We know there are skeptics out there with respect to the value and efficacy of social media. Many understand that having a presence across social media platforms that are relevant to your industry is imperative to being competitive, in this day and age; however, time and time again we listen to complaints from business owners that social media is, at best, a necessary evil. If you’ve struggled with this same sense of social media torment, you just don’t get it. Once you begin to approach social media for the social forum that it is, you understand that manners matter. There are, in fact, people behind twitter handles and profile pictures. Once you start nurturing those relationships in the same way you would your personal friends and family, you start winning on social media. A common practice on Twitter is to send an automated direct message to thank new followers for connecting. Well-intentioned business owners and community managers believe that, because checking in with each new individual would be an unrealistic time constraint, the automated message is a suitable introduction. Often, the message is accompanied by a request, such as “Like our Facebook page.” What’s more, is without having followed back before the automated message is sent out, your new connection will not even be able to respond to you. I liken this activity to walking into a networking event and passing out a business card without making an effort to engage with potential contacts on any genuine level. Even more, you’ve asked for a favor without legitimizing yourself. The relationship is immediately perceived as one-sided. A better practice would be to make an effort to engage with people for whom you can actually provide value. Rather than trying to connect with every individual, spend time cultivating meaningful relationships in the same way you would in person. As a brand, you have to become part of the conversation within and about your industry. Simply broadcasting status updates is not sufficient. Look for opportunities to engage with your target demographic; cultivate and leverage your relationships with industry influencers; and, simply, be a human.