I’ve always felt that the best way to learn something new is to follow the lead of people I admire, and learn from the work they’ve done to be successful.

Social media is a great example of this. Recently, I’ve been keeping an eye on some well-known social media experts or, “influencers,” to see what I could learn.

After a few weeks of studying the people on my social media influencer list, I’ve noticed a few key patterns of things these experts do, and don’t do when engaging with their audience on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Here are 6 social media do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:

1. Don’t feel that you have to be on every network.

You may be surprised to hear it, but even some of the biggest brands aren’t active on every social network.

Instead, they dedicate a majority of their time and effort into building an audience on the networks that are most relevant to their target audience. That’s not to say they ignore the other networks completely, but it’s clear that they made a decision to focus on the sites their audience is most likely to use, first.

Make sure you have a clear goal for every social network you join. If the network won’t help you reach your goal due to the audience, the ad program, or the time it takes in your day to reach that goal, it may not be a good fit for your business, and that’s okay.

2. Do use images and videos whenever possible.

Almost every post from experts on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ include a piece of rich media, like an image or a video.

These experts aren’t just blasting out images and photos; they are using them to get their audience’s attention, and present their content in a way that’s interesting and engaging to the people they’re trying to reach.

You can do it too. Use your camera or camera-phone to take personal photos or create images with a text overlay using Picmonkey or Canva. And don’t forget about videos! Use videos to show behind-the-scenes footage of your business or to interview employees and customers to grow your engagement on social media.

3. Don’t use automatic Direct Messages on Twitter; they’re a thing of the past.

When following over 80 people to compile my social media influencer list on Twitter, I only received one direct message, and it read: “Thank you for putting up with an automated thank you. More sincere tweets to come. Promise.”

Relationship building is one of the main reasons why your business should be on social media, and reaching out to your new connections is a great idea. However, you want your first interaction to stick with them.

Instead of sending an automatic DM, take the time to craft a unique tweet mentioning your new follower. Doing this can begin a conversation between the two of you and help to strengthen your relationship from the beginning.

4. Do tag those mentioned in your posts.

When taking a look at posts from social media experts, I noticed that tagging was a big part of their activity across all social networks.

Tagging those you mention in your post is a great way for you to show someone you’re talking about them or sharing their information on social media.

When you mention someone by using the @ symbol, they’ll receive a notification that drives them directly to your post — this is a great starting point for further interaction.

If nothing else, tagging individuals increases your odds of them sharing your content and in-turn increases your reach and the possibility of gaining more fans/followers.

5. Don’t forget to follow back.

Almost all influencers I found on Twitter had a relatively even amount of followers and people they’re following — even the ones with hundreds of thousands of followers.

The best way for you to know what your followers are saying on a regular basis is to follow them back. Your connections will be richer and therefore more reliable.

When you get a new follower look at their profile, see if their posts are relevant to you or your business, and say “thank you” and “I’m interested in what you have to say” by following them back.

6. Do use hashtag on all supporting networks.

Across all networks, I found experts using hashtags in practically every post. Some hashtags were intended for humor, but the majority were related to their audience, industry, or the topic of the content they were sharing.

These days all popular social networks support hashtag with the exception of LinkedIn, and influencers are utilizing hashtags everywhere they can.

One of the best ways to get your content found on social networks is to use relevant hashtags in your posts so those searching specific hashtags can find your content. With 34 percent of hashtag users using them to follow categories and brands of personal interest, you’ll want to make sure your business is included in their search results!

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

Sometimes the best way to figure out what works for your business is to watch how the experts are approaching your challenge and emulate it.

Try incorporating these do’s and don’ts into your social media strategy and who knows, maybe you’ll be the next person added to someone’s social media influencer list.

Do you have an expert tip you would add? Let us know in the comments below!