Leveraging social media marketing for business growth is the talk of the town these days. For some, tools like twitter and viral campaign tactics gleam like silver bullets. For other, less-initiated companies, these elements of “Web 2.0” generate a vague sense of apprehension.

Whether you are already actively engaged in social dialogs or just standing at the edge of the crowd observing the melee, the metaphor of a singles’ bar can help you put your company’s best foot forward.

Think of your ideal customer as the cute girl at the bar, and your social media presence as the guy trying to get her phone number. With that scenario in mind, it’s easy to see what kind of interactions are going to work for you, and which are going to turn your prospects off.

The loud talker
I warned in a previous post about letting your marketing materials become “loud talkers.” I’m going to ratchet that warning up a few notches in the context of social media. The key word in “social media” is “social” – people aren’t engaging in dialog to hear about how great you are. People want to exchange ideas. Companies that use social platforms as “push” media – constantly barraging “fans” or “followers” with promotional messages – quickly get labeled as social spammers. No phone number for you.

The wallflower
It’s noisy out there. You can’t just set up a few social media accounts and hope people find you. You need to get involved. Don’t be a “lurker.” Be the one to spark interesting conversations. Silent participants vanish into the background noise. Again, no number for you.

One of the guys
Banter with your peers is part of the benefit of being on the social media scene, but be careful that it doesn’t become your sole focus. You want to be approachable, appear attentive. If you’re constantly trading private jokes and continuously chatting up the same people, you may inadvertently give the impression of being either too internally focused or too busy to talk. Sorry, no number.

So, how do you catch the eye of the cute girl/prospect?
Provide value. Engage your audience with useful and relevant information. Make insightful observations, connect people with good resources, and share tips that solve problems for your target audience. Offer service with no strings attached.

Listen. This isn’t all about you. It’s about what you can learn from the people who might be interested in you. Pay attention to (and acknowledge) feedback – whether it’s good or bad.

Be yourself. Your mom was right – it’s always best to just be yourself. Though, as the face of your company, you may need to mind your P’s and Q’s to a certain extent; it’s important to remember that social media conversations involve real people. To build strong connections, you need to be a real person, too.

If you can be those three things – interesting, attentive, and authentic – there’s a pretty good chance that you might get that number after all.

What has worked (or not worked) for you in social media situations?