Whether you like it or not, social media is here to stay. If you want to grow your client list, you really have no choice but to participate. According to an October 2011 study by the Small Business Authority, 57 percent of sales professionals use social media to connect with new prospects. Fifty-eight percent use it to keep in touch with current and past clients.

Hammering out a social media strategy is not always easy. Below are some of the biggest missteps to avoid on your way to social-media marketing success.

Creating profiles and never using them. You created profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. You filled in the basics then became too busy to ever go back again.

This is a huge mistake. These days, many professionals are in the habit of searching for people on the Internet before ever meeting them. They find that social media offers insights into a person and his or her business practices. If they find that you have nothing but a series of empty and neglected social-media profiles, they may conclude that you are not serious about what you do.

No one expects you to spend hours a day on social networking profiles. After all, you have to generate leads, follow up with potential clients and build your book of business. However, five minutes a day is something you can spare. That is really all you need. You can even schedule your main updates ahead of time with applications such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite.

Being too stiff. Face to face, you are a warm, engaging person and a great listener. These are the traits that make you a successful insurance salesperson. Your social media accounts, on the other hand, are full of stiff and boring updates devoid of personality.

Social media is an opportunity to share your voice with a wider audience than ever, as well as to stay connected to important people. Therefore, make sure your social-media accounts reflect the unique “voice” that helps you close deals in person.

Using social media as a venue for the “hard sell.” The biggest mistake made with business social-media pages is seeing them as a venue for a hard sell. That is not what social media is about. It is about developing the relationships you need to attract clients. Using your Twitter account to blast a stream of hard-sell messages is considered spamming. Save the selling for your first sales meeting.

If you haven’t already, consider adding social media to your marketing calendar and it will soon become an integral part of your overall marketing strategy.

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John Pojeta is the director of business development for PT Marketing, which provides high-quality business-to-business appointment setting for insurance professionals and financial advisors. For more information visit www.ptmarketing.com