Yesterday, I was fortunate to have a long conversation with a good friend from high school that I haven’t seen or spoken with in many years. And yes I’m sure it comes as no surprise that we reconnected via a social network; in this case it was the Professional Social Network, LinkedIn. He was reading a few of my blog posts that I share on my LinkedIn page and realized there could be opportunities for us to help one another. Our conversation took place over the phone, and after reliving the glory days, our conversation turned towards social media marketing. As a marketing agency founder and CEO, he understands the fundamentals of how social media works, however was not able to comprehend how his clients could benefit financially from creating a social media presence. In fact his comment was, “I understand that you can build a following on social networks, but I’m not convinced, or sure it can add revenue or profit for my clients”. To be honest, I was a little surprised with the statement. Although I’ve heard the same comment about social media from prospective clients every day since social media has become relevant and mainstream, I didn’t realize that marketing agents that primarily work with traditional media felt the same way.It’s funny, when you ask a small business owner who doesn’t believe social media will work for them… What’s the most cost-effective way to generate new business? A majority of them will tell you word-of-mouth advertising. Well, today, social media is the equivalent to word-of-mouth advertising on steroids!So, How Can Social Media Add Value To My Bottom Line? First and foremost, any business looking to create a social media presence needs to have a strategy or a plan. Understand that to be successful; it takes a commitment of resources to support all of the activities on an ongoing basis. If you’re not able to allocate the proper resources, then hire a professional social media consultant to create a strategy, policy, and assist in managing the plan. In fact, before we partner with a client on a social media project, we always perform an assessment to determine the company’s level of readiness in marketing their business using social media.Keep It Relevant And Share What You KnowBy focusing your efforts on what you know best, your passion will shine through and engage others. This will create more value for your followers and bring them back more often. Provide interesting and useful information, and share your personal ideas and perspectives that may enlighten and inspire others. Your own “brand” and your association with your company are the result of what you share and how you share it. Always add more value than you extract. At Monster.com, they follow the 80-20 rule, which means 80% of the conversation should be about anything other than me or my brand, and 20% is about me or my brand. Remember, it’s about your audience. So, solicit topics from your audience and keep them engaged in the conversation. This will help in expanding your brand and bringing their friends and/or followers along with them. Invite your customers and members of your team to participate. Inviting others to contribute enables you to have meaningful dialogue. If those who are interested in your subject matter have an opportunity to take part, they begin taking ownership and give even more. Remember, social media is a two-way conversation.Stop Marketing And Start EngagingMeet your objectives by not selling. One of the more compelling reasons companies fail is because they use the platform to try selling instead of creating value first. For consumers, this is the single biggest turn-off with businesses using social media. Start by engaging your audience with conversation and by offering value to your followers. Once this is accomplished, they’ll begin requesting information and wanting to use your products and services that you recommend. If you deliver value, you’ll start seeing your Twitter followers and Facebook fans become customers.In closing, I strongly believe it should be an integral part of most companies’ marketing portfolio. It should complement other marketing efforts including, industry events, press releases, blogs, your website, and many others. In the end, if created and managed properly it can and will drive positive results to your bottom line.