I speak about social networks, social media, viral marketing, yada yada, all the time and figured it was time to use my pulpit to dispel lots of the myths and bullshit we’re seeing out on the web these days. So here are my top five things you need to know when you’re getting started with social media. The intent of this is also to teach you sound business advice in addition to providing you with a solid web marketing background.

1. Social media is not your end solution.
If your business plan’s marketing/user-acquisition/business development section says anything like “we’ll use social media to engage/capture new users,” then you need to light that sucker on fire. Burn that shit. That is the vaguest line of bull you’ve likely written in ages. You’ve got to understand that social media should be a component of your overall strategy, not the entire strategy.

2. Social media is about evolving your business communications
Right from the get go you need to understand the premise of how social media has shifted communications so radically. It has changed your communications from being a largely mono-directional system to a bi-directional or multi-directional tool. Forget ever being able to solely talk down to your customers. That shit is over with. Seriously. You now have to learn to listen as much as you talk.

3. Quit ignoring your customers and start embracing them.
Jason Fried of 37signals fame once quipped that you should ignore your customers ideas and suggestions. This my friends is some seriously short-sighted advice. He probably meant you shouldn’t pivot at every customer request, as they haven’t been validated (from a business perspective), but you have to keep track of them and acknowledge them to those customers. It has never been easier to get instant feedback and instant advice from your customers, so take advantage!

4. Don’t dive headfirst without looking
Do some research before you launch your campaign. Do what you would do in business, research the competition, research the tools, and weigh your options. Treat these decisions as you would a big software purchase (because it is), and make sure you find what is the best fit for you. These products may be largely free to use, but if you end up wasting your time on things that may be a bad fit, they can be more costly than your previous alternatives.

5. Set yourself some goals.
You’d be amazed at how many people have no goals in their heads for their social media campaigns. Without a goal/objective, how are you going to plan for getting there? Say you want 5000 facebook fans to your company fan page. How do you get to them? What are the steps you need to take in order to get those first 500? Set goals, and plan out your strategy to get there.

So what’d I just do there? I gave you 5 social media tips that are really just business tips didn’t I? Think about that.