As someone who’s business revolves around social media, I have a lot of gratitude for all the various platforms have to offer. But it’s not just me that’s grateful. Vast fortunes are being made by the platforms and their advertisers.

These fortunes are made ‘in theory’ by providing you, the ‘consumer’ with the content you like, as often as possible. They do this so you’ll stay on the platform as long as possible consuming and being ‘influenced’ by as many ads as possible.

For most people, social media is ‘leisure’. It’s a recreational use of time. This is as true of Linkedin as it is Instagram or Youtube. Using leisure time for leisure activities is fine – it’s a free country. But this is business and leisure has no place in it.

The way most people use social media is as consumers. They open the platform and start scrolling. It’s intentionally addictive and it’s easy to lose hours once you start. That’s not happening by accident.

Most business owners will have heard the call, “You need to get on social media” and then jumped in and what happens? They get caught up the fast flowing warm and entertaining waters of ‘Scroll River’. Time passes and they achieve nothing.

They are consumers. And consumption is not helping you as a business owner in any way. It’s killing your business.

If you want social media to work for your business you need to treat it like a loaded gun. With care, respect and the understanding that it can blow your foot off ( from a productivity perspective ) with just a momentary lapse of concentration.

When you work with a gun, loaded or not, there are working practises to keep you safe. So let’s look at a few basic practises which will allow you to take charge and start participating and stop consuming.

Being intentional about how and why you open any app or site is the first place to start. Opening any app just to see what’s happening is against the rules.

Practise 1 – Don’t open apps without a very good reason.

The platforms all make this hard. They tempt us with notifications and it’s hard to know what notifications are baiting us and which matter. Open the notification settings on every app and platform and turn as many of them off as you can handle. The only notifications you need are :

Someone is sending you a message.

Someone is engaging with your content.

Everything else is a distraction so turn it off.

Practise 2 – Create. Don’t consume.

The only very good reason to open a social media app or site is to contribute. To post content you created. If you are on social media for business then you don’t need to scroll. You need to create content ( away from the platform ) and then post it for ‘others’ to consume.

Practise 3 – Engage with people, not content.

Social media and social networks give us a big clue as to what can work really well. Be sociable. But do it on your terms and be intentional about it. Set times for it that same as you would for booking networking events or meetings.

DANGER : You could easily take rule three as permission to jump in and waste your time again. These practices need to be worked through in order. Get your content game on first.

Practise 4 – Learn the Ad tools.

Getting some basic orientation on how the ad systems work on a couple of the platforms can really give you some super powers. Most of the platforms are great value from an advertising perspective and more effective than any other kind of advertising you can buy.

Social media platforms spend millions hiring psychologists, biologists, designers and all kinds of nerds just to find ways to make you keep the apps open a little longer.

This can work for your business by making sure your content is there for people to consume. But it can far more easily work against you by sucking your time and your attention.

Success in social media marketing depends on the four practises I’ve outlined above. They’re a set of disciplines which for most people just don’t matter. But for a business owner, they are critical to success.

As Gary Vaynerchuck said ( and I know I say this a lot ). Every business should be 80% whatever it is they do for money and 20% media company. Time is the most valuable thing we have and with these practises I want to help you save as much of it as you can for creating great content which helps you cut through. Not fooling yourself into thinking that you’re active on social media.

If you follow these practises you’ll very quickly discover your social media superpowers.

About Bob Gentle

I work with businesses of all sizes on digital marketing, host the Amplify digital marketing entrepreneur podcast and work with entrepreneurs to help them amplify their business online.