Whether you’ve posted information on a social media site about an upcoming event, driven readership by posting a link to a blog, or simply shared a photo of you and your team, you’ve leveraged social media for the good of your brand.

Use of social media sites – both on the part of consumers and businesses – has increased sharply in recent years.

And with more capabilities and advancements being added to top platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, it’s safe to say that social isn’t going anywhere, and will only have more of an impact on your brand – as long as you use it appropriately.

Social media networks can offer huge advantages for your business, helping you to make connections with your target audience.

Here, we’ve created an extensive list of (nearly) all the benefits that social media platforms can bring for your brand. Use these to inform your internal decision-makers, craft and improve your social media marketing strategy, and empower your business:

  1. Use of social platforms is on the rise.
  2. There’s more opportunity to branch out among social media networks.
  3. Direct connections with users and brand partners.
  4. Better support for your brand image.
  5. Create a path of least resistance to the website.
  6. Eliminate roadblocks on the path to purchase.
  7. Open, honest customer feedback.
  8. Uncover deeper conversations with social listening.
  9. A window into the competition.
  10. User-generated content.
  11. Tap into the power of influencer marketing.
  12. Tie it all together with social storytelling.

1. Use of social platforms is on the rise among consumers …

A staggering 3.48 billion people currently use social media, representing a 9% increase from 2018. In other words, about 366 million people just started using social this year, and that’s more than 300 million new potential connections for your brand.

… and businesses

In addition, about 77% of all businesses forecast an increase in their use of social this year. And while this translates to a bit more competition for your company, it’s also a testament to the power of social – in the current climate, social works for brands and their target audiences.

2. There’s more opportunity to branch out among social media networks

While some brands keep their social contained to a select number of platforms, typically hitting the big ones like Facebook and Instagram, there is now more opportunity than ever before to branch out.

Each social media network is different, and thus provides an opportunity to share different content and messages on different networks.

Right now, most companies have anywhere between four and 10 social profiles that they maintain. A strategy like this enables you to reach out to an older audience on Facebook, use an interesting image to connect with younger users on Instagram, and foster professional relationships and thought leadership through LinkedIn posts, for example.

3. Direct connections with users and brand partners

Speaking of more opportunity, this isn’t just true of the number of available networks.

Brands can also leverage social to directly connect with their target audience, and enable fast and easy communication. In this way, customers don’t have to jump through hoops in order to contact someone at the brand – all it takes is a well-placed direct message and timely response to valuably contribute to the customer experience.

Supermarket chain Tesco takes this to the next level in their consumer social media interactions. When users send a direct message through the company’s Twitter, the company’s response includes different options for them to choose from:

This brand’s interactions are super efficient, enabling customers to get quickly get the info they need.

4. Better support for your brand image

In the past, brands had limited outlets to create and foster their image.

Now, however, social media enables brands to truly showcase their brand style and voice in all types of different ways.

This helps make the brand more personable and real for its audience. What’s more, there’s always opportunities to further build out the brand image and style with a video post announcement, a link to a blog, a post to your social story and beyond.

Take fashion retailer ASOS, for example. The brand’s strategy includes a separate Twitter account just for its customer service requests, providing a place for consumers to turn, other than the company’s regular profile.

This way, customers get a faster response, and ASOS can showcase its laid-back and casual image through the tone of its social media messages:

5. Create a path of least resistance to the website

One of the biggest obstacles that many companies face is the challenge of leading potential customers through the sales funnel, and ensuring that they have access to the right pieces of content and collateral along the way.

Your social media advertising and online presence can not only serve to help support your sales funnel, but posting strategic links on your profile can also create a path of least resistance to your website. This way, current and potential customers won’t just find you through organic searches – you’ll also pop-up in their newsfeed and timeline, with just the right link to your site.

Clothing brand Free People provides a good example on its Facebook page. The brand provides a link (Shop Now) directly at the top which leads users to the company’s main e-commerce site:

The brand also uses posts to showcase its latest merch, alongside links that lead shoppers directly to the product pages for the items featured:

To top it all off, Free People includes a Products page, where shoppers can peruse through merchandise, select the items they like, and head directly to checkout on the brand’s main site. Now that’s truly a path of least resistance:

6. Eliminate roadblocks on the path to purchase

Building on this last point, social isn’t just about leading the horse to water – it can also eliminate anything standing in the way of making it drink.

Now, brands can leverage buy buttons and shoppable posts to enable users to view and buy directly from their timelines, just as they would on the brand’s full website. This can help eliminate the necessary touch points between “I’m just looking,” and “Ooo, I must have this today!”

The above example comes from premium fashion brand Ted Baker, and is actually an interactive video that includes shoppable touch points directly within the video. Talk about advanced shopping!

7. Open, honest customer feedback

Social platforms also offer an outlet for customers to share their honest feedback with companies.

While comments can sometimes feel like a segment of Jimmy Kimmel’s “Mean Tweets,” it also allows marketers to get a true – and often unfiltered – sense of customers’ feelings about the brand and its offerings. And hey, there could be some truth buried even within the seemingly harshest of consumer social media posts.

8. Uncover deeper conversations with social listening

You can also take social media monitoring to the next level with social listening, which doesn’t just focus on your own social page for feedback, but helps you analyze all of your social media channels to get the best sense of the direct feedback, brand mentions and overarching conversations taking place in your industry.

Using these insights, you can better craft your future social media campaigns, improve your brand messaging and speak to your audience in a way that will encourage them to actually listen.

Many brands, like FitBit, have leveraged social media listening to improve their product line. The company’s new Reminder to Move feature came directly from users’ feedback on social media.

9. A window into the competition

In addition to getting a look at the true feelings and opinions of your customers and followers, social media is also a fantastic tool for checking up on your competition.

For instance, did your top competitor recently go viral by getting in on a brand-aligned social challenge? Did a call for user-generated content (which we’ll get into more below) go particularly well for them?

Take these lessons and insights back to your company, and build on them to up your own social clout.

10. User-generated content

One of the best things about social media is the fact that conversations and touch points don’t just go one way.

Now, everyone is more accessible through social media than ever before, including brand leaders, politicians, celebrities and beyond. Consumers (including members of your own target audience) are happy to take advantage, and reach out to high profile businesses and people.

Destination Canada’s call for content brought them thousands of photos and videos to use.

You can capitalize on this by putting out a call for user-generated content.

This content can come along with specific direction, like for a viral challenge. Other times, brands will announce a specific hashtag and ask their audience to use it in upcoming social media posts.

In this way, content isn’t just siloed within the brand’s own social page – its reach extends further through individual user timelines and beyond.

User content helps to vary the types of posts that your followers see on your social platforms. Since 60% of consumers place a higher trust in posts, photos and recommendations made by other customers, well-placed user-generated content can be just the thing your sales funnel needs to encourage conversion.

A fantastic example comes from Apple, which leveraged its #shotoniphone social media campaign to showcase the camera capabilities of its new model.

Starbucks gave us another great user-generated content success back in 2014 with its “WhiteCupContest. This campaign asked users to submit their own cup designs, and when coffee collides with art, fantastic things can happen – in just three short weeks, the coffee giant saw a whopping 4,000 responses from artists across the globe.

The social media campaign generated so much buzz that the brand spearheaded a similar challenge in 2016 with its #RedCupArt challenge.

11. Tap into the power of influencer marketing

In addition to crowdsourcing content from your follower audience, social also provides you the opportunity to join forces with certain influencers in your industry.

Influencers are social media users with considerable relevance and reach, and they use this influence to spread messages that resonate with their audience.

Selecting and partnering with the right influencer can help you reach a wider audience, strengthen your image, grow brand awareness and build trust.

In other words, an influencer is like a megaphone for your brand’s unique messaging, enabling your company to make better connections while improving engagement and lead generation.

Learn more about the pros and cons of influencer marketing here.

12. Tie it all together with social storytelling

One of the greatest advantages of social media is that you don’t have to pigeon-hole your brand into solely salesy social media advertising posts – you can also use you social pages for brand storytelling.

Sure, a post about an upcoming sale will get certain users’ attention, but using your social channel to tell a story about something that’s truly important to your audience will help you make a greater impact.

Take Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign, for instance.

The feminine products brand took a common phrase and turned it on its head by sharing uplifting stories of female empowerment. The campaign was perfectly aligned with the company’s brand image, but didn’t push its products – instead, it helped showcase the strength, confidence and abilities of girls and women across the globe.

Social media is an incredibly powerful tool that can enable your brand to connect with your audience in engaging and relevant ways. Your social media channels and overall online presence let you add to meaningful conversations happening in your industry, and make a real impact in your brand’s field.

Jessica Wells is a senior writer and editor at Brafton, working remotely from Hawaii. When she's not writing, Jessica enjoys paddle boarding, snorkeling and enjoying the view (and a cocktail) from her beach chair.