I’ve never been a personal New Year’s resolution kind of gal. I always bemoaned how crowded the gym got every January. I prefer more natural goal setting inspiration when the weather is warmer and I don’t have champagne goggles affecting my judgment. But at work, the New Year is a natural time to reflect on lessons learned, evaluate what does and doesn’t work and set a course for some new goals. So it is in that spirit that I give you some 2012 social media resolutions for your business.

Accept social media.
We all debate the merits of lurking on Facebook instead of actually talking to people and why people spend so much time on Twitter when they should be working. And many of you think social media a waste of time, so don’t want to dive in. But leave those opinions for your personal time. You don’t have to personally love checking in on old high school flames 12 hours a day or tweeting what you ate for breakfast. In fact, you don’t have to accept social media into your personal life at all. But you do have to accept it into your business life, or you will be missing out on some fantastic (and free) marketing potential.

Start small.
There are a lot of social media tools out there. And if time and money were not an issue, you could tinker around on all of them and try to build your outreach. But my rule is to start small and do it well. If you spread yourself too thin, your outreach efforts will fail. Focus on where you can reach the most people. For example, Facebook and Twitter are the most popular and require little set-up time. Start with one of those and do it right.

Set a course for adventure.
Okay, so I borrowed that from the theme song of “The Love Boat,” but it still applies. Have a plan. Know what your goals are with your social media engagement. Do you want to build better relationships with your current customers? Do you want to repair or build your reputation? Do you want to sell more TVs? How much time do you have each week to dedicate to social media? Don’t set sail without planning your course.

Find your voice.
Social media is all about authenticity. Your followers can sniff out generic and scheduled content a mile away. Be genuine. Highlight your expertise and show that you are real. That’s what people want to see from the businesses they follow. They want to know they are part of something unique.

This one always sounds better if you say it like Jean-Luc Picard. “Engage.” Engagement is key and goes hand-in-hand with your voice. Respond, comment and participate. Pay attention. Don’t just dish out information. Engage. Social media is real time customer service and real time marketing. You must participate to benefit.

Pay attention.
I wrote a blog post on the importance of moderating your social media accounts a couple weeks ago. If you regularly engage, you will likely pay attention to the activity on your platforms. Social media is wonderful in that it gives everyone a voice. Unfortunately, that means people can say some crazy stuff. Protect your brand by moderating your accounts. Have automatic emails set up for when things are posted on your wall. Look at who mentions you on Twitter. If someone sends you a message on LinkedIn, respond. If you don’t have time or will be on vacation, have someone else do it.

Be flexible.
I already told you to accept social media. You don’t want to be the guy who said “Oh, this television thing won’t last. People love radio and telling stories on the porch.” You also don’t want to be the guy who won’t move on from laser disks. Social media is an ever-changing venue. New tools and enhancements are added all the time. If you are a Facebook user, you know how many times new things are added frustrating users who just learned to get comfortable with the old version. It actually should have been called Facelift last year. Your social media strategy and tactics need to be agile and open to change. What is effective one month may not be the next. A platform that is popular this year could be taken over by a cooler new one next year.