Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are still relatively new and as such, there is a lot of confusion regarding how businesses should best utilize this technology to their advantage.  Social media should not be a strategy in and of itself; rather, it is a tool or a tactic that should be used to help reach specific business goals.

So many businesses (even major companies!) make the mistake of launching marketing campaigns where their ultimate goal is to garner “friends”, “likes” on their social media pages or acquire votes of some kind. But those types of goals, at the most, should simply be stepping stones to the real business goals of driving your company forward, generating revenue and producing customer loyalty.

Now, don’t get me wrong- building up a social media presence is important, but if you just focus on getting people to “like” your page of choice one time and don’t focus on your big picture business goals (like having loyal customers that repeatedly purchase your products or services), you are missing the mark.

Social-media-for-businessUsing your social media pages as a one way billboard of sorts to advertise whatever it is that you want to advertise is also a big mistake. The key word to social media is “social” and if you really want to use it effectively, you need to foster a sense of community.

To build a solid social media community, spend time interacting with your customers and followers to build real connections first, before you start advertising to them. Really listen to them, ask for feedback and authentically engage with them. People love to talk about themselves, so you can launch polls, start a question of the day or use Twitter hashtags months in advance of a particular sale or event that you are having to build up your relationships with your audience. If they know, like and trust you, they will be much more likely to participate in your events or purchase your products or services, which will grow your business much faster than shouting your sales pitch over and over again to a bunch random people that don’t really know what you or your business are all about.

You can even crowdsource to get ideas for the types of offers, sales, products, or events that you are considering. People also love to give their opinions, so reach out to your community to get their knowledge, feedback and preferences. Crowdsourcing allows your community to feel emotionally invested in your business. They’ll be much more likely to patronize your business, since they feel in some way that they’re a part of it. And you’ll have a much clearer idea about the kinds of products or services that your customers are looking for, so it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Then, after you have your sale, event, etc. continue to dialogue with your social media community. Follow up with more polls, chats or questions regarding feedback. Social media isn’t a one-time thing; you have to continuously work to build that sense of loyalty and community in order for your social media efforts to truly be effective.

After all, having a lot of “likes” may feed your ego, but as an end goal, it won’t feed your family.