Are you skeptical that social media has no ROI? Think twice. Last year in the US 63% of internet users were actively participating on social sites and Facebook now exceeds Google in traffic.

People are now using the internet and social media to make buying decisions, 78% of consumers trust a peer’s online recommendations vs. 14% who trust advertisements. These transitions to social enterprise have moved us into a new way of doing business – one that is more effective, cheaper, and easy for small businesses to take advantage of. With social media engagement, you can build trust, develop customers, and reward loyalty. Here’s how.

 1. Start Small. Having one or two well-developed presences is far better than having five half-hearted ones. Customers will find your social media accounts, and you want them to be engaging and compelling. Start with the best social business network or forum for your product, and build from there.

 2. Stay Consistent. You need your presence, engagement, and messaging to be ongoing and consistent. If you don’t stay consistent, online users will begin to ignore your brand – and with so many customers online, that could do a great deal of damage to your sales and growth. Figure out what’s right for your brand and keep it up!

 3. Avoid ‘Me’ Syndrome. If everything you write is self-promotional and advertises your product, you will be the bore of the party. Remember that you’re here to engage with people, to find out who the other members are and what they are about. Speak to your customers’ needs. Ask questions. Let others talk while you listen, build your relationships and trust. Later, when you talk about yourself a little bit, others will be listening.

 4. Ask for Input and Ideas. There’s nothing customers like better than having a hand in the development of their favorite brand. In the past M&Ms ran surveys allowing customers to choose the next new color of M&M. Choosing a new color won’t affect M&M’s business and is a powerful decision that they allowed their customers to make. Test out a new idea for your company with Survey Monkey or Gizmo, or create a poll on Facebook. In addition, by asking for input you can sometimes discover problems you didn’t know existed, or get ideas you would never have thought of. Let your customers help you grow, it’s a great social business practice.

 5. Find Your Customers. To make your social business efforts effective, focus only on the platforms your customers can be found on. Most social media networks have data available in terms of demographic usage – you can also search for mentions of your product or brand name online to find out where the conversations are. Use tools like Hootsuite social management and Salesforce’s social enterprise platform  to stay up to date with your social efforts and to increase interaction with your customers and brand loyalists.

 6. Reward Loyalty and Build Buzz. Coupons, giveaways, and contests are great ways to encourage customers to talk about your brand. It’s also gives you the ability to reward those who have followed your social network presence, and encourage new followers. Be careful though that you don’t over extend and lose your overall brand message. However, done from time to time, these incentives can create a lot of enthusiasm for your brand.

Reaching new customers through social enterprise is an exciting development in business and by following the steps above, you can take full advantage of this new way to build relationships, communicate and get your message across to customers. Check out the Social Media Revolution for more inspiration from Socialnomics.