06/05/2016 11:23 AM AEST | Updated 28/09/2016 9:59 PM AEST

Social Media And Work: Why We Should Be Taking Our Accounts Seriously

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A handsome young store owner standing in the entrance of his shop

If you missed the exact point when social media transformed from a place to post fun photos from the weekend to a tool to advance your personal brand, you're not alone.

But according to social media strategist Debra Sinclair of Liquid Mango Consulting, it's high time we started taking our social media accounts more seriously, especially professionally.

"I think social media is definitely an important business asset for any industry, whether you're an actor or an accountant," Sinclair told The Huffington Post Australia.

"It is a great way to showcase your brand. It's a customer service tool, it builds on that customer experience, and it's brilliant for brand awareness."

Even if you're thinking, 'yeahhhh, but no one cares about what I'm doing at work. I'm just a lawyer/accountant/electrician/sales assistant' -- Sinclair says you need to think again.

"Each one of us [using social media] doesn’t know what kind of business you have. Everyone has unique story to tell."

People want to see behind the scenes and to get to know your business, including the owner.

"Businesses today are really social businesses and social media definitely now needs to be part of your marketing strategy and your PR strategy, as it has potential to drive business outcome," Sinclair said.

"A business really can't sit out there on its own anymore, no matter what it is that you do."

The trick to staying relevant and engaging with your social media strategy all comes down to audience. If you are an accountant who wants to engage a community, there's no point in, say, uploading a picture of your desktop to Instagram every day (though surely it would make for riveting scrolling.) The key is to figure out who you are trying to talk to, and where on social media they are likely to be.

"A mistake people often make is they think they need to be everywhere," Sinclair said. "If you know who your target audience is, or who you are trying to connect with, you need to find out what platform they are using and focus on that.

"To use the example of the accountant... their main network might be LinkedIn. That would be a main focus, I would say. And they need to take it seriously. You can't have everyone using the same platforms and having the same strategy."

To connect with your audience, first you need to find out what platform they are most likely to use.

Another common trap people often fall into is the process of chasing more 'likes' or followers, sometimes by actually buying them.

"Numbers on social media platforms are looked at, but shouldn’t be a priority," Sinclair said. "Of course you want to be concerned about numbers and the size of your community, but it all boils down to engagement.

"I would never recommend that people buy followers for social media. You need to go about increasing numbers in the right way, by developing a strategy for your personal and business brand.

"From there, you can look at integrating advertising into all of that, but it needs to be done in the right way. It can damage your reputation if you buy fans or followers.

"You'd be much better off to have a small community of engaged people who love who you are and what you do than hundreds and thousands of people who aren’t engaged with you."

Have a policy on what should and shouldn't be shared.

For those whose brand is personal -- think actors, artists, personal trainers, chefs -- Sinclair says a similar social media strategy needs to be employed.

"Be mindful or what you are posting. You are your brand, and as such, you need to be mindful of your brand when sharing content out there," Sinclair said.

"People will look at your social media. They are interested in you and get an insight into what your life is like. You don't want to overshare. For example, if you are an entrepreneur or a sportsperson, you want to let people into your life just a little bit.

"Definitely have a strategy in place and be firm about what you will share and won't share.

"As an identity or an entrepreneur, you don’t want to be sharing everything. However, everything you do share should be valuable to that audience.

"Basically, for both businesses and personal accounts, it all comes down to the key elements of social media. Humanise your brand. Allow people to get to know you as a business and get to know the business owner.

"And remember, everyone has a really unique story to tell. Including you."