I oversee the Content and Social Media departments here at Overit. It’s a great gig and I’m lucky to have gotten it. I spend my days evangelizing the importance of integrating content and social into your marketing, breaking down how both can lead to better relationships and sales, and then, at the end of the day, I get to implement what we’ve spoken about and watch your triumphant fist pump when we’ve been successful for you.

My job doesn’t suck.

But it’s not all rainbows and sunshine, either. As far as businesses have come in understanding the importance of social, there are still hard conversations that must take place. Conversations that lay the foundation, set expectations and, sometimes, help clients understand what social is and what it is not.

Below are five things I wish clients understood about social media to get us all on the same page just a little bit faster.

1. Tactics Trump Tools

If there was one thing I could help all prospective clients understand it’s that Facebook isn’t your social media strategy. Your social strategy isn’t about specific status updates or follower counts or tweeting. It’s not about having a Pinterest account.

Your social media strategy is the actions, tools and plan you’re going to use to amplify your brand’s voice in the existing social conversation.

It’s your plan for how you’ll get your brand seen, shared and heard so it becomes a trusted part of consumer’s daily Web habit. That’s what our social media strategy planning is geared toward – building that. To put too much focus on the tools is really to miss the whole point of getting involved in the first place. The tactics really matter.

Whether you’re a small-, medium- or large-sized business, the How of your social media campaign is what will determine your success. That means understanding the types of content you should be creating, understanding influencer identification, creating the voice that’s going to tie it all together and so many other things. That’s what you need to iron out before you send a single tweet.

2. Investing in Social Means Investing in Content

Think of the brands often hailed for social media success.

Oreo & its effective (and genius) use of imagery and sound.

Home Depot’s tutorial content and sassy Richard The Cat brand character.

General Electric and it’s use of visuals to convey messaging (and a little fun).

What do they all have in common? They’re creating content to support the brand’s social media goals. Content that is designed to entertain, educate and which fosters the sharing activities they’re trying to encourage. They give us something to remember.

Don’t be cheap with your brand’s engagement. Invest in content and material that is worthy of being shared. Whether it’s an image, a video, an infographic, a whitepaper, case study, podcast, an app, a quirky jingle or Web-based game – give people something to share and associate with your brand. It’s hard to build engagement around a brand not doing anything. Bonnie Raitt knew what she was talking about.

3. Social Media Means Being Out of Control

Hey, I get it. No one likes being out of control. That’s why we abide by things like speed limits, social norms and alcohol tolerances. So I understand why, as a brand, allowing yourself to be out of control feels… wrong.

But giving up some control is good!

No, it doesn’t mean you have to go all Amy’s Baking Company on the Internet. Or that you have to turn your Twitter feed into a vulgar rant or create new swear words every day. It means you need to knock down the wall of BS that typically surround your company and become a real entity. To let your company be seen. To let people interact with you, to see your soft bits and to become relatable in a way that brands have been afraid to be relatable for a really long term.

I’m a huge fan of Tom Fishburne. This is a good example of why:

That? That is how way too many brands view social media. It’s also why they suck at it.

Don’t suck at social media. Realize that your brand has always been what your customers say, NOT what you say. So go give them something to talk about.

4. It Can’t Exist Alone

Perhaps what makes social media the trickiest of all is that you can’t hire a single person to just do it and then lock them in a closet. It’s not effective. Social media only works when it’s tied and incorporated into everything you’re doing.

  • That means content you create has to be optimized for social before a single word is written.
  • It means that app or iPhone game you create has to be developed for social sharing and gamification from the earliest stages.
  • It means your new logo design has to include social media consideration.

Social can’t be an afterthought and it can’t be something that is run independently. It must sit at the table with the rest of your marketing team.

5. Your Competitors’ Vanity Stats Don’t Matter

Can we just agree we won’t do this?

Stop obsessing over how many Facebook likes your competitor has. Don’t follow their Twitter numbers. And don’t stalk them on Instagram. Not only does this not help your efforts, it makes us feel sorry for you. Concentrate on what you’re doing, on your audience and engaging them. Success is not won in number. It’s won in conversions. Don’t assume that larger numbers mean more conversions or more engagements. They don’t. It’s the power of your army, not the size of it.

What do you wish we you knew about social media before you got started? Or, if you offer social media services, what’s the one thing you have to keep educating your clients about?