In the span of just a few years, the industrialized world has stepped into an era where social media is an indispensable tool for a brand. A company without Twitter, Facebook and Instagram may be automatically discounted by a potential customer. Fortunately, the advent of social media makes it easier than ever to communicate directly with customers to provide world-class public relations at virtually no cost. When used properly, social media outlets are a brand’s best resource. Use these four methods to cement a tight public relations bond with customers and gain new customers.

1. Give Customers an Inside Look

Social media offers a unique opportunity for companies to give followers a peek into the inner workings of the business. Customers love to see how the sausage is made. Instagram offers an easy method of snapping a quick photo of an interesting aspect of the business and instantly sharing it with followers. Posts can be a sneak peek of the chef developing a new dish in the kitchen or a brand new home that has just come on the market. It is a great way to generate interest in products and get people excited about your company. If you allow your customers to temporarily step behind the scenes with you, they develop an unconscious loyalty to your product and brand.

2. Instantly Respond to Feedback

If you have a successful company, chances are people will be talking about it on social media weather you are there or not. The presence of your company on the scene allows you to instantly respond to criticism and praise. The way you handle feedback will shape public view of your company. To ignore a problem or respond negatively can quickly stir up the wrath of the social media masses. Quick, appropriate responses foil a public relations disaster. There are numerous examples of companies that created overblown public relations catastrophes by simply ignoring a legitimate concern or trying to militantly shut down chatter on social media. Honest, thoughtful responses show that you care about individual customers and your company is dedicated to transparency.

3. Sharing Helpful Content

Not only does social media allow a company to market directly to their customers, it is also a great way to get new customers. Sharing fresh, helpful content geared toward your target client will draw in those interested in the product you offer. The lifespan of a social media post is fleeting. It is essential to continuously generate new, meaningful content that can be easily shared over multiple social media sites. This will establish your brand as a trusted source of quality information.

4. Garnering Customer Participation

One of the main advantages of social media is the ability to interact with your customers. Engaging your customers allows them to feel a connection with your company and brand. In order to stimulate customer participation, a company must offer a genuine message that has value to the intended recipient. What this entails will depend entirely on the target consumer. Some brands have great success with contests that reward sharing posts with friends and followers. Other companies offer free samples in exchange for customer participation. Your best strategy will be the one that fits in with the values and goals of your brand.