Brands are discovering the most effective way to use social media marketing is to crowdsource ideas from audience members.

Marketers know their social media content won’t generate traffic, leads or loyalty if it’s purely promotional. Audiences on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ want engagement, which means companies’ Tweets must ask questions, status updates tell funny stories and encourage followers to share their individual insights. Some brands are already finding ways to leverage their followers’ preferences to get target audiences to engage with social media content.

ClickZ covered a new Ben & Jerry’s campaign that asks residents of five cities (Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and New York City) to vote for ingredients and flavors that will be ‘churned’ into local flavors.

Ben & Jerry’s Assistant Digital Manager Mike Hayes told the source that soliciting customers’ feedback has been an integral part of the company’s success from day one, but participation on social channels enables the brand to interact with consumers individually.

“Our fans have helped us create some of our most iconic ice cream flavors like Cherry Garcia and Chubby Hubby. This social campaign is an expansion of that,” said Hayes.

Brafton recently reported that Gen C (a demographic that includes most people under 35, but also represents anyone who flourishes on community, creation, curation and conversation) chooses to buy from brands that ask their customers for opinions to inspire future offerings.

“Gen C thrives on participation. People are talking about everything they encounter and sharing their experiences with friends …Digital isn’t just about asking someone to visit your social platforms, or giving them a coupon, it’s about creating experiences that add value to the community your brand is a part of,” stated an article about Google’s “The Engagement Project.”

It’s becoming more important for marketers to bring their target audiences into larger conversations and then take that advice to heart. Social media monitoring enables companies to see what customers are saying and respond quickly to keep those people engaged to drive conversions, and ultimately, loyalty.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.