When it comes social media strategy, many companies are making possibly fatal mistakes, says Chris Brogan, bestselling author of the newly-published The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth: Entrepreneurship for Weirdos, Misfits, and World Dominators.

According to Chris, some companies don't understand that unless their hosting their own social network, they're only "renting" a web presence. "Here's a hint: if something is "free," you're paying somehow."

A friend of mine, a small press, learned that lesson the hard way recently, when he started depending heavily upon Facebook to attract book buyers. "Facebook suddenly changed the rules and now I had to pay for traffic or watch my customer base disappear."

Since you don't have control over changes in policy and pricing on popular social networks, Chris advises that you "[d]on't count on them for business, lest you find yourself without any business."

Another challenge that businesses face is using social media for broadcasting rather than communicating.  "Communications is the act of getting your word out, partly, but also getting a good read of what others are doing, what they care about, and how you can serve their needs," Chris explains.

Another misconception about social networking is that it's too late to get started. Chris believes that this fear "is much ado about nothing [because] people are making all kinds of business success online."

A final problem with social networking lies in the follow-through--how your employees behave as compared to the image or profile that you're cultivating.

"Workplaces are overloaded with inane measurements and underloaded with integrity around the clarity and commitment to company vision," Chris explains.  "If you want your employees to lead with excellence, you've got to better live the company's vision through and through at every turn, not just when it's convenient."

A quick summary of what I learned from Chris:

  • Don't bet your business on social networking.
  • Use social networking for two-way communication.
  • If you're not using social networking, start now.
  • Don't just use the tools, learn to use them effectively.
  • Walk the walk; don't just talk the walk.

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