Pointer #1: You need a strategy. What are your goals? What do hope to get out of your social media efforts, what are you willing to put into it, and how will you measure the results? Hint: Don't think of your social media efforts in isolation. Make social networking part of your overall marketing, PR, and customer support plans. Pointer #2: You need to measure everything you're doing. It's not enough to look at just your Twitter followers or Facebook likes; you need to take a holistic approach to tracking and measuring your efforts. And tracking is the easy part. The hard part is actually using that data to drive your business decisions. Hint: Pay attention to whatever moves the needle. If that's what your customers care about, then it's what you should care about, too. Pointer #3: You need the right tools. While social media sites provide tools to manage and monitor what you’re doing, there are also many third-party tools that can make the process easier and more intelligent. Top choices range from HootSuite (which makes it easy to manage multiple social media profiles) to Klout (which can help determine your online influence, as well as that of the folks you’re talking with). For more, check out the many online lists of social media tools. Hint: Many of these tools are free, but some require a bit of investment. Remember, though, that software and services are almost Pointer #4: Etiquette Matters. It's a conversation, not a speech. Listen first, talk later. Respond when someone talks to you. Be nice. Be open and honest. Be who you say you are, and don't hide your motives. Hint: Getting mad -- no matter how justified your anger -- never turns out well in the social media sphere. Pointer #5: Success takes time and consistent effort. Probably more than you think. Successful social networking can take months or even years to bear fruit. But quitting isn't really an option. These days, social media is a necessary cost of doing business, even if you can't tie specific results to it. The owner of a small film-production house told me that for all his tweets and blogs and Facebook posts, he couldn't point to a single customer gained via those media. But he also said that if he didn't do those things, his customers and peers would notice, and his operation would be perceived as less connected and less professional. Hint: Take a long-term approach. Tie metrics to strategic goals, not tactical concerns. Pointer #6: You need to leverage your team, not try to control them. For most small businesses, your best social media asset is your committed and knowledgeable employees. You need to empower them to spread the word, not lock them out of the conversation. Hint: Some people have a knack for social networking. Others have to work at it. Find yourself a "natural" to lead the social media charge for your company. Pointer #7: It's not all about you or your company. It's about your customers, and their interests and concerns. Find where they're talking about what your firm does, even if the conversation never mentions your company, and contribute -- without shilling or trying to turn the conversation in your favor. Hint: Pay it forward. Start by helping others any way you can, and add your marketing messages only after you've established credibility in the community. Pointer #8: Be prepared for trouble. It's not all milk and honey out there in social media land. There are plenty of online trolls looking to stir up trouble, and they don't necessarily care whether their complaints are true or not. You need to have a plan in place for dealing with disaster, whether it's unjustified online attacks or social media blowback from real-world problems. Hint: Denial doesn't work. If something bad is happening to you out there, you need to proactively engage with it. You may not be able to solve the problem, but at least you can hope to shape the dialogue. Pointer #9: Don't go overboard. As one small business owner explained to me a while ago, social networking can easily turn into Social NOT-working -- a waste of valuable resources. Hint: Social media is hot, and it's worth investing time and money. But make sure you're getting the results you expect before you commit major resources.