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Building and engaging a community

Perhaps the greatest value of social media marketing is your ability to foster and engage with a community of other people. That engagement is at the heart of social media, and without it, you're left with a megaphone and no one to hear you. You have the opportunity to interact with customers from all over the world—including those who are right down the street—on a huge scale. If a current or prospective customer has something to say to you or about you, you now have the ability to respond immediately.

In addition to responsive communication, brands and businesses can begin to build relationships with their customers beyond those that happen during normal transactions. These relationships are what keep customers coming back, increasing both loyalty and retention. If those customers become advocates and increase your word-of-mouth presence, you'll start seeing amazing returns.

By providing a great place of engagement for your community and helping build valuable, authentic resources for your brand's niche, you're also building up authority for your brand within your industry. You'll find your customers increasingly trusting what you say and coming to you for resources that can help them solve their own challenges. Heck, you may even find yourself lending a hand to a competitor in the space. All brands start in a similar unknown place, and the more you give, the more authority you'll get back. A great example is REI, which not only sells outdoor gear, but is also a known resource for tips on hiking, snowshoeing, zombie survival, and a whole host of other activities centered around the outdoors.

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