THE BLOG
08/25/2014 11:51 am ET Updated Oct 25, 2014

Using Social Media to Create Impact and Grow Your Business

If you are like most social entrepreneurs, you got into the space because you wanted to create a solution to a social problem. That was what drove me to start GreenHouse Eco-Cleaning. I saw my grandmother, a housekeeper from the West Indies, lose her battle with cancer--a disease I am pretty certain she developed after years of inhaling toxic cleaning fumes. Today, my company uses the healthiest and most environmentally friendly products to not only keep homes and offices clean, but to keep our customers and our employees healthy.

For social entrepreneurs, creating the solution is just as important as growing the business and social media has become a vital part of our overall success--allowing us to support our social missions while also growing our bottom line. Here are four ways you can use social media to impact change and grow your business.

Connect with Customers

One of the greatest advantages of social media is its ability to connect us with our customers. A strong social media presence gives personality behind your brand and helps you engage with your customers in a way that is not only relevant, but will inspire your customers to impact change. In order for this to be effective, you need to truly be engaged. Share content that your audience can use (for me the focus is on being eco-friendly) and participate in online conversations. Be sure to respond to customer service issues in a timely manner--a social media mention of a problem involving your brand can usually be diffused with a quick and courteous
reply.

Create Collaboration

While many companies are focused on competition, social entrepreneurs tend to focus on collaboration. Social media networks allow us to find and connect with like-minded businesses, creating deep relationships with those who are as committed to a cause as we are. Create a Twitter List of people you want to closely follow so you can re-tweet or reply to their posts, share links to stories where other businesses are mentioned and consider collaborating on a social media initiative such as hosting a Twitter Party, Facebook contest or group Pinterest board. You may also want to mention some of your business partners in your company blog like I do with my new Change Makers series. This gives great exposure to each other's audiences.

Become an Expert

It may be tempting to use your networks to do nothing but promote your business, but your focus should be on building knowledge about the social problem you are trying to solve (for me that is protecting the environment). The more knowledgeable your audience becomes, the more inspired they will be to take action. In turn, you will become an expert in your space, serving as a primary source for information and insight from reporters, bloggers and other media outlets. Ultimately, this will drive people to your website, your phone lines or your storefront.

Stay Relevant

In today's world, things change quickly and it is hard to keep up with the trends that affect our mission while we are also trying to grow our business. Set up Google Alerts for news and information that is impacting the social change you are trying to make and keep your finger on the pulse of what is generating conversations by searching Twitter or Facebook hashtags (i.e. #greenliving) or joining LinkedIn groups. It isn't enough to just know about a topic, you need to also know how people feel about the topic--this will help you with your own messaging and allow you to effectively engage in online discussions.

How do you know if your social media efforts are working? While it is important that your networks grow in followers and connections, it is also important that you grow in engagement. This will ensure the content you share and your overall online presence is relevant to your audience--moving you ever closer to creating change and growing your business.

This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.