It was quite a while after the world embraced social media before I saw major ad companies start to realize what the rest of the population had known for a while: it was all kinds of awesome. When they did blow the dust off their keyboards and logged on, the proceeded to bombard the internet with old fashioned, annoying advertisements and commercials. While I’m sure this worked to a degree, it’s clear it did not go as they had planned.

They still find themselves at war with the internet (SOPA, PIPA, or ACTA) because they see the change… but don’t understand it. If you want to really make social media work in favor of your business, taking the time to understand will give you a leg up on and even help you beat out the big kids in the industry. Here’s a quick set of rules to get you going and get your business booming.

Rule 1: Word of Mouth is What It’s All About

I’ve heard the Internet described as the world’s largest water cooler. This is particularly true when it comes to marketing your product. Nobody is OK with being shouted at, particularly not to buy some random thing you weren’t even looking for. However, in a conversation where questions are asked, pertinent answers can be given, relationships are formed. That’s how it works.

This is how social media marketing works as well. If you want to be an effective social marketer, be yourself. Be conversational and casual. Your product is so good it sells itself right? Let it. Tell people about it in casual terms.

Make a movie showing what your product does to allow them to see the answers to most of their questions with their own eyes. Ask a repeat customer if they’d mind telling their friends where they made their purchase.

People rely on word of mouth more than commercials anyway because it comes from people they trust. They’ll know you have something of worth quicker than you’d think. It’s a matter of treating the internet like a lunch with friends rather than a super bowl spot.

Rule 2: If It’s On the Internet, It’s There Forever

We’ve all heard stories about people getting fired over a Facebook status or Tweet. What a lot of companies don’t understand is that, online, your company is viewed as just another individual in a way. What you say, how you say it, and what you don’t say is quickly analyzed and results in a certain type of image.

It needs to be as carefully cultivated as your personal appearance. Want your company to have a friendly, approachable feel? Market that way. Respond to personal inquiries with warmth and understanding and communicate casually with your clientele. Encourage discussion and suggestion on how you can improve… and listen to what they say.

Want to kill your social media campaign? Be annoying, offensive, rude, indifferent or preachy. Just like people in the real world, it turns out that nobody wants to hang out at a company website that promotes that kind of stuff either. Think before you post. I cannot emphasize this enough.

Rule 3: Knowledge is Power and Can Grow Your Business

There are hundreds of heavily used social media platforms out there. You have a business to run. How in the world are you supposed to keep track of all of them, much less establish a presence for your company on them?

The answer is that you don’t. Let 90% of them slide because they aren’t remotely related to what you do. You are enabled as never before to reach the people looking for your product. Focus on them and the sites they frequent. Sometimes that is hard to determine because there are numerous sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) that cover a variety of demographics.

You should definitely consider finding a more complete social media marketing tutorial online or a training course through a company that specializes in the industry. Before you buy, use the internet they claim to know all about to verify the effectiveness of their work.

Are their ads, posts, and videos annoying as all get out? If so, head elsewhere because your customers will think they are too. Do they peak your interest and drive you forward? You’ve found a keeper. They’ll all claim to be industry innovators, and that sound very shiny, but remember. Their “innovation” needs to reflect your identity as a company and your relationship with your clients.

So there you have it: the three basic rules for social media marketing. And “Wow!” I wish more people followed them. My lists of blocked advert posts are getting pretty extensive.