From the July 2012 issue of Entrepreneur

Its Not a Popularity Contest

Pinterest. It's the it social media site. Or, at least, it was back in March. There have probably been four other it sites since then. Feeling pulled this way and that by the latest and (supposedly) greatest social media channel? Remember: While you don't want to miss out on the action, don't waste time with the Next Big Thing unless it's also The Right Thing. With that in mind, here are some guidelines for making the most of your social media minutes.

Snoop. Ignore the chatter about how much web traffic a certain site is receiving each month, and take a look at what your competition is really doing. Poke around online to find out which sites work best for others in your industry. Spend time observing now, and you'll spend less time backpedaling from the latest social fad later.

Answer these questions about your competition's efforts:

  • Are customers interacting with the profiles?
  • What kinds of posts receive themost traction or response?
  • How can you emulate your competitors' best social media practices to benefit your customers?

Consider your team. Once you have a social media strategy in mind, figure out which staffers will be your company's voice for each channel. Every social site has a distinct rhythm and personality. Which member of your team can get right to the point on Twitter? Who would excel on the visual channels, like Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr? Is there a department best suited to handling Facebook's round-the-clock conversation? Make the most of your team members' personalities. Some folks are more comfortable with certain social media platforms than with others.

Ask yourself:

  • Who's the best personality fit for each platform?
  • Does my team have the bandwidth to effectively manage every social presence we want to build?
  • If bandwidth is an issue, how do we prioritize our social efforts?

Commit to your choices--but know when to pull the plug. Your strategy and team are in place. Now, commit to that plan, a time frame and some goals.

Don't just putter along willy-nilly, hoping what you've built will work. Commitment is about saying, "We will do this, but within these bounds." You have to measure your social media efforts to make sure they're working.

Consider these questions:

  • Do we have clearly established goals and timelines?
  • Are we trying to force our customers to use a site simply because we're in love with it (though they don't seem to be)?
  • When should we cut bait and end a particular social effort?

Snooping, team building and committing to the process will lead to more productive and focused social efforts. Everything you do should feel natural for your company and your customers. Pinterest and Twitter just might not be it for your company--and that's OK. Take the time to find your rhythm, and your customers will respond.