In the early days of the consumer web--in the era of America Online-- SixDegrees became the first model of the modern social media network. It was followed by Friendster in 2002, and in 2003 we saw the launch of MySpace, which was the dominant social platform until Facebook began its quest for world domination in 2008.

Younger demographics came in droves to share and self-publish their innermost thoughts, likes, and dislikes. Now, with the proliferation of the mobile experience, people everywhere are publishing and sharing content no matter where they are.

In 2010, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt stated, "Every two days, we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003."

Social media is the largest contributor to that volume of content--Twitter users alone generate 21 million tweets per hour--and businesses have taken note.

Social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat have become more than just generic social spaces. They're a medium for promotion, advertising, and direct consumer engagement that Ecommerce companies of all sizes are leveraging to even the playing field against major brands and stay connected to an audience.

Like any kind of engagement with an audience, there's a right way and a wrong way to get the job done. If you're using or plan to use social media to engage your audience and drive traffic, keep these 10 commandments of proper social media use in mind.

1. Keep your eyes and ears open

Social media always starts with more listening and less talking. You have to be open to what your audience is saying as you engage in discussions in order to know what kind of content they're interested in.

Otherwise, you're 'that guy' at a social event that walks up to a group and just starts talking about yourself or your products without understanding the context of the discussion.

2. Stay focused

You've heard it said before: you can't please everyone. The same applies to your social media strategy. You cannot be all things to all people, and it's extremely difficult to engage everyone on every social network.

When you create your social media strategy, focus on just a few platforms that give you the most reach and engagement with the people most relevant to your products and your brand. It will be far easier to hit your goals with a focused strategy as opposed to a broader one.

3. Deliver only quality content

Quality always trumps quantity when you're publishing content. Your audience cares less about how much you share and more about what you share. It's also important to remember that they don't really care about your products. You will never gain traction if you're only promoting your products and posting sales.

4. Be patient

Success from social media marketing doesn't happen overnight. Growth (the kind you want) comes organically. You may get lucky enough to catch lightning in a bottle, but in most cases you have to build your following and engagement over the long-term.

Don't try to force the results, and don't expect money to be the answer. Purchasing engagement or followers is typically a short-term solution (and not recommended). Create a content strategy for social that delivers consistent quality, and the engagement will come.

"Think from a higher level and try to see beyond today,"says Ann Tran, co-creator of Influencer Chat. "Some hard work and insight will bring you to paths that will reward you so highly, it'll make the little inconvenience you incurred so worth it."

5. Leverage compounding

When you publish 10x content and share it across your social channels, you'll build your online followers. They, in turn, will share it to their own audiences through social media, as well as on their own blogs. This kind of engagement creates new points of entry as the shared content is indexed.

Your audience is compounding that top-of-funnel content, creating more ways for new leads to find their way into your Ecommerce funnel.

6. Leverage influence

It pays to take the time to discover influencers within your market or industry who have an audience all their own. That audience is likely to be interested in your products. Connect with influencers and build a relationship.

If you can get on their radar as a source for valuable information as well as quality products, they're far more likely to talk about you (and share your message/products) with their audience.

7. Focus on value

In every conversation you have, you need to focus on value. Your followers don't pay attention to your brand to see promotional posts and product images posted multiple times a day every single day. That will only make them tune you out.

Focus less on conversions, and more on creating superior content that helps you develop relationships with your audience. That value transforms a larger portion of your audience into brand ambassadors.

8. Acknowledge your fans

You wouldn't ignore someone who walked into your store to talk to you, so you certainly shouldn't treat your followers that way in social media. Respond to everyone (or as many as possible). That return engagement is one of the most important parts of social marketing, especially for an Ecommerce-based business where you don't have the opportunity to engage a customer face-to-face.

9. Be accessible to your followers

Don't treat social as a one-way platform by posting content and disappearing. Your audience is following you because they want to engage with you. Consistently publish quality content, then be there to participate in the discussions that erupt after. Your followers won't stick around if they feel like you're not paying attention.

10. Reciprocate--it's a give and take world

In social, you need to give as much as you want to take (if not more so). You can't expect people to share and talk you up if you're not willing to do the same. If you want people to promote your products and talk about your brand, then you need to be willing to give your followers shout-outs while you share and talk about their content. The same goes for influencers: share and talk about what they publish among your fans.

As Pam Moore, CEO of Marketing Nutz, says, "You can never go wrong by investing in communities and the human beings within them."

Are you taking the right approach with your social media marketing to incorporate all 10 of these commandments? Share your thoughts in the comments below:

Published on: May 16, 2016