It’s almost a wrap on 2013, so it’s time to reflect on how you’ve used social media over the past year and look ahead to effectively using your channels in 2014.

Two of the biggest rural social media issues I see on a weekly basis are the users who are discouraged or start-and-stop users (ie. they tweet a few posts one week, and then let their account go dormant for several weeks before they post again).

Here are my top 10 tips for making better use of social media in the coming year:

1. Beat the cramp! When you have social media cramp (yup, the same affliction as writer’s cramp!), post items that celebrate your community. It can be praise. It can be observations. Being a community champion usually draws in other users and retweets.

2. Stop trying to be on every social media platform! Do up to three platforms. And do them well.

3. Your Facebook cover photo is a built-in billboard. Start being creative! That’s a lot of space that is wasted when you don’t change it and utilize the opportunities.

4. Stop the push marketing on Twitter and Facebook. Start thinking social. Start thinking conversation. Start thinking about bringing your audience into an experience that makes them feel a connection. When you do these well, the spinoff is earned business because people like you!

5. Develop your story! You have a story that intimately connects you to what you do. Big Box stores don’t have these unique stories. You do. Develop it. And plan your social media strategy around that story. Your story will make your audience gravitate to you.

6. Stop focusing on posting links upon links upon links. People who do this are nothing more than serial share robots. Just sharing links gives audiences no insights into you. Audiences are following you because they are interested in you. Links are secondary to the real you.

7. Be human. Use your true voice. Have a personality. In other words, the person we see on social media should be what your audience will experience in person. Stop coming across like a press release or a guy/gal stuffed with marketing schtick.

8. Have a social media plan. Yes, an actual plan. You should have a goal, a story that you want to tell as the overall connecting theme, and clear strategies to see traffic through your doors as a result of social media.

9. Create time. Even if it is the same time every day. Put aside a block, however much time you can spare, and commit to it. Stop saying you have no time. Social media is now just the same as answering the telephone or checking emails. It is no longer optional (yet so many businesses and organizations still think that way!).

10. Think about an even balance between posts, replies and engagement. When you do all three, you clearly show the ‘social’ in your social media use. It will also help you grow your audiences far faster than people who just post items and do no engagement.