional response out of people. It can be humorous (as evidenced by the Old Spice commercials), heartwarming, tear-jerkingor shocking, among others. It can also be highly informative and delivered in an easy-to-understand manner that makes people believe it’s worth passing around.

It also helps to structure it in a way that it understands and communicates with its target audience. They must feel like it is talking to their needs and wants, just like how the hilarious Old Spice commercials feed into the desire of men to be suave and macho to attract women (in a fun and exaggerated manner).

Sometimes, making crowd-source posts on your blog will help a lot with your content going viral. Every person you include on this interview type of content will feel very honored that you included them into something you are creating, and in turn, will share those content (since it includes them). Connecting with others this way will work wonders, as you are building connections with other people and creating something worth sharing all at the same time. Examples of this are my post on ProBlogger about what experts view content marketing is all about, or Lewt.com‘s post on the debate of pay to play vs. free to play in gaming.

Conclusion
There is more to social media than just registering accounts and posting links. It’s not an automatic process that instantly brings results. It’s about getting into the hearts and minds of the audience through interaction and quality content that is relevant to their interests. The users are the number one priority, and if they are treated well, they are the ones who will build the brand for the business.