As social media has become a form of mainstream communication and marketing, small businesses and professionals , driven by their desire to be relevant a forward thinking, have become enamored of Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and more recently Pinterest. Fueled by people that claim that Social media Marketing is the next greatest thing, and aided by hyperbole about “game changers” and “thought leaders” who trumpet warnings that without social media, you will be out of business, or even worse irrelevant in the years to come. To all of them I say “Nonsense – Stop wasting your time on social media and worry more about your business and less about the shape of the tools you use to move your business forward. And when I say social media, I mean the entire interactive online universe where people interact , not just the larger three or four channels I mentioned above. Don’t think for a moment that I am not a proponent of social media. I’m not only the CEO of company with the words Social Media in its name, but I’m an engaged participant in social media, to advance relationships in my personal life, advance my personal business goals, and to further my company mission and vision. Properly employed, I think that we have magnificent platforms for communication and the amplification of voices, both personal and business that have existed in the history of mankind, but like anything else, a tool that is used poorly or improperly can’t save the workman from creating a poor product. The key to all of this however is that you need to be thoughtful about what , when and how you engage. My social media involvement and yours are probably not the same. You and I might need to be on different channels, have different interest, different goals, and different communities we want to interact with. In fact, our interaction in the communities where we intersect might not even look the same. But we do have several things in common, and if you keep them in mind, you will stop wasting your time on social media and begin to see your desired results. 1. Define Your Community and then find them – Know who you want to reach and then find where they are. Those are the channels you need to use to reach them. Today’s consumers want to be reached when they want, where they want, in the manner they want. Remember that and you are more than halfway home when you want to reach them. 2. Have a purpose – Being on Facebook to stay in touch with friends and family is a great purpose – possibly not a business purpose, but a great purpose nonetheless. Any social media engagement should have a purpose. Are you trying to drive traffic to your company website? Do you want to increase your business profile? Do you want people to think of you as a trusted advisor in your field? Do you want your business to be identified with a local community? Do you want to fund raise for a local charity? All important purposes, all achievable through effective social media engagement. 3. Have a strategy- random postings on Facebook, sporadic tweets, self-serving hyperbole are less self-serving and more self-destructive. This is a permanent record of engagement and “ready, fire aim” is a fool proof way to damage your public image. 4. Review Analyze and Refine and don’t get distracted by shiny objects. every great new thing is new, not necessarily great for your purpose, but keep reviewing and seeing how your social media plan is working. Any good plan requires revision periodically, and with the speed of social media engagement, continual analysis and revision as needed is crucial. And here’s the neat part – since you had a measurable purpose and goal, its easy to see if you’re reaching it? Simple right? Easy as that, you’re ready to stop wasting your time on social media and start being more effective right away.