Ever been to a bar? Or perhaps a restaurant? Or any place for that matter and tried to talk to someone? How do you make friends? How do you meet someone new?

STEP 1: Awareness

Consider your potential audience as someone you’d like to befriend or a person you’re attracted to. Now, do you spam them with long-winded reasons to accept your friendship or do you show value by starting a two-way conversation? The sane way would be the latter, i.e. to introduce yourself, tell them about who you are, what you do, etc. Your brand’s long-term social media strategy could use a more personal touch. Getting a date or befriending someone in the real world is gaining a follower in the brand world. It has to be approachable, mutually beneficial, and most importantly, authentic. Truth be told, we would definitely keep away from the strange, creepy person who keeps on trying to be our friend. The more you socialize your brand, the more likely customers will develop a bond and engage with your business, eventually sticking with you for the long term.

Brand awareness is essential for your target audience to see who you are, what you are selling, and how it will benefit them. The content you share via your social media channels determines whether you are the creepy person, or the trendy one they want to hang out with. I’ve realized a lot of startup brands that I’m currently involved with, try to sell (convert) right from day one, without proper branding or engagement. Yes, PPC campaigns as well as paid ads on Facebook get a lot of downloads, but then you end up with an uninstall rate of more than 80%. So what do you do to fix that?

STEP 2: Engagement

Now, right after you meet someone new, do you ask him or her to move in immediately? Or do you ask your new friend to become your best friend? Doesn’t work that way, does it? Not just in your social life, but it works the same way for your customers as well. After the awareness phase is executed properly, you require engagement i.e. dates and hangout sessions. Now that they know the basics, you form a deeper connection. A bond of trust between a user and the brand is essential, or else soon you’ll be facing trouble in retaining them. Of course, the regular gifts and giveaways will keep them around for a while, but then someone better looking or friendlier comes by, and that’s it for you then.

What kind of engagement works? From trending hashtags, to anything that can spice up the relation: quizzes, facts, photo contests, etc. Basically, you’re providing them with a platform to connect with you and speak up. When you’re not busy responding to the conversation, use your time to start one by creating exclusive social content about the things you’re known for and want to be known for. Properly planned social content tells a simple story that appeals to audiences’ motivations to connect with each other. Doing this establishes credibility, which is the jet fuel for igniting likes and shares

STEP 3: Conversion

Time is always of the essence. Chiming in quickly when they are well connected with you isn’t just better for staying in the conversation as it’s happening; it’s what customers already expect of you. If you wait too long to propose, she’s going to think that you’re not interested. Building a positive brand connection is synonymous with appealing to positive emotions like inspiration, enlightenment, and amusement. Creating content that aims to elicit an emotional response that fits within that spectrum will likely spark more conversations about your brand.

After weeks of engaging e-books, webinars, blog posts, videos, tweets, photos and more, you’ve reached the point where you have generated leads and need to get them to buy, or in other words, “say I do”. (Usually, I like to ask my friends with startups to use the time they’re spending on developing the product for brand awareness and engagement). Since you already know your audience (who you’ve befriended), you know the demographics, the geographic and what will get you a positive answer, all you need to do now is to push for conversion. Properly placed CTA links and buttons on your channels, along with the kind of content that reminds users of how your product will benefit them converts leads to customers. Plan a big social media event, like a promo code that gives discounts, freebies, points, or anything to add incentive to the sell.

Once you have convinced the potential audience to become a regular user, it’s time for them to introduce you to their friends. By taking the right approach to facilitating ongoing dialogue, customers will reward you by becoming advocates for your brand, similar to when someone introduces you to their friends. This results in the most powerful form of advertising: positive word of mouth.

A happy customer is the best brand ambassador you can ask for.

Step 4: Retention

Social media is in a constant state of evolution, with its users dictating where it will grow next. Smart brands are aboard that journey for the long haul. Understanding what your customers want reaps the same rewards as understanding your friends: lively engagement, reliable influence, and unshakable loyalty. Many successful brands use social listening to foster a bond with their followers. By tracking conversations using specific phrases or words, brands are able to discover opportunities to create content or understand audience behaviors. Properly executed customer service is vital in ensuring that your customers are long-term. Lots of brands giveaway vouchers and coupons for customer acquisition, but then there’s nothing for loyal customers. Even the slightest loyalty program, goes a long way. In his NY bestselling book, Youtility, Jae Baer points out “Instead of selling, if you help someone, you get a customer for life.” This is indeed what a lot of companies lack today. Our focus lies on new customer acquisition and we forget the existing ones.

As I mentioned earlier, the best brand ambassador you could ask for, is a loyal and happy customer. When your friends introduce you to someone they enjoy hanging out with, you try to do the same. However, the ones who they have had bad experiences with, well, you end up avoiding them, don’t you?

Take a look at failed businesses and you will see a common problem among them. They may be in different industries. Some may have no funding, while the others may be heavily funded. Look closely though, and one problem will always surface: Companies fail because they are unable to sell their product or service. Believe it or not, even the best product won’t sell itself. When it comes to selling on social media, many businesses will tell you it can’t be done. However, with the right approach, a social media campaign, properly executed, can be a critical piece of your sales machine.