Social networking companies know this basic fact: Broadcasting to consumers still has a place in building brand loyalty, and people still watch TV commercials and listen to radio, plus they still pay attention to print ads. Those forms of creating brand recognition aren’t going away. Social media’s rise in popularity has provided marketers with a way to literally connect with their audience in real time. This is a huge benefit for both marketers and consumers. From a consumer research perspective, it’s terrific to be able to know what people are thinking about your products and services. From a customer perspective it’s incredible to be able to reach a company and be able to discuss your thoughts and needs with them. This kind of access to a brand was unheard of just a few years ago.

Let’s examine a few of the most significant ways that social media is revolutionizing brand loyalty. Each of these points focus on the premise that social media allows for a direct connection with the consumer. Top social networking companies can help you build a social strategy using these tenets, so you can develop lasting brand loyalty:

→ One of the most significant matters we should discuss is the fact that even in 2016, social media is still underused by many companies. A key statistic mentioned in Sprout Social’s October 5, 2015 article by Alex York, ‘5 Ways to Build Brand Loyalty Through Social Media‘ that could be turned around to brands’ advantage, is: ‘Brands ignore 7 of 8 messages from consumers.’ Consumers want a quick response and if they don’t get it their confidence in the brand can be damaged. While it may be difficult to answer hundreds of consumer questions in a timely manner, brands should put a process in place to alert consumers about their response time, and then work to provide responses in as timely a fashion as possible. One way to do this, especially if there is a general issue to address, is to post a message on Twitter and Facebook that you are aware of the issue, and steps are being taken to correct it. If you have a timeframe for the fix to be implemented, be sure to include that within your alert.

→ Social media can allow you to reach people in your target demographic that you may not be able to reach as economically with other forms of online activities. The best social networking companies can help you leverage social media as a research tool to discover the characteristics of target audiences, and then market to them in ways that genuinely appeal to these groups.

→ Content marketing through social media is one of the most effective ways to build brand loyalty. Social marketing companies know that pushing what you have to sell all the time is not appealing to people. What people want is helpful information. You can become the authority in your space by providing your audience with content that answers their questions and solves their problems.

→ Running social media contests is a good way to build brand recognition and develop loyalty over time. Most of the top social networking companies can help you set up contests that engage your audience. Your community will share posts and provide their contest entries (often these are photos or can be links to blogs they’ve written about their experiences with your brand).

→ An interactive social media presence is what marketers should strive for because it helps build a connection with a brand. If you run a boutique that sells high-end women’s formal dresses, then you might wish to post photos of events where women would wear these dresses. You could also ask people to send in photos of them wearing these dresses to charity functions. Another example might be a store that sells wooden children’s toys. You could blog and tweet about where the wood is sourced from, and again ask people to send photos or tweet photos of their kids playing with the toys.