5 ways to make it in a social media world

It's a social media world

The world is full of people trying to tweet, like and link their way to prosperity. Years from now, we'll all look back at how much time everyone wasted trying to get ahead with social media and think, that was a real "fools rush in" moment.

In case you don't get the reference, it means this: nobody ever got anywhere by doing what everyone else is doing. Nobody. And that includes you.

Not to burst your bubble, but look at it this way. Everyone who lost their shirts chasing loony valuations when the dot-com bubble burst would have loved to have gotten a heads up before it happened, right? Well, here's your heads up.

Now, don't get me wrong. Entrepreneurs, VCs and investment banks did pretty well on LinkedIn's (LNKD) IPO and they'll make out like bandits when Facebook goes public, too. That's because they've figured out how to capture your time and monetize your eyeballs. But that does nothing for you and your career.

Yes, I know, social media is easy, fun, and the instant gratification fix is enormous. Well, if business success was a drug, I guess we'd all be rolling in dough and high all the time. Unfortunately, the real world doesn't work that way. So, while all the fools are rushing in, you can join them and get nowhere or do something that sets you apart.

So, assuming you're not in venture capital or investment banking, here are five ways to monetize your ambition and make it in a social media world.

Competitive intelligence analysis

The hottest field related to social media and social networks, where companies are actually hiring, is competitive intelligence analysis. A Forrester Research survey showed that 82 percent of 150 companies that monitor social media are primarily searching for competitive intelligence.

A recent McKinsey study confirmed that when it comes to social media, networks and blogs, companies are primarily searching for new ideas and seeing what competitors are up to. This is where most of the new jobs are. For real.

Rebrand and reposition yourself

Companies are running into the same problems you are: struggling to rise above the noise and differentiate themselves in a highly competitive global market.

If you're into branding, PR, marketing communications, HR, recruiting or customer service, instead of beating your head against the wall along with millions of competitors for the same old job functions, reposition and rebrand yourself focusing on the social media aspect of your field.

For example, in PR, the focus is more and more on media outreach and engagement with influential bloggers and opinion-leading pundits who reach millions of people. In terms of brand management, the focus these days is on real-time customer experience, service and feedback via social media. And advertisers are exploring the brave new world of Facebook and YouTube.

I can go on and on, but it really comes down to repositioning yourself to focus on what's hot and leaving the rest to the masses.