No one would have guessed ten years ago that social media would be such a dominant force in our society in 2019. It’s been credited with connecting far-flung family members and friends, creating the ability for businesses and celebrities to connect with followers directly, and providing an outlet for many niche hobbies and interests. It’s also been blamed for potentially artificially influencing elections, contributing to a coarsening of civility within culture, and being a tremendous time-suck on Americans of all stripes.

Whatever one’s view of social media, one thing is for sure — it’s here to stay. The question is, should you utilize it for your business and if so, how?

On the first question — yes! — you should use social media for your business. Regardless of the type of business you have, there is a place for you to celebrate that business and find like-minded followers who want to hear from you. Whether that’s Facebook or Linkedin, Instagram or Twitter, a group of interested followers exists out there if you are willing to put up a digital shingle and seek them out. And seek them out, you should. Social media has become an extension of offline relationships. How many of us have said, “We’re friends on Facebook” about an acquaintance? Your business, too, can have friends on Facebook. And it’s those interactions you have on social media that will define your brand for those followers. If it’s sloppy, riddled with errors, and you only post infrequently, your followers will get the message: you don’t take them seriously and they’re not important to you. That’s not likely the message you intend but that’s the message they will likely receive.

Customers want relationships with brands they love. Social media is your opportunity to either enhance the offline relationships you already have or build new, completely online ones. The end goal, of course, is to build, deep loyal relationships with customers that lead to increased sales for your business. What better way to do that than to engage in dialog with customers on a regular basis? Of course, customers don’t just want to be sold to every time you communicate with them. That approach will not build a deeper, loyal relationship. To do so, you will need to provide value to customers — value in the offers you provide, in the information you provide, in tips, in things that touch their hearts, make them laugh, show your interest in their concerns, and to be a contributing member of your local community. Customers want to be loyal to brands that care AND provide value to them. Sometimes that means giving things away for free. It could be information, tips, or incentive items. When customers see that the value you provide is way greater than expect, you will have loyal, paying customers for life.