You've likely heard the following: "We need more followers on Twitter," or, possibly, "Our CEO wants more Likes on Facebook."

What's a marketer to do? Our challenge is to educate not only ourselves but also those around us.

The fact is... social media success is not just about gaining followers or "Likes." Instead, you need to track how many followers buy your products or subscribe to your services. As management consultant Peter Drucker wrote, "There is only one valid purpose for a business and that is to create a customer... The customer is the foundation of a business and keeps it in existence."

Social media is a channel, not a strategy. Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms should not be used simply because they exist. Rather, their use should be dictated by business sense. Does using the channel solve a problem or provide some other value?

A CRM Channel?

If you're developing a social customer relationship management (CRM) strategy, however, social media might be a channel to pursue.

Despite all the hype and the recklessness of slapping "social" on current business models, many industry pundits nevertheless acknowledge the emergence of a new social customer.

The social customer is redefining how people interact with brands and corporations. The social customer readily shares opinions and experiences (good and bad), and increasingly makes buying decisions based on trusted networks—spanning public and private social networking platforms and peer communities. The social customer is involved, and evolved.

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Patrick Dorsey is vice-president of marketing at Avectra, a developer of Web-based social CRM solutions.