Don't be too ambitious
You may well have heard stories of a young group that shot a video in their front room, uploaded it to YouTube, tweeted the link and received several million views. One ad agency invented a girl with a Facebook diary that was a huge sensation, leading to fantastic publicity for a modest outlay.
You might reproduce this kind of success with something that truly goes viral, but you are better off shooting for a more modest target. It's impossibly difficult to shine among millions of others and very little gets passed on to friends. Looking for enormous success is a million to one shot, with the likelihood of failure.
Don't use the foot in the door sales method
Social networking involves people communicating with other people. It's easy to build a reputation for crass promotion. Bare knuckle marketing will not work on social networks. Anything that looks like blatant advertising is highly counter-cultural and will be ignored or even worse, ridiculed. The problem is then whenever anyone searches on your brand, they will discover a torrent of abuse criticising you and your company.
Don't miss the advertising opportunity
Consumers are able to use social networks for free, but the networks aren't charities and are highly motivated by revenue opportunities. As a result, the most likely method to produce great results from social networks is to advertise with them.
Facebook advertising has built on the successful Google model and allows either pay-per-click or pay-per-impression. As well as deciding the amount to bid, the advertiser can select on factors such as education, relationship status, location, age, sex and interests, so you can target your demographic very accurately.
Don't let your customers tweet in vain
Although our tendency as business people will be to see social networks as a marketing channel, limiting ourselves to this perception is a mistake. It's important to check what's being said about your company on the major networks. This enables you to pick up service issues both before they are blasted out at top volume and before they develop into a larger problem. Actually, using networks as an early warning system for problems can be a big positive.
Don't let your effort exceed the business benefit
There is a lot of rubbish talked about social networking. It's a hot topic so the consultants are all bigging it up to boost their fees. Getting involved isn't principally about being on the cutting edge. It only makes business sense when you can turn a profit. So make sure it's subject to a cost / benefit analysis like any other business activity.
Social networks are taking more and more of consumer's time, but must be approached in a new way. Out goes one way communication and in comes interaction, with much more power on the consumer's side. As with everything new, it's a great chance to put one over the competition. Maybe some gold can be dug out of the amazing growth figures for social networks after all.
Written by Chris Barling, CEO of E-Commerce & EPOS supplier, Sellerdeck. Originally published on New Media Knowledge.