Too often, we treat social media the way we treat advertising.

We “market”, treating each post, tweet or update like an ad. In doing so, we miss the primary benefits of a social media presence. Social media can do incredible things for your business, big or small, and the following are just 5 examples.

#1 – Turning “the interested” into “the advocate”

The entire concept of social media is “conversation” – almost all sites (especially Twitter and Facebook) are built on the idea of two-way communication, which means simply posting is missing the point. By actively monitoring comments, likes, retweets etc. on your social media profiles, you will discover an ability to directly interact with the people who like your brand.

This does more than make one person feel special – it turns them into a potential advocate. People talk. Better yet, in social media, people see when other people talk. If a Facebook fan asks a questions, a prompt reply (in your brand voice) can generate positive feedback and “word-spreading”.

Other fans, seeing this interaction, will further engage with your brand – they see that you care what they say and think. The result is the generation of your social media “army” – people who say nice things about you, online and offline, building your brand on your behalf and generating new followers (aka. Potential customers or clients).

#2 Turning Detractors into Fans

These days, the first place people turn to complain about any issue with a company is social media. They will tweet or message “@” your brand. Here, you have a choice. You can delete their comments, ignore them….or reply. 20% of retailers don’t reply at all… and that’s one heck of a missed opportunity. The latter option – replying – is your best option. By publicly dealing with public complaints, you illustrate more than a corporate face – you illustrate a one-to-one interaction focused on making customers happy. You also stop a potential social media onslaught. The results can be astonishing. Best Buy is an excellent example of how to do it right. They launched “Twelpforce” – a team of trained employees who’s only job is to reply to questions and complaints on Twitter. In 2011, they responded to 42.1% of customer questions and complaints on Twitter in less than 14 minutes. Think about that – Best Buy has a consumer base in the tens of millions – by using social media to help deal with customer issues, they built their reputation (and likely expanded that customer base). That’s smart social media.

#3 Grow your brand

This goes back to the “don’t treat social media like advertising” idea from the beginning of this post. As I said, social media is a communications channel – so communicate. By having someone (or some people) managing your social media, and ensuring they’re trained to speak in your “brand voice”, you can further cement your brand in the public space. The trick is to ensure they’re talking as you, not themselves. If you’re a consulting company, you want to ensure they’re avoiding “lol’s” and “emoticons”. But if you get it right, the potential to create a vibrant brand is incredible. And don’t think that it all has to be about your material – know your audience, and know what they like. Then post those things. Architectural firm? Find content online that shows “the 50 most stunning architectural buildings in the world” and share it. This is part of your brand, and will only increase your credibility.

#4 Recruitment via social media

So far, we’ve focused a lot on Twitter and Facebook (the big guys from a consumer perspective). But forgetting LinkedIn is a mistake. Yes, it can also be used to build your brand, but it’s also an excellent recruitment tool (beyond job postings… though it’s great for that too). Start discussion groups about topics relevant to your business. Train and invite employees on how to comment in that group, or how to interact with other groups. Encourage employees to update their profiles and post regularly. Every single interaction gets your brand out there, and because it’s linked in, it easily tracks back to your company, attracting potential candidates.

 #5 Search Rankings…you knew it was coming

Google is smart, and it’s algorithm is getting smarter. Searching today can generate a company name… and then Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and… well, any number of social media profiles. Thake Woolworths as an example. Searching for the brand name on will obviously bring up the company’s site. But then things get interesting. The company’s Twitter profile is second. Facebook is 6th. Without these results, other sites leveraging the company name would hop onto page 1 (and we all know how important being on page 1 can be). These profiles ensure that:

  1.  Woolworth’s is ranking for more than a company website.
  2. Consumers – current and potential – can see, like, follow, and “touch” the brand in multiple ways.

Again, it takes the company beyond a static website to an interactive space where people can experience and communicate with the brand online.

 Conclusion… but not the end

These are just a few ways that social media can and is helping brands, but each tweet, status update, group conversation, pin and more is worth its weight in digital gold. Being there is no longer an option, it’s a necessity, and “thinking beyond the ad mentality” is fundamental.

How are you using social media for your business? Successes? Failures? Let us know in the comment section – we may just have some advice to help you out.  

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