Social marketing helps consumers learn about brands, but few are converting directly after reading social content.

A report from Forrester Research relayed by Marketing Land suggests that social media marketing‘s value for businesses lies in engaging new prospects and driving them to a website. Even though few consumers make purchases directly after reading social content, including links and making a presence more engaging has helped businesses improve their overall web presence.

The study found organic search and direct site visits are most likely to result in more conversions on the web, accounting for 20 and 16 percent of sales, respectively. Still, a social presence helps cultivate stronger positions in organic search and aids brand awareness. It’s difficult for companies with even the best products to make sales if. A multi-channel web marketing strategy will help companies appeal to larger audiences.

According to Forrester, social marketing also offers value in customer retention. Consumers who have made purchases with a brand previously are more likely to reach out to that company on Facebook, Twitter or another platform. While they may not make a purchase immediately after, a strong presence encourages repeat visits and can improve sales in the long run.

Brafton recently reported that negative social engagement is an increasingly difficult issue for companies. In fact, more than 28 percent of respondents to an Ethical Corp survey said they were unprepared to deal with criticism through social. However, using this engagement to address issues head on and improve perception of a brand can make social a more effective channel for marketers.

Joe Meloni is Brafton's former Executive News and Content Writer. He studied journalism at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and has written for a number of print and web-based publications.