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Take a moment and think back to high school. Remember the "cool kids"? You know... the popular ones everyone wanted to be like, the ones who managed to stay ahead of the trends that everyone later followed in hopes of being cool. Unless you were one of the few chosen ones, there was almost nothing you could do to achieve their status.

But I have encouraging news for the older you: I am going to illustrate how your "cooler" peers are using social media today, and you'll see that it won't take much for you to tap into what makes them cool.

Every good social media plan starts by focusing on where you want to end up. Your goals dictate the objectives and detailed execution plans to achieve them. Most social plans still center on increasing brand awareness and building business. As it turns out, though, the cool kids are using social for much more.

Social is versatile, like a trusty Swiss army knife. It can serve your marketing and business development goals in many ways. Here are my top four social media applications:

Build stronger brand relationships faster by using social media to hyper-target customers. People will follow you if you have something they are interested in. If you are behaving nicely and you share lots of helpful and engaging content, you will earn their trust; that can later turn into business for you.

Speed up your sales cycle and close deals faster by using thought leadership to jump the line of competitors. The right content lets customers lead themselves down your sales funnel.

Build loyalty, defuse dissatisfaction, and show you really do care. Social media is the 24x7 customer service window

Listen for the trends. Social media can help steer everything from product development to market expansion decisions.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Philip Paranicas

Philip (Phil) Paranicas is director of new product development at ThomasNet.com. He is responsible for creating new products and services that support ThomasNet's mission of helping bring buyers together with sellers. Reach him via pparanicas@thomasnet.com.

Twitter: @Flip2Market

LinkedIn: Phil Paranicas