Like a lot of people, I share somewhat of a love/hate relationship when it comes to going to the gym. (Actually, if I’m being completely honest, the relationship would be more accurately described as hate/hate.)

It’s not that I don’t like feeling healthy or getting in shape. I do. It’s just that for me, the time I spend at the gym never seems to be enough.

I feel out of place when I’m there—overwhelmed by the number of things I probably should be doing but unable to ever find the time to try something new.

Instead of asking for help, most nights I go with what’s comfortable—finding the closest treadmill, hopping on for 30-40 minutes, and then heading for the door as soon as I can.

It’s enough to make the trip worth my time but never enough to get the type of results I was looking for when I signed up in the first place.

The social media treadmill

While you may be a pro when it comes to working out, if you’re like a lot of the business owners I talk with, your relationship with sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn probably isn’t too dissimilar from the relationship I share with my local gym.

For example, if I were to ask, “Why did you get started on social media?” you may say something like, “Well, because everyone else was doing it.”

With 12.8 million small businesses in the U.S. now managing a Facebook Page, it’s not an unreasonable answer. Today, social media is where small businesses turn when they want to reach new customers, just like the gym is the place most people go when they want to get in shape.

The problem however, is that simply showing up is rarely ever enough. And with so many things that need to get done, it’s easy to end up back on the treadmill—doing enough to make being on social media worth your time but never enough to get the type of results you were hoping for when you got started.

Hope is not a marketing strategy

When we asked small business owners in a recent survey, “What’s the number one marketing related thing that’s keeping you up at night?”

The most common answer by far, with 80% of respondents, was attracting new customers.

Hopefully that’s at least part of the reason you got started on social media to begin with.

But how do you actually go about turning the stuff you’re doing on social media into new business? For 59% of small businesses that took the same survey, that’s the challenge they need the most help with.

And while the answer to that question may not be a simple one, I can tell you this: getting better results from your social media marketing isn’t going to happen by staying in the same routine—especially if that routine hasn’t worked for you the past.

Hope alone is not a marketing strategy. If you want real results, you need to hop off the treadmill and try something new.

A new approach to social media marketing

The reality is that while attracting new customers may be the number one thing keeping you up at night, the majority of your current revenue stream is likely coming from people who already know, like, and trust your business.

Whether you realize it or not, these people are also your best source of new business as well.

Recent surveys have shown that today, less than 50% of consumers trust the advertisements they see and hear from brands. On the contrary, more than 90% of consumers trust the recommendations they receive from friends and family.

By building relationships with the people who already shop in your store, eat in your restaurant, or sign up for services, you’ll have more opportunities to generate valuable word-of-mouth, and more opportunities to reach new customers.

And while it may take a little extra work than just going through the same routine, it’s much easier, less expensive and infinitely more fun, to interact with people you already know­—your existing customers, clients, donors or members.

Taking the next steps…

Remember, the answer to solving your social media setbacks isn’t leaving the gym completely—it’s just getting off the treadmill and trying something new.

Stepping out of your comfort zone isn’t easy. Trust me; I’ve got plenty of disappointing workouts to prove it.

But there is a simple model you can use to take the first steps.

It starts with being present—creating a page on the sites where your audience is most likely to engage, populate it with relevant information, and join the conversation. (Chances are you’re already part way there.)

Then, it’s just a matter of connecting with the people who matter most to your business. Make sure to promote your social media activity in-store, on your website, and through your email marketing. Make it easy for people to connect with you and give each prospective fan or follower a compelling reason to do so.

From there, it’s all about the work you’re willing to put into it. Create and share content that’s relevant to your audience. Listen and engage with the people who matter the most.

Make sure you’re offering an experience that makes them feel appreciated and brings value to their own lives—not only as consumers but as an individuals who support your business.

By engaging your customers, you’ll make them part of your marketing team. It’s this visible engagement and the positive endorsements that will bring you tomorrow’s customers.

Overall, you’ll have the ability to strengthen relationships with the people who matter most to your business and have more opportunities to bring new customers through your door.

So what do you say? I think it’s time that we both break the cycle and find a better way to get results. Spring is here so I’m going to take my run outdoors; I hope you’ll consider trying something new for your business as well.

What challenges are keeping you from achieving your goals on social media? Let us know in the comments below.