Why Do Social Media For Your Company? Perception vs. Reality

Why use social media for your business

Social Media

Why use social media for your businessThe other day I was talking with one of my newer clients about social media. We were just a few hours into a new project that included getting his company’s social media properties in place and setting up an integrated social media engagement strategy. He suddenly said something roughly like this, “Now I get it. Social media is not some automatic tool for marketing your business for free. It’s actually about building something longer term and it takes effort. It’s about community management”. The light bulb had gone off.

No Easy Button

I know a lot of companies are still thinking that there exists something called “Easy Button Marketing“. Because they haven’t really leaped into social media, they initially think that companies just need to get their social media accounts and pages in place (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest), and an “insta-community” appears, ready to “join”, “follow”, “subscribe” or “like”. Ready to engage on their platforms and ultimately, ready to buy their products or services.

Social Media is not an automatic way to market. No, it takes some time and effort to build a foundation. But it can be very powerful once that foundation is in place. Of course, the initial stages of platform-building can be dramatically sped up if you leverage an already big brand or if you’re small but creative. The creative part is the fun part.

Not One-Dimensional

In addition, business owners often consider social media one-dimensional. Merely a way to blast out the brand message and promotions. And okay, maybe a little chatting with the audience, but not too much! No, it’s actually a lot more than that. In fact, the blasting can limit the success of a social media strategy. People are looking for a lot more than brand messaging and promotions these days.

I wrote up a few ways that the client could use social media and I thought this would make a great discussion topic, so here’s the list.

Some of the best ways to use social media for business include…


1) To build a platform

Building connections with your audience and industry influencers that allow you to communicate with them (two way) and to (occasionally) market to them.

2) Turn one-time encounters to ongoing relationships

To turn one-time interactions with someone into a longer term relationship (by getting them to like your page, subscribe to your YouTube channel, to follow you on Twitter).

3) Spread your brand and messaging

To get your brand identity distributed via the web of connections that each of your “fans” or followers are connected to. Each time they interact with you, it messages their connections and spreads your brand.

4) Content Distribution for content marketing

Social media works as a key distribution platform for your content marketing strategy. If you create compelling content, social media is an ideal way for other people to distribute your content to maximize your reach (and have more people see your calls to action within the content).

5) A way to engage industry influencers

To find, meet and deepen connections with industry influencers. To build social capital by sharing, liking, featuring their content and engaging in discussions with them.

6) A way to develop social proof

To build credibility and “social proof” for your company by having an active and thriving fan base.

7) Learning and feedback

To get feedback and input from your audience. To learn how they communicate, how others market to them and how they like companies to market to them.

8) Deepen engagement cross-platform

To take followers from one platform and to introduce them to others, deepening engagement and connection.

9) Customer support (whether you like it or not!)

Learn about, react to and resolve customer support issues. You can’t control what someone posts online so how you react is key to the impression you’ll make with your audience.

10) Research opportunities

You don’t need to passively sit back and worry only about your social media platforms. You can learn about what competitors are doing, what potential partners are doing, what suppliers are doing or what customer are doing on their own platforms.

It’s not a “Tools” discussion

Social media is not a tools-focused discussion. Let’s do Facebook! Let’s do Twitter! It’s a nuanced but powerful set of interconnected platforms which begs an over-arching strategy to maximize success.

How else do you use social media for your company?

This list above is not exhaustive but that’s where I’d love your help. What do you see as the best uses for social media for companies, large and small? What am I missing?

What strategies do you use to build your brand and platform online?

Tom Treanor is the founder of the Right Mix Marketing blog. He’s the author of the Search Engine Boot Camp, the co-author of Online Business Productivity, and regularly speaks at industry and corporate events. His writing has been featured on the Content Marketing Institute, Social Media Examiner, Copyblogger and other leading industry blogs.


    1. Right Rana. For those companies on the sidelines, a recommendation would be for them to start engaging (even a bit) so they can learn by doing versus just reading about it. Thanks for the comment.

  1. You are right. I struggle every day while trying to present a “real” social media, and the way to use it. Its difficult for them to comprehend that using a tool it’s not enough without strategy and a clear vision how to engage our costumers to help us build a brand. That its not just “take” game it’s also what you give back to them.

    1. Roman. Yes, the give and take takes some practice. It’s not like Google adwords where you can just pay to get your message where you want it.

  2. Glad to hear your client reached that “aha!” moment, Tom.

    I think one powerful step is to genuinely read and engage with your followers/audience. Make it a point to know that you’re listening, care, and provide some avenues or insight of your own (not just advertisements). 10 great tips here, keep up the good work!
    Jason Anthony recently posted..4 Steps To Improve Your Life For The BetterMy Profile

    1. Jason. Yes, the aha moment doesn’t always arrive. Not to blame anyone. We all have different perspectives or time to spend thinking it through. I really enjoy the clients who feel like they’ve moved onto a new plane of understanding. It’s pretty rewarding. Thanks for the comment!

    2. When it comes to spreading your business via social media, it pays to listen, provide answers or advice, and actually care for the needs and wants of your customers/patrons.
      I myself have been a frequent buyer on group buying sites, but if I have some concerns and their support staff does not entertain them, then I would stop buying anything from them.
      Sylvia recently posted..Emilia ClarkeMy Profile

  3. Yes, the “Aha” moment…
    It’s not rocket science, it’s pretty damned obvious. Like its (sometime) real-life equivalent, networking, too many people do it for 2 weeks and dismiss it as “doesn’t work”. Hey guys, it takes effort. There’s no quick fix but hang in there and it’ll pay out in bucket loads.
    And you’ll never have to do one of those slimy 10-page sales letters with red ink and yellow highlighter ever again!
    Mike Garner recently posted..How Jean-Paul Sartre and French existentialism changed my lifeMy Profile

    1. Mike. I love it. Just when I was about to develop my red and yellow flashing sales letter I re-read your comment. Yes. Anything that has value takes some work. Obviously working on the right things helps though! So many people spend a lot of time going down the wrong path (not that I’m innocent of that) …

    1. Gemma, I’ll keep you posted. This is a new product being released into the US market shortly (it’s actually on pre-sale now). I’m looking forward to seeing the results as their budget is limited so it’s all social media (FB, blogger relations, YouTube, Twitter).

  4. A+ post. Thank you! No. 11 might be adding – and perhaps this falls under Research, No 10 – measurement component to social media efforts. I work in PR and know that a good plan takes the pulse of a program during (to allow retooling midstream) and after (to measure results). Your thoughts?

    1. Hi Heidi. I think that’s a great point. There is a lot of data and opportunity for measurement in social media. In fact, clear goals and measurement are important parts of a social media strategy. Thank you for the comment and for the great addition of #11!

  5. I think the hype around social media advertising is just that, hype. It is alot of effort for very litle gain, at least in my business, drycleaning and laundry services. What other reason do we perform marketing strategies but to create sales. There is no other purpose for marketing. Facebook and twitter may help some but not all businesses. I am software engineer with 30 years experience in the field. These are silly toys, replication of e-mail and existing websites. Why do I want to maintain more the one “website”. Not at all. Play into the hype, I for one will continue to do what works for me and it is not social media advertising.

    1. Hi Steve. I agree with you. There is not one size fits all. While people can be creative and while certain tools work really well for certain markets, they may not work at all for others. Thanks and keep generating those new leads!

    2. A smart competitor is using facebook to engage and coupon his loyal dry cleaning base — all people with dirty laundry who could visit your store but will go out of their way to continue with said competitor.
      Have a nice day!

      1. Heather. What do you think? Do you want to compete with a similar strategy or try something different? I’m not that deep into local social media but if you have younger people as customers, what about a foursquare promotion or contest? Big signs and encouraging checkins for coupons or for some sort of award.

  6. Thank you for this! This is probably one of the most clear and concise pieces I have read on this topic. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is when I tell someone I work with social media, and two days later they call me and say – Do you do Facebook? I feel like – where do I start with this person??

    I always try to direct clients to think of using social media as relationship marketing. Its all about starting and maintaining relationships with new and old customers. When it comes to small business owners that are busy, it is a great way to maintain relationships quickly and easily. I work with a lot of small businesses that have found this route more helpful than just mass advertising on social networks. Like you said, its a great way to “capture” potential customers that may happen upon your website and then “like” or “follow” you. This is also one of the best ways I think SM can be used.

    SM works on a case by case basis, it is great for some businesses, worthless for other (but that doesn’t mean eventually it could be!). Its best to figure out if your target market is even using SM, if they are “spy” on them for a bit, and see how SM can fit into your larger business goal!

    Thanks again, this is a GREAT POST!

    1. Hollie. Thank you for the comment and I love your point about “relationship marketing”. That is a great way to put it. Yes, it doesn’t work for everyone but it can be a good idea to see if your target market is out there and spy a bit. I appreciate your input!

  7. Tom,

    I hate when people say, “You Just Have to Be There” or talk about tools that just push your message to every platform possible.

    I know having your message where you clients are is important but everything on Social Media is about Relationship.

    Actually Social Media is possibly MORE relationship focused than Real Life. We can’t see each other. We can’t make in person judgments based on appearance.

    Excellent article Tom as always!

    Ryan H.
    Ryan Hanley recently posted..How To Convince Your Internet Hating Boss an Online Presence is ImportantMy Profile

    1. Ryan. I like your point about it possibly being more relationship-focused than real life. Another way to think about it might be – it’s like extreme relationship building. In real life, only at parties or events do you have to manage so many people and different input at the same time. In social media you can suddenly be interacting with hundreds or thousands of people (seeing your interactions) or tens or hundreds (sending you messages) throughout the day.

      Maybe the term is “leveraged relationship building”. Anyway, thanks for the comment!

  8. Fabulous post Tom! At the moment I mainly use Facebook & Twitter for my business. I use Facebook to engage & build relationships with my customers & I use Twitter to network with my peers & other people I like to meet. I’d like to get into Google + at some point, but I’ve just not jumped on board yet.

    I love the list you created in your post. There are a lot of things in that list that I do, but I definitely see some things that could be improved on. Thanks so much!
    Meagan recently posted..Is Your Perfection Holding You BackMy Profile

  9. Thanks for great, real post and all the useful comments from everyone above. This is exactly what I tell my SMB clients and prospective clients. The BIGGEST challenge I come up with is: “Will this generate sales for me? If I use your social media services and pay you per month, how will you make sure I will get leads, drive business and close deals to cover these expenses?? What is my ROI??”. Its a challenge to get that light bulb to go off with SMBs that Social Media takes tames TIME to create business, it doesn’t happen over night. Its a long term investment. Its not the hard sale, its the soft sale…but with tight budgets, some SMBs still prefer to get concrete leads from shows or in-person networking meetings…
    Just wondering how you deal with this?

    1. Yasmin. I agree, that can be a tough discussion. A couple of things I do are to show examples of other people having success and how they’re having success. How are they driving engagement and how do they turn it into business? Also, I have a diagram that I use to show where social media fits into the business flow which I think helps as well.

      As for ROI, social media can take time (as you know!). So, the more focused they are about where and what and why they’re doing things, the more efficient they can be. For example, I use social media primarily for distributing content via content marketing so I have a map of how social media fits that strategy and I can measure the effectiveness (roughly) in terms of list sign-ups, webinar attendees, conversions, etc.

      In the end though, if they’re not willing to take a small leap of faith or are not inspired at all, it may be doomed. It’s like pushing a horse that doesn’t want to go. It will be a slow and painful journey and the end point may be all but pre-ordained. I think to do social media well requires some faith, a vision, an idea of a fit with their business model, and enthusiasm. What do you think?

  10. Great list, Tom. The only thing I would add is that despite the larger strategy at play, I find it is so easy to spot the brands whose engagement with users on Twitter/Facebook is sharply edited to fit within the cookie-cutter mold of their “social media strategy”. This leaves no room for surprises, like the emergence of a new customer demographic that you weren’t targeting or a possible JV collaboration. While I think having an overarching strategy is key, the other side of the coin is not to become a slave to that strategy. Nimble. Flexible. Be a real person interacting with others.
    Annika recently posted..Marketing with an ugly ass websiteMy Profile

    1. Annika – makes sense. Don’t get caught up in a big strategy while forgetting the little things or to adjust as needed. Great perspective on this topic!

  11. Tom,

    Great ideas here!

    I have been living in “social media confusion” lately, but this post clarified things quite a bit. Now I’m able to see that there are lots of possibilities when it comes to social media for business.

    In fact, just today I was thinking how to turn one-time visitor into a follower and your post answered that question (by using social media or at least that is one option to do it).

    Timo Kiander recently posted..PSD Video Tip #5: Get Rid of Cell Phone DistractionMy Profile

  12. I love social media and it does take time to do. One has to be genuine, and give great content. What I resonate most with this post is “social proof” because when someone sees that you are giving your time and giving good content, they will be more willing to share with you.
    Also, I found one of my secret weapons is commenting on a post. When commenting, it should not be a one liner, that shows that it could be an automated comment or someone that didn’t read the post.
    A good comment has brought me many people in my stream.
    You ask what strategies do we use for our stream? Mine are the following: Join a tribe (a group of people that will syndicate your blog. Reciprocity is the key here, LinkedIn which is my secret weapon for years now, My blog which is my home base where I direct people to and have a call to action, FB, Twitter, Youtube and many various social sites,
    Yes, it takes time, but I rather have organic growth than anything else. I know each and every person on my social sites and loving it!
    Thanks for this awesome post
    Donna Merrill
    Donna Merrill recently posted..LinkedIn – My Secret WeaponMy Profile

    1. Donna, great input and way to walk the walk! I agree. A short comment is often barely worth the time to write (unless it’s powerful in some way). A longer, more thoughtful comment is a great way to connect with the blogger or others who might chance upon it.

      I’m a big fan of LinkedIn too so I’m looking forward to seeing your post on it. Thanks for the comment!

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