Have you ever noticed you are no longer in control of your customer discussion?? You can't tell them what to say, when to say it or where to say it. Instead they are talking about you, your brand and your products regardless of if you ask them or even want them to or not.

Social Media: Media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques.
*Note key word is INTERACTION.

Interaction: the act of some things interacting, or acting upon one another; A conversation or exchange between people.
*Note it's about TWO people, not just ONE!

Social Media Engagement: To interact, participate, to share information to recipripocate.
*Engagement measures the extent to which a consumer has a meaningful brand experience when exposed to commercial advertising, sponsorship, television contact, or other experience.

The tables have turned, the consumer is now in control. The best thing you can do is get in the game.

Pull off the boring avatars and pull out the real you. Be your brand. Stand on your fruit box and tell the world you exist! PARTICIPATE in the dialogue… lead it… join in and provide value. Build your community, build your tribe and build your business.  Don't let someone else define you.  Dare to share your knowledge, experiences and wisdom.

I know many of you are sitting on the sidelines. You are not “in the game”.  You are watching, thinking you are cruising along at the same speed as everyone else. Yet the truth is many more are starting to pass you by.  Your competitors, your partners and most importantly your customers. Don't think that just because you aren't hearing your customers or target markets talk about you that 1)they aren't or 2) that is a good thing!

According to a Marketingdb report from MarketingVox of the top 100 brands, financial performance correlates with social media engagement. The study showed that companies both deeply and widely engaged in social media significantly surpass their peers in both revenues and profits. The companies truly leveraging social media “Mavens” typically enjoyed revenue growth of 18% on average over the last 12 months, while Wallflowers saw revenues fall 6%.

It still makes me laugh at how many companies say they don't want to engage in social media as they are afraid for losing control! Hellloooo! You do NOT have control. You never really did. You just made yourself believe you did in the days when you could control how much spam you sent, what time of day they received it.

Get off your tush and be your brand! Pull out that Facebook Fan page that isn't published, take a live photo of yourself and blast it on every social media profile you have.  It's time for lurkers to come out of the closet!

15 Quick Start Steps for Social Media Engagement

1. Publish all profiles you have hiding in the Lurkers Anonymous closet. This includes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, Active Rain, Tumlr, WordPress and more!

2. Setup your core platforms! If you don't have an active profile on any of the following set one up today! Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are a MUST HAVE for most businesses.

3.  Remove all forms of generic avatars. REAL photos only.   If you don't have one, take one today!

4.  Grab a gallon of GUTS! Quit hiding behind the “I am shy” excuse.  Who cares.  You don't have to look perfect to be on video.  Grab a $100 flip camera and become a video rockstar.  If you have content I can guarantee there are people out there who want to hear what you have to say.

5. Focus on Return on Investment (ROI). If you have already created the profiles then why the heck are you sittin' on them? Social media isn't about making pretty things and letting them rot in the lurker closet.  By the time you get it published it might be old school and old news.  Get it out there.

6. Grab a pound of PERSONALITY! Don't be boring.  Be who you are.  Don't act serious if you aren't.  Don't be funny if you're serious.  Be interesting and provide interesting content!

7.  Be REAL! Don't be afraid to show the real you.  Social media is about connecting.  Connecting effectively means building personal relationships that will help grow your business.  You will NOT grow your business based on a fake avatar that looks like everyone else with tweets and Facebook posts that are nothing but retweets and news that a million other people have retweeted.  Instead make someone laugh, make them cry.  Make them remember a fun memory. Inspire them mid-day.  Share with them based on how you feel.  Chances are someone also feels the same way you are feeling and can connect with your post or comment!

8. Don't speak AT people.  Speak with them. Join them.  Speak in an authentic tone but also the tone of the platform and people you are engaging.  Listen, learn and act.

9. Ask questions. If you don't have answers then ask questions.  I can guarantee there are more than enough people that will want to share their knowledge, help you and answer whatever question you may ask!

10. Answer questions. Listen and learn. Then answer.  Keep an ear and eye out for how you can help others.

11.  Get to know the LinkedIN Q&A section VERY well! Answer questions, ask questions. You will be amazed the positive value you will see from just 5 minutes a day doing such!

12.  Comment on other people's blogs.  Add value.  Comment, ask questions, debate.

13. Be consistent.  Don't be a chameleon. Don't blow in the wind based on who's blog you're  commenting on.  Instead have an opinion but keep it real!

14.  Look beyond the tool. A tool or platform can be used for more than what you might think!  As an example, Tweeting is not just for crazy Tweeter birds.  You can use it to build your network, find new leads, listen, learn share and ENGAGE!  It is a great tool to connect and then bring folks tighter into your network.

15.  Have fun! Get out there and go for it! Heck, what ya' got to lose?  Not much…. the reward far out weighs the risk!!