Rob Mitchell is a social media strategist and writer who discusses tips for business, technology, and finance.

It's no secret that social media can be used for more than just sharing photos and funny status updates. In the business world, it represents a great way to improve your online reputation and increase exposure to your brand and website. However, as with all things social media, there is a right and wrong way to do it. If you're just starting out with your social media marketing strategy, or if you're looking to revamp your current plan for better results, consider the following tips to boost your profile and generate new followers and likes.

1. Maintain a Sharp Focus on Content
Having a presence on Facebook and Twitter is great, but if your content is not up to par, all your efforts can be a waste of time. Consider offering longer posts for Facebook, and whip up quick tidbits of information for Twitter. Make your content creative and engaging, but keep it brief. Try to give your readers tips and advice that they won't be able to find anywhere else. Draw on your own experiences and include relevant statistics when appropriate.

2. Try Out the New Guys
Pinterest, Google Plus, Instagram, and even Vine are all now valid social media players. Investigate them all and try some of them out. You never know where you're going to gain your next social media stronghold.

3. Gauge Your Performance
If you're not tracking your performance, you won't know if your efforts are getting you anywhere. Implement Google Analytics and take a look at where your followers are coming from. You may find that it's not worth it to maintain a presence on some sites. Review and adjust your strategy based on that data.

4. Create an Interactive Experience
Social media by definition has an interactive aspect to it - don't miss out on this key point. Post polls or ask for votes and opinions. You may even want to consider hosting timely TweetChats, online virtual discussions held on Twitter. You moderate the discussion and lead your participants through the chat. It's a great way to find out how your efforts are perceived and what kinds of new content your followers may be looking for in the future.

5. Don't Automate
Automation does have its place in social media in terms of scheduling when your posts and tweets go out, but it's not wise to rely on it too heavily. Twitter users who spam their readers with constant, mindless content run the risk of getting "un-followed" because they clog up users' news feeds. Use automation only to the extent that it saves you time – do not use it to overwhelm your followers.

6. Listen
You can learn a lot about your followers and uncover ways to gain more of them simply by listening to what they are saying. Monitor your accounts regularly (or assign someone to do so) and be sure all comments receive a response. Even if you just thank someone for commenting, your reader is going to know that you care and that you're listening. If you receive any negative commentary, take it to heart and acknowledge that the comment was received and is being evaluated. If it's valid, put measures in place to ensure the mistake doesn't happen again. Social media is a broad undertaking, but if you devote the time to building relationships with your readers, your business is sure to gain traction.

Closing Thoughts
Social media is the way to go for marketing your small business, so it's important to get it right. If you don't think you have the necessary time to devote to your strategy, consider hiring an expert. Search Guru or Elance for qualified social media freelancers and you can save yourself the cost of a full-time employee. Social media marketing done the right way takes a lot of time and effort, so you have to be savvy enough to know when it's time to ask for help.

What are you doing to improve your social media presence?

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