12/20/2011 06:09 pm ET | Updated Feb 19, 2012

Putting the Social Into Social Media

When you meet people in real life, whether in the boardroom, at a conference or in a networking meeting, you (hopefully) don't walk in wearing a sandwich board or pushing a trolleyful of products and shouting 'BUY MY STUFF!'

Equally, you don't behave the same way as you would at home having a pillow-fight with your kids, or curled up on the sofa with your beloved or playing charades at your best friend's dinner party.

When you are representing your business, you exhibit a certain set of professional behaviors. However, you might also chat about the weather, or the journey or the football or what was on TV last night.

Basically, you are sharing stuff about your life, views and feelings with other people, some of whom may be strangers.

You're usually trying to make them like you, know you, trust you and understand you. And when people like you, they buy from your business or recommend you to their friends.

Mind you, part of your objective may be to filter out those who are not on your wavelength. Relax and let them go somewhere else. They'd only be hassles anyway.

So, what does that have to do with your social media content strategy? Well, if social media are media that are social, i.e. media that allow for interaction, you can take the same approach. Simply share the same kind of chit-chat online as you would when face-to-face.

In my own content strategy I'm quite clear about what's appropriate to include and what's not. Because my brand is about helping small and medium businesses to communicate better and so sell more, I'll write about marketing, networking, social media and business writing. I'll also link to general interest photos or videos, wordy humor and examples of great (or appalling) graphic design. [Aside: More people will click to read the world's worst whatever than the world's best whatever.] I might mention new software that I recommend, some local news to attract local followers, or an event I've attended to attract fellow attendees. I won't usually engage in discussions about topics such as politics, climate change or sport, as that would dilute my brand.

Note that for security reasons I draw a line between sharing my personality online and sharing my personal life. Some people draw the line in a different place. For example, they'll talk about their kids or where they're going that night. For me, I'll only post a photo or write online about someone else with their permission (although I might say more face-to-face, especially over a glass of something chilled!) and, for security reasons, I'll only tell people where I've been rather than where I'm going.

Mixed in with status updates about business, such as press releases, hints and tips, useful links and testimonials, you can share your personal information in the hope of turning strangers into friends, fans and followers. And that's what makes social media social.