The internet is full of articles singing the praises of social media. “It’s the most important thing ever for businesses. If you have it, your company will become bigger than Google; if you don’t, you’ll disappear faster than (remember them?) and have to move back in with your parents.”

Let’s set the record straight. Can social media help your business make a name for itself, gain new clients, and forge relationships? Yes. Should you jump in with both feet even if you don’t understand social media so your company can become an overnight success? No. That’s not going to happen.

Social media is a tool, and like any other tool, you need to understand how it works or you might embarrass your company. After all, you wouldn’t try to use a nail gun without knowing how to use it, right? I hope the answer is no, or at least that I’m nowhere near you the next time you find a nail gun.

Before you begin your business’s journey into the world of social media, here are 10 important things everyone should know.

1. Ditch the hard sell. If the only things you post on your Twitter feed, Facebook page, or blog are announcements about new sales, products, and services, no one will follow you.

2. Keep the content coming. Companies who are successful in social media put out a continuous stream of quality content that allows them to steadily grow their fanbase, gain trust, and strengthen the brand. Only updating your Facebook or Twitter accounts once a week just doesn’t cut it.

3. Don’t drown your audience. The flip side of that coin is that you shouldn’t be overzealous in your posts and updates. If people are getting several notifications from you every day, it might turn them off and lose you fans.

4. It won’t happen overnight. Social media doesn’t work like a TV or radio commercial where millions may hear or see it each time it airs (and where you’ll pay for that privilege). Growth will occur due to word-of-mouth and through you seeking out fans and followers who have similar interests related to what your company does. Give it time and keep at it.

5. Look beyond the big boys. Everyone needs to be on Facebook and Twitter, and starting a company blog is always a smart move, but there’s a lot more out there. It’s important that you look for social networks that seem to reflect your audience. Pinterest is great for companies that have amazing visual content. Seeking dog owners? Join Dogster. Whatever your niche is, there’s usually a social network close by.

6. It’s time consuming. Generally speaking, businesses that want to stay top of mind with their audience should post at least 2 to 3 times per week on their blog and each of their social networks. Already you’re looking at several hours a week of blogging, and that’s not counting monitoring and responding to comments. Businesses that really dive into social media often find it’s worth the money to dedicate someone to the task. Because of this…

7. Social media isn’t free. Perhaps the previous tip makes this obvious, but I think it’s worth saying directly. Even though it doesn’t cost money to join social networks or start a blog, at the very least you’re “paying” with your time.

8. Be human. With so many things competing for our attention, it can be difficult for your business to stand out. People tend to respond better when they feel a human connection, so don’t be afraid to have a personality and even share your personal story.

9. Use multimedia. The beauty of social media (and the internet in general) is that it can incorporate all other kinds of media. Rather than just posting text, share pictures, put together infographics, and even post videos on your blog and social media feeds.

10. Remember: you’re a unique snowflake. The key to using social media well is to hone in on what makes your business different and focus on that. If you don’t feel like you’re finding that sweet spot yourself, it might be worth the money to consult with a social media expert.

Josh Weiss-Roessler is a freelance writer and small business marketing consultant based in Los Angeles. He’s also a contributor to Resume Builder Online and a professional resume editor. You can learn more about his work at