As social media marketing and social media networking become more and more prevalent, the many errors people make with these new mediums often create new and unexpected problems. Why so many mistakes? Because these are new business tools that people often confuse for other things. In fact, many people think social media marketing and social media networking are the same thing. They’re not. And when you know the difference, you can use each more effectively to grow your business.

Marketing and networking are two completely different things. Marketing is about branding and positioning yourself while networking is about making connections. When you’re marketing, you’re putting out messages that define your company; when you’re networking, you’re engaging in a two-way dialogue where both parties gain benefit.

In the business world, networking takes on a different look and feel than when you’re networking for personal reasons. In business networking you’re not talking about your son’s baseball game or your weekend getaway. You’re focusing on answering client questions, passing on information to prospects, and gaining knowledge about your pressing business questions.

Before you embark upon using social media marketing and social media networking for the first time, or continue utilizing your existing accounts, be aware of the following common mistakes and how to avoid them.

Most people don’t see the difference between the various social marketing and networking sites, much less the need to have separate business and personal accounts. In fact, some people even think they are only allowed one account per site. In reality, you can create a personal and corporate account for each site. You would then use your personal account for updating your friends and family on how the kids are doing and what you’re planning for the weekend, while you’d use your business account to connect with clients and brand yourself. The last thing you want to do is use one account for both, essentially mixing messages about the kids with your marketing efforts.

Many people view Facebook, Twitter, their blog, and all the other social media as separate entities. However, it’s the integration of all the social media into your web strategy that matters. If every account is its own separate thing – if your Facebook is not connected to your web site, to your Twitter account, to your blog, etc. – then all of the traffic and everything that’s happening on one site isn’t counting toward your main web site’s ranking. In other words, when they’re all disconnected, your ranking does not reflect your total online activity. But if they’re all connected and tagged together, your ranking will go up and reflect all of your activity.

Just like your traditional marketing has a branded image, you want your business social media marketing efforts to have a consistent look and feel too. That means you should design your Facebook theme to match your brand, and at the same time ensure it looks like it belongs on Facebook. The same would be true for your Twitter theme and your blog theme, etc. For example, the actual look of a McDonald’s restaurant can vary quite a bit, yet the brand image and theme remain the same. When all of your social media sites, as well as your primary web site, have a similar look and feel, you put out a consistent brand that prospects and clients remember.

As technology continually evolves, the world of marketing will rapidly change. In order to get the best results with the least amount of effort, you need to be aware of the various pitfalls and take proactive action to avoid them. Next month, I will share three more common mistakes to be aware of so you can take proactive action and avoid the common mistakes.