[Laurie Pehar Borsh is a public relations professional, social media PR consultant/guru, and member of the Barrel O’Monkeyz team (http://www.lpbpr.com).]

Nobody likes to be outright “sold to” either online or offline. Just think of the last time you went to lease or buy a car. It’s not much fun to be on the receiving end of anybody’s sales barrage, whether you’re an interested buyer or not.

Who would you rather deal with at your local big box store, the salesperson determined to tell you why his or her “widget” is the biggest and best ever and why you just can’t live without it, or the salesperson who takes time answer your questions and educate you about the merits of a particular product—hoping that product benefit and customer needs align, of course, but still pleased to impart good information to you? (I know my preference.)

One of Social Media’s advantages is the sharing of great information without having to rely on the hard-sell to promote a business or brand, which can be off-putting to many. Absent the hard-sell, Social Media lets you engage with people on a number of levels, from personal interaction to thought leadership. So, rather than cringing at the prospect of yet another overt sales pitch, your “public” grows to look forward to hearing from you. And the more frequently people read about you and all the good things you have to say as a business persona and/or on a personal level, the more “buzz” you create. Your public will tell their friends, who will tell their friends, and so on. Eventually SOME will convert into paying customers, while ALL will benefit from engaging in the process—even you!

That’s a win-win situation no matter how you look at it. Rather than simply TELLING your public what you offer and how valuable it is, Social Media allows you to DEMONSTRATE over time why a product or service is of benefit and why your public should believe the person (you) or the company behind it. Social Media also gives you insight as to what’s on the minds of your customers: what they like, what they don’t like, and what they’re saying about you and your competitors.

Good information is the lifeblood of social media. The more “great” content you have, the better to reach out with to your audience consistently, generating publicity and Web site or foot traffic. Social Media success also benefits from the sharing of non-competitor information through your various channels, from featuring guest bloggers (like moi!) to recommending the products and services of others to your audiences.

What’s more, you can easily measure the effectiveness of Social Media efforts to gauge the level of impact it’s having on your business. Here are some typical social media measures I look at:

  1. Number of new followers and connections, such as “new likes” on Facebook, followers on Twitter, connections on LinkedIn, etc.
  2. Traffic to your Web site from social media sources such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.
  3. The number of new Web site mailing list subscriptions compared to your old rates prior to ramping up your social media efforts
  4. The “reach” of your Social Media efforts (how many people beyond your own circles see your posts)
  5. Level of audience engagement (number of comments, questions, etc.)
  6. Number of people buying your product or service as a result of a Social Media referral
  7. Web site/physical sales numbers before and after starting your Social Media campaign

The bottom line is if you are a business owner, you engage in Social Media to generate MORE BUSINESS. It’s a requisite of doing business these days, just as traditional advertising and sales approaches remain critical components of your marketing and branding toolbox. But surprisingly, even with numerous Social Media success stories to learn from, many are quick to brush it off as “fluff” or gratuitous. But done well, with the right mix of solid information, social media channels, audience engagement, and tangible measurements, Social Media is a proven strategy that can get and keep you in front of your audience and set you apart from the competition.

How are you engaging in social media with your business? Share your success stories here.

QUICK HITS FROM THE KING MONKEYShow your Support for Huntington’s disease patients and their families. Join me in supporting the 10th Annual “Team Hope Walk” for The Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA)-Orange County Chapter, Saturday, May 19, at the University of California, Irvine. This year features live music, booths, food, goodie bags, special events, and of course 5K and 10K walks/runs, plus the chapter’s first ever dog walk! Let’s create some real buzz for the event and help spread the word on Facebook. And if you’re ready to register and start building your team, sign up here. I hope to see you there!