According to the SMB Group social media use by small businesses has shifted to 53 percent in 2012, from 44 percent in 2011. At the same time social media for small businesses continues to be a casual affair and the gap between those who do it with purpose and those who "just post" is widening. Related:Not sure where to start? Get one of our online marketing vendors to help you out So how do we close the gap? How can small businesses take a more strategic approach to social media? To start, focus on avoiding three critical mistakes that most small business make. 1. Focus too much on posting frequency rather than content quality and conversation. It is not so much about how much you post as it is about how you say things, and to whom. It's about talking to the right people in the right places, with the right tone and the appropriate information. Communication is only effective when it's compelling and in context. Step 1: Build 3-5 profiles of your customers: what do they love, hate, what are their habits, what motivates them to become "chatty" and so on. It may mean you have to talk to your customers. Yes, imagine that... Step 2: Create a content calendar and content that will deliver the information that audience wants and needs Step 3: Schedule "posts" for the peak hours when your customers will be online. Focus 80% of your time on conversations with them instead of posting. This is the ideal content mix in social media: 20% broadcasting and 80% conversations, outreach and relationship building with your targets. Related: Top 15 Marketing Companies to Like on Facebook 2. Expect too much too soon Be persistent and consistent. It may take 6 to 12 months for your efforts to bear fruit. Some times faster but be prepared to put in the work. This is no different from PR and SEO. In that, Social Media is not magic. It's work. You can do it smartly and effectively, you can play at it or you can quit and not get any results at all. Pick your poison and move on. But online communication is not going away anytime soon. 3. Avoid responsibility Most small business owners cannot afford delegating out all responsibility; often the small business owner has to be the face of the company. Particularly owners of B2B companies and employees in sales roles should take their role as leaders seriously. Related: The Key Social Media Platforms for Business Start-Ups You should have personal accounts on social networks and should focus at least an hour every day to building relationships and generating leads. You will find that you'll reach people you can't find any other way, you'll build relationships faster in some instances, and you'll rekindle relationships from a time ago. But it has to be you to drive this change. An intern cannot do it. An intern can tweet and facebook but can they decide what your voice should be, who your strategic partners are and how to sell your business? Social is integral to every business, and it's imperative that you give it the proper thought and time in order to succeed. Avoid these three traps to see success on your social sites. Bio: Mana is the president ofChicago Social Media Marketing company Lightspan Digital. Mana believes in purpose and storytelling as two main drivers of social media success. The Lightspan team tell brands' stories and build new profitable connections, through content marketing and social media. Lightspan also offers social media training, strategy and execution. Connect with Mana on Twitter@manamica andGoogle+.