By Maria Sipka (Founder & CEO, Linquia)
There is an inordinate amount of tick boxes for entrepreneurs when looking to build a profitable business and reputation for their aspiring brand, and one tick box that is becoming increasingly popular is the various channels within social media and digital, and how they can be utilized as a marketing strategy.

Social media is a relatively new concept (in the great scheme of things), and as marketers grapple with its nuances -– think of the evolving spectrum of Google analytics or understanding the difference between engagement and spamming on Twitter -– the question is: “Is there a right or wrong way to implement digital marketing, will I see good results, and ultimately, a satisfactory Return On Investment?

Blogs the depth and width of the web have argued about the true cost of social media. It is often seen as a free option for marketers. The true cost is of course disputed, what is undisputed are the advantages that an entrepreneur will garner from implementing the right digital strategy.

There are some things that are now fact — On Twitter, entrepreneurs can create a personable brand image by engaging with their potential customers. And it isn’t just entrepreneurs: Social media can separate two established brands slogging it out in a competitive market -– How about understanding how the Four Seasons hotel chain engages with its customers using social media? The principle of good social media practice really resonates across verticals.

At iStrategy in San Franscisco, Juliana Stock (Senior Director of Marketing and Product Development and co-founder of the startup Gourmet Live) explained to would-be entrepreneurs about how she implemented Gourmet Live’s social media strategy.

Similarly at iStrategy Amsterdam, Social Bakers’ CEO Jan Rezab detailed how engagement with aspiring fans and creating loyalty is pivotal to an ambitious brand looking to maximize growth. Even well established brands like Facebook, Foursquare, Mashable and ESPN have espoused original ideas on how brands, including those in their infancy, can learn from well-established brands on the successes and failures of their own digital strategy.

It would be incorrect to think there is a one-size-fits-all blueprint for marketing strategy through digital channels, but understanding and listening to other entrepreneurs and brands discussing the fails and subsequent wins of their marketing strategy is an important learning curve in understanding which strategies will potentially succeed, and those that won’t.

And this is the key: social media is an incredibly important element to any marketing strategy, so implementing ideas from brands who have been there and done it makes absolute sense.

“I look at [all the social media tools] and approach them all,” said Jeffrey Hayzlett, former CEO of Kodak. “Let’s get engaged [on social media]. There are conversations going on [on] the internet out on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and on blogs, with you, or without you. I talk about Return On Ignoring: your ROI. So if you are ignoring these things I can tell you what your ROI is going to be.”

Can entrepreneurs expect good results if their “Return On Ignoring” continues?

No, is the simple answer. Why not learn from those who have tried social media and lived to tell the tale.

Want to get more from your digital experience from top brands and professionals? Attend Atlanta iStrategy with a 50% discount using coupon code “4GROUP50” when you register here. This exclusive offer expires Friday, August 5, 2011.
Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: Maria Sipka is the Founder and CEO of Linqia. With a clear goal in mind, Maria created Linqia to monetize online groups across multiple social networks. Prior to founding Linqia, Maria served as both COO and Director of Community Development Building at Xing. She was responsible for the company’s international strategy and creating ways to monetize Xing’s groups and premium group offerings. Follow her on Twitter at @mariasipka.