If you are new to social media it can all be overwhelming. Circles, Tweets, Friends, Followers, oh my!  Here are a few tips to get your foray into social media marketing off on the right foot.

1.  Choose your social media network

Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest are some of the big names right now. However are they right for you?  If your clients or customers do not use Twitter, it would be best to put the time and resources into another area.  The time to decide what network(s) to use is now, before you put any time and effort into them. Pick a network based on the needs of your brand and where you will be able to best reach out to your customers, fans, or clients. A very visual brand might favor Pinterest, a brand with many videos should consider YouTube.

2. Start building your fan base

Or make friends! Getting followers in a social network setting is similar to making friends in real life. Reach out, start engaging with people where they are hanging out. For example on Twitter, start following notable individuals or groups in your industry, especially ones you may already know in real life. Start a conversation with them, start Tweeting.

3. Share!

If you spend any time on the internet at all you will probably find funny, awesome, neat or otherwise cool things you want to share with someone.  Share it with your followers! As in real life you don't want people to only talk about themselves, so share things that aren't directly about you. Share industry news, the cool new meme, or just a neat resource you found.  A good rule of thumb is 80% other people's things, 20% about yourself or your brand. While sharing is great, don't forget to ask for responses from your fans.  Include people, let them engage with your brand. That's why you are on social media in the first place!

4. Be Committed

Growing a fan base doesn't happen overnight. You have to be committed to keeping up your social media account(s).  This is where tip #1 comes in to play, if you only have the resources to manage 1 account just use 1 account. It's better to have one well chosen and awesome account than 2 accounts that you don't have time for. Abandoned accounts don't do anything to help you, and could even hurt your brand.  Also, have a plan for your social media campaigns. This includes laying out what you want to accomplish, marks to meet, and what to do if you encounter trouble.

5. Be a good social network citizen

This means following the TOS of the social networks you are on as well as the unwritten rules and customs of a social network.  For example using appropriate abbreviations on Twitter, like RT and MT.  Not using hashtags on Facebook, and not spamming people.

6. Listen

Listen to your fans! Especially when they have comments, questions and issues.  No responses may make it appear that your brand doesn't care. Remember social media is another outlet for you to show the public what your brand is all about. Would you ignore a customer in your shop? No? Then don't ignore their question on your Facebook Page's wall. Make sure your responses are appropriate and timely.

7. Evaluate

Never forget to evaluate your social media experience. There's no sense in doing what doesn't work. Learn from your mistakes and never stop trying to improve.

8. Be Yourself

Lastly, be yourself. Social media is an extension of your brand. Let your brand's unique voice shine through. This is what makes your brand special to begin with and why customers, clients or fans love you. Give the social networking world the same brand you show the off line world.

Social media doesn't have to be an overwhelming experience.  Let these 8 tips help you along the pathway to social media success.  Do you have any other tips to share? Please let us know in the comments! We'd love to hear them!