Social media will continue to expand its scope this year and the best web marketers will position themselves to compete in the social sphere.  With platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ continuing to add active users by the millions, online marketing teams would be unwise to ignore social networking sites.

Not only do these networks provide direct interaction with potential and existing customers, but they also help in improving results on the major search engines.

Here are our top 10 social media strategy suggestions for the New Year.

1. Create your own content — While it is easier to share articles, photos, videos and other multimedia created by others, it is significantly more effective to create and share your own content. When you share other content, you do create advantages by offering your community members something of value. The content also provides an opportunity for you to interact with others in your network. However, when you create and share your own content, if people click on the item, they land back on your social media profile rather than someone else’s.
2. Get personal with videos – A video in which you talk directly to others in your network is a create way to strike up a more personal relationship with your online contacts. Using this approach is particularly effective if you never have a chance to meet personally with certain people in your social media communities. When you look directly into the web camera, it is very similar to looking someone directly in the eye in person and it creates a more meaningful interaction.
3. Practice makes perfect – While you may be slightly horrified with your first attempt at a self-made video, do not get discouraged. Use web tutorials that teach how to produce high quality videos for sites like YouTube and Facebook. Background and ambient lighting is important and you may want to consider using makeup just like the professionals. Another option is to have professional videographers help you in creating the videos.
4. Encourage sharing of your content – Every time that you share your own or other people’s content on social media platforms include a call to action with the posting. Make this a conditional request, i.e., “Like and share if you agree,” or “Please retweet if you want action on this matter!” Studies show that you are much more likely to get responses when you ask for them directly. In addition to asking others to like, favorite or share your content, also ask for comments on your postings particularly if you are sharing self-created content.
5. Include links with your content — When you create your own content, be sure to include a link back to your main website to related material that might be of interest to your friends and other online community members. Do not link back directly to product or marketing pages, but allow your friends to find these links indirectly by including them on informational web pages that do not solicit directly.
6. Get involved in the community and in good causes – Take some time to participate or lead on matters that have nothing to do with your business, but instead help by giving back to the community or to society. These types of campaigns help generate good will among other community members. They also give you a chance to interact with others in a way that can lead to stronger relationships and that can provide benefits that go beyond just your business interests.
7. Promote content of special friends – Build special relationships with targeted members of your online community by promoting their content, websites, etc. Pick these friends carefully based on their ability of reciprocating by also promoting your own business. You will notice these people, as they always seem to return favors that others do for them online. Most social media platforms have algorithms that notice heavy interaction between users and this helps in promoting your content on the right newsfeeds.
8. Create events and post them on social media – For local connections, it is a good idea to create special offline events and to invite your local online friends to participate. In this way, you give people who have only met online, a chance to interact in person. With this approach, you also help to establish yourself as an online and offline networking leader. Social media platforms also typically allow you to invite people to other events for which you have an invitation or in which the organizers add you as a host.
9. Provide free stuff – The one type of direct marketing approach that you can usually get away with without anyone thinking you are “spamming,” is giving away free stuff. Since you are not asking for anything, people usually do not mind this approach and you can include marketing messages on the giveaways.
10. Be helpful – When members of your social media networks express the need for help in certain matters, try to assist when you can. Obviously, you want to limit what you do in his regard, but helping people with matters from computer glitches to tax form problems will help you in breaking down barriers.