Social media has the power to make or break a brand. Today, more than 71% of all adults online use Facebook, and over 250 million people use Twitter. Yet, as powerful as social media is, many people still underuse or misunderstand it.

If you manage your company's social media accounts, however, you're on the frontlines of brand communication and have the ability to help your company drive its overall marketing goals.

Want to effectively build relationships, educate audiences, and incite action online? Then take a page from some of today's most successful social community managers.

Here are the seven habits of highly effective social media professionals.

1. Focusing on Strategy

Social media content isn't a strategy in and of itself but rather a tactic that feeds into a larger marketing goal.You need to understand how different platforms fit into your company's larger strategy and to define the tactical goals of your social media campaign.

For example, if your company is looking to create thought leadership opportunities, you might consider suggesting regular blogging and creating longer format posts on LinkedIn. If the goal is to drive business leads, consider posting Twitter content that direct followers to compelling content on your website that can only be downloaded when they share their email address.

To increase the effectiveness of your social media community management, focus on strategy. Use the platforms that are going to help you best reach your target audiences in a way that will help your company meet its broader goals.

2. Analyzing Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is the process by which a brand makes sure its Web presence appears near or at the top of the page in a Web search—a task usually left to Web designers and copywriters. However, SEO has become increasingly connected with social media because it's no longer determined solely by URLs, headings, and keywords.

Instead, search engines take into account links back to a website as well as shares, likes, and comments from social media. Positive engagement with fans and followers goes beyond conversations to increase your business's Web presence.

Social media also encourages more external sites to link to your content (both through the links back to your website and through potential retweets or mentions containing the link). The more external links you have, the higher your SEO.

One of the easiest ways to boost SEO is to encourage external inbound links back to your website. Of course, only posting links isn't going to cut it—you need to enhance this by posting engaging and high-quality content to get people to click those links and share them.

3. Focusing on Interpersonal Communication

To create a strong social presence, you need to interact, respond, and communicate with others. Today, nearly one in four people around the world are using social media in some form, so whether you're looking to connect with a celebrity or the person in the cubicle across the aisle, the person is only a click away.

Social media now connects people in ways that traditional forms of communication, such as emails or phone calls, can't.

Building relationships with others on social media needs to go deeper than favoriting their posts every now and then. Instead, target stakeholders and potential clients, and reach out to them to build a relationship before ever making an ask. Tell them why they caught your interest, and give them an honest compliment. Pay attention to what people are posting, and offer a meaningful thought to the conversation.

Once you establish great connections on one platform, try finding those users on another platform, and strengthen the conversation. By focusing on interpersonal communication, you'll be able to build up a strong network of followers, fans, and friends while increasing your reach and establishing yourself as a thought leader.

4. Writing Well

The life of a social post is short-lived. To make yours as engaging as possible, you must understand your company's preferred vocabulary, brand voice, and field-specific language.

You also need to understand how to translate your brand voice for each individual platform.

Different social media outlets have differing post guidelines, so what works on Facebook isn't necessarily going to translate onto LinkedIn. For example, Facebook and Twitter support hashtags to track trending topics, but LinkedIn doesn't—so think twice about posting a #ThrowbackThursday on it.

Moreover, keep in mind how the different audiences on the different platforms should affect your writing. On Facebook, the audience skews slightly more female as compared to the other major platforms and is more likely to contain more of your followers, fans, and employees. LinkedIn is more likely to reach your professional connections, potential business partners, and slightly older readers.

As a social media pro, you need to ensure you modify your content for these different audiences.

5. Thinking Visually

Social media is becoming increasingly image-based. Instagram is one of the largest platforms now, with over 150 million users under the age of 35. Moreover, studies show that tweets with photos can boost retweets by over 35%.

To keep up with the visual trend, you need to be able to communicate your brand not just through words but also through images. Compiling high-quality images that enhance copy is a must in today's social media world. You should have the basic knowledge of photo editing to ensure all images are the best possible representation of their brands.

To add some visual interest to your social media, look into investing in a good photo-editing software. It doesn't always have to be expensive; Pixelmator and PicMonkey are both cheap options to spice up a photo for your social media feeds. If you're short on pictures, comb through Flickr, Pixabay, and Unsplash to find images that are free to use and modify under a Creative Commons license.

6. Improvising

I recently heard a story about a social media pro who gained the attention of a prominent CMO on Twitter. She saw that the CMO had embraced a trending hashtag: #InternetASong. Clicking on the tag, she saw that users were spinning Internet-based puns around the titles of classic rock songs—and the CMO was retweeting and engaging with them!

Thinking on her feet, she joined the conversation. Her suggestion of "Jumpin' Jack Flashdrive" earned a favorite from this powerful Twitter user. A follow-up tweet with more information about her business and another #InternetASong pun earned a retweet to his 300K-plus Twitter audience. By thinking quickly and improvising new content, she was able to get her name out there and create a new relationship.

The world of social media is fast-paced, and it requires improvisational skills. Staying current and integrating your brand voice into whatever is trending on different platforms is the key to success. Instead of simply churning out content, observe what everybody else is talking about and use the improv strategy of "yes, and…" to join the conversation, make new connections, and promote your agenda.

7. Tracking Data

To understand the impact of social media activity, tracking, and reporting is essential. With tools like Google Analytics and True Social Metrics, you can use data to understand your operations, plan for the future, and predict the trajectory of your social media impact. That leads to more sustainable, efficient operations with better outcomes.

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Social media is a changing landscape, and the people who are on it must constantly work to make sure they're staying up to date on the best-practices and new trends in the field. By combining best-practices and consistent habits into a social media marketing plan, social media professionals can set themselves up for success.

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Seven Habits of Highly Successful Social Media Professionals

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image of Avi Levine

Avi Levine is executive director of the Digital Professional Institute (DPI), a Chicago-based programming and digital marketing school affiliated with Tribeca Flashpoint College.

LinkedIn: Avi Levine