Social media is more than exchanging ideas or concepts online. Businesses both large and small are using social media today to create brand awareness in a way that could never be done in the past without a significant marketing budget.

So how do you use social media to create brand awareness? There are many tricks in the trade but the first step is by clearly identifying goals and objectives. Goals and objectives should be as clear as possible and measurable.

For example, having a goal that says, “We want to generate more traffic to our Facebook page” is not very specific, as there is no real way to measure what “more” really means. Does it mean 1,000 fans? 10,000? Does it count “likes” and shares and comments equally? Rather, it’s much better to have a goal like “We’re going to grow our Facebook fan base by 5,000.” That way you can actually determine whether and when you’ve met your goal.

The benefits of social media for achieving marketing goals are many. In a recent conference, Jason Falls, who is also the founder of Social Media Explorer, spoke of business drivers in social media. From his lecture we put together a some ways you too can improve your social media marketing.

Enhancing your branding awareness with social media
How do you enhance your brand awareness? Sometimes it takes just going with an intuition, an idea Dubuque social mediaand moving forward. For example, in an effort to increase awareness of their “save the whales” campaign and the plight of the humpback whale, the folks at Greenpeace put on a naming contest. Someone offered up the name “Mr. Splashy Pants,” but the conservative folks at Greenpeace thought that too juvenile and ignored it. Shortly after that, someone posted the naming contest on the social bookmarking site Reddit and promoted the name “Mr. Splashy Pants.” The name received a deluge of votes—jumping from 5% to 75%—and ended up winning the contest. In the process, 20,000 people voted and were made aware of the Greenpeace save the whales campaign. The result was a huge win for Greenpeace.

How are you enhancing your brand awareness? Are you measuring your ideas? After implementing an idea are you examining how many more people are talking about your business via social media, or is there an increase in the number of online conversations? Are you appearing in more conversations than your competitors?

Building community

Social media is a great tool for building community. For example, there is a general store in Montreal, Canada that sold locally grown producesocial media success and locally made products. In order to build community, they identified bloggers and others in the media that focused on those issues and started engaging with them through their social media networks and in the comments sections of their blogs. The store owners began doing this about a year before they even opened, so when they did open, they were hugely successful because they had already built a community of influencers who would talk about them.

To measure this aspect, you can start by analyzing the size of your community. Also, who are the members of your community? Are they influencers? Are they referring people to you?

Driving sales and leads

A restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland called Miss Shirley’s is apparently the place to go in Baltimore for Sunday brunch, and often there is a line out the door. So Miss Shirley’s thought, “Well, we’ve got Sunday handled, but what about the other days?” They needed a strategy to get people to come during the week. So they began using Foursquare, a mobile app that lets people check in at a location, which is linked to the person’s Facebook and Twitter account. With Foursquare, if you check in at the same place often enough, you become the “mayor” of that place.

So what Miss Shirley’s decided to do was to teach people how to use Foursquare. They put up table tents and posters, and they did email campaigns, all encouraging people to download the app and use it. And they put incentives for doing so, such as “If you come by on a Sunday morning AND you’re the mayor of Miss Shirley’s on foursquare, you don’t have to wait for a table. Over a three-month period, they had an increase of 427% of number of people who checked in on foursquare. More importantly, they say an 18% increase in sales during that same period.You can easily see how to measure this aspect of social media engagement. An increase of activity in social networks that corresponds with an increase in sales to your business demonstrates a successful reaching of your goal.

There are numerous ways to use social media to drive sales, improve your brand and increase customer loyalty. There are also many proven cases of companies doing so. What will be your story?