Social media has far outgrown its infancy, and is presently emerging from adolescence into full maturity. Many businesses worldwide, including the majority of Fortune 1000 companies, are utilizing social media on a daily basis and view it as an important facet of their marketing mix and overall strategy.

Because of this emerging media, many tech-savvy, digitally inclined “experts” make a living providing guidance and best practices to organizations who want to know: “How do we leverage social media as a marketing tool?” Not a bad question to ask, and there is a lot of useful information out there.

But with the slew of advice and hundreds of thousands of blog posts about how to use social media for business, it’s easy to forget what social media is – a medium for people to interact and socialize with each other.

Social media provides a wonderful place for brands and business organizations to interact with prospects, partners, customers and even to address critics or unhappy customers. But if businesses focus solely on how social media will help improve their bottom line, they will inevitably end up viewing online social channels such as Facebook or Twitter like the marketplace: a space where they can set up shop and advertise their product or service using traditional methods. But those of us who’ve benefited from social media, whether for personal use or business, have seen that this doesn’t work; the majority use social media to be sociable, not to be victims of an intrusive hard sell.

Ultimately, social media works well for businesses only if they behave according to the unwritten rules put in place by the culture that existed in this online space long before businesses started getting involved.

If you really want your social marketing to be successful it must be, first and foremost, done in a way that is authentically sociable.

At Patterson, we thoroughly enjoy daily interaction with dental industry professionals from all over the world through this rapidly growing, ever-changing medium. And we applaud the large number of dental offices we interact with across these various platforms who are progressively learning to incorporate social media in their efforts to market their practices and connect with their customers.

Social media isn’t rocket science. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to approach and interact with others in this space.

In Part 2 we will look at some examples of how businesses use social media ineffectively. Stay tuned!

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