Editor’s note: As a Boston area company it was with great excitement we published this post on the morning of the 2013 Boston Marathon. None of us could have imagined how quickly the day would turn. The impact of this tragedy was felt both on a personal and professional level. Our thoughts are with all of those affected.

The Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest annual marathon, serves as a yearly reminder of what hard work, perseverance, and carbo-loading can do.

It can also be a good reminder of how to approach your social media marketing strategy.

Be in it for the long haul

There are a lot of people who start up a business Facebook Page or Twitter account, post for a few weeks or months, wait for the fireworks, then…crickets. No one is “liking” or commenting and it seems like your posts are being lost in an echo chamber. If this has happened to you, you may begin to wonder, “What’s the point?”

The point is that you need to approach your social media strategy with a relationship-building mindset—especially if you’re just starting to ramp up your channels. Your personal and professional relationships weren’t built overnight, and you shouldn’t expect the relationships you build online to be any different. Like any relationship, mutual interest takes both time and persistence. The relationships you build online are an investment in your business.

Warm up

Just like fancy shoes won’t make you run faster, just “putting something out” on Facebook doesn’t mean it will have any more affect than if you shouted the same thing out on the street. But what can make Facebook such a powerful tool is when people care about your message enough to read it, engage with it, and pass it on. What’s the worst-kept secret for getting your audience to care about you? Show that you care about them.

Every post should not be a statement about your brand. Every post should not be a statement period! If your posts don’t invite a response, you shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t get one. Ask questions, ask their opinions, and watch for what your audience responds to. These observations will give you a baseline to build upon.

Keep a steady pace

Once you get a handle on what works for your audience, keep up a steady pace of communication and responsiveness. Too much and you’ll become a nuisance; too little and you won’t stay top of mind. The “body language” of your audience will let you know how much is enough: Are you getting a lot of clicks on each post? Are you getting negative feedback (post hides and page unlikes) on your Facebook posts? You’ll have to learn your way into it, but you will find the right cadence for your outbound communications if you keep a close eye on how your audience is (or is not) engaging.

Standout from the pack

Social media channels are noisy places. In a world of infinite options, make your presence stand out by offering something unique. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money or hire an agency. Your “unique” may be in the delivery of your message (are you funny or quirky?), the type of content you offer (photography, exclusive recipes, special sales), or even a service (prompt customer service via Twitter, consulting “open houses” on Facebook, or detailed business advice via a LinkedIn Group).

Cross the finish line

Actually, when it comes to social media marketing, there really is no definitive end. This goes back to my first point—be in it for the long haul. Remember, you are making an investment in your business by making an investment in people—it’s not a campaign that has a set time to end. That’s why you should choose your channels (and who manages those channels) very carefully. Don’t start a Pinterest presence just because everyone else is doing it. Invest in your social media marketing because you want (and are able) to make that kind of a long-term commitment to the people you want to do business with.