Can social media really benefit a business? It can—but only when it’s used smartly. Often, finding the formula that works comes from plenty of trial and error. We asked PROFIT 500 leaders to share their social-media successes (and the lessons they’ve learned along the way). Here are some of our favourite responses:

  • “Social media is the most fantastic tool to convey and transmit your information, your knowledge, your expertise, your service to the masses. But if you have a ‘get rich quick’ kind of mentality, social media is not going to help you. It’s a long-term investment in which you’re virally branding your product.”
    —Andrew Faridani, president & CEO, BreezeMaxWeb Ltd. (No. 84)

  • We encourage our customers to go on Facebook and Twitter to express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with our company. We like good and bad to be put on there, but it’s mostly good that we see.”
    —Justin Bobier, president, Crystal Creek Homes Inc. (No. 113)
  • “It’s amazing;  it’s more relevant to us from a B2B point of view. From the little bit we have dabbled in things like Facebook, we’ve gotten leads from that that have turned out to be significant opportunities.”
    —Karl Sigerist, president & CEO, Crelogix Acceptance Corp. (No. 264)
  • We hired a professional to manage our social media. We weren’t really on social media before that. We’d put something up if someone had time, but more often than not we didn’t. No we’re everywhere with new content all of the time.”
    —Lyle Richardet, President and CEO, SysGen Solutions Group Ltd. (No. 233)
  • LinkedIn has been big for us. We recruit people, and it’s a great way to keep up to date with what everybody is doing and where their people are in the market. From a sales perspective, we can see what clients are looking for help, like ‘hey, we need some expertise here.’ It gives us a read on the market as well as on candidates.”
    —Paul Herron, managing partner, Copperstone Connect (No. 38)
  • “We have multiple social media pages for different divisions. And managing all that through the actual social media site has been very difficult. Instead, we use HootSuite, and it’s very easy to use. You add all your sites in, and then it’s just a matter of creating teams assign those teams and managers to different pages. Because social media is instant media, it’s worse than a newspaper. It’s right there and once people start sharing it, it’s done. It just takes one person to say something that looks good at that moment but when you read you realize ‘we shouldn’t have said that,’ whether it’s a political comment or something about a certain religion or something you generally shouldn’t talk about. So HootSuite helps to control that. But, more importantly, it gives you in-depth analytical information that would be very difficult to obtain individually. You’d have to spend hours—if not days—to get that otherwise.”
    —Raymond Zar, CEO, Mary-am Group of Companies (No. 28)

  • “We use HootSuite every day, not just to engage people who talk about us, but also to join conversations about topics that relate to us, our business and our clients.”
    —Andrew Reid, founder, president and chief product officer, Vision Critical Communications Inc. (No. 281)
  • “We have a pretty robust Facebook following. Often, in product development, we’ll reach out to our Facebook followers and say, ‘We’re currently redesigning a line of tea. What do you think?’ We’ve had hundreds of people respond. It’s so powerful to have that communication tool open, and so immediate. It’s been fabulous.”
    —Kate LeBlanc, CEO, Saje Natural Business Inc. (No. 213)
  • “We used Facebook to run a contest. We were asking people to comment on how our service made a difference in their lives. We ended up getting 300+ Facebook likes and got a lot of position content. As a service provider in an industry where people don’t always understand the technology 100%, we’re on the forefront of hearing the negative. We have 4,000 customers, so we hear a lot of negatives. It was nice to hear those positives.”
    —Andreas Wiatowski, founder and CEO, Silo Wireless Inc. (No. 82)
  • “Part of social media is retaining business, but it also builds a company’s personality. Take this example: we simply posted ‘What does coffee mean to you?’ on Facebook. The feedback we got was amazing. We jumped, in terms of followers, by 500% within two weeks. We touched an emotional point with our customers; we hit a nerve that resonated with them.”
    —Claudio David, president, Office Coffee Solutions Ltd. (No. 223)
  • We’re tweeting all day, every day about what we’re doing. We find that eventually people say, ‘I see your tweets, you’re filled with information, can you help us out with the following?’ It leads to us closing business deals. No one thinks Twitter can do that, but it’s amazing at legitimizing who you are. It’s tremendous.”
    —Robert Wills, CEO, Airstart Inc. (No. 437)
  • “Recently I tweeted someone I’d been trying t get in touch with, and they tweeted back. They never answered the phone or emails. When other people can see the tweet, I guess they feel the peer pressure to respond.”
    —Jonathan Ward, president and CEO, Ward Technology Talent Inc. (No. 198)
  • “A lot of the accounts we pick up start on social media. If we can’t get in touch with someone through phone or email, simply sending a message on LinkedIn is faster.
    —Zeeshan Hayat, CEO, Prizm Media Inc. (No. 52)
  • “We really encourage our employees to use their personal accounts, in their own names, to talk about the company. This has given us sales opportunities. The company has social media accounts, but it really comes down to our people.”
    —Chris LaBossiere, founder and co-CEO, Yardstick Software Inc. (No. 206)
  • We use it to make business decisions. For instance, for our play Potted Potter, we can go on Facebook and see who likes Harry Potter on their Facebook page in each market, which indicates whether there will be demand.”
    —Corey Ross, president, Starvox Entertainment Inc. (No. 203)
  • “Our company is young so social media is a huge part of what we do. But it’s not always about stuffy business info. Our employees have their own Facebook group, in which they share sales stories and best practices. They built it themselves to share ideas.”
    —Anthony Boyle, president and CEO, HR Downloads Inc. (No. 12)
  • I hate social media.”
    —Alexander Fernandes, founder, president, CEO and chairman of the board, Avigilon Corp. (No. 13)

Click here for the complete 2014 PROFIT 500

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