It’s implied right there in the name – social media. Not anti-social media. Social media. The point and benefit of social media for individuals and businesses is the opportunity to interact with other people.

For individuals there are amazing sources of insight, information and inspiration available. Even at its most basic it is a brilliant way to stay in touch with family and friends as well as find people with similar interests – and often opposing views.

For businesses the real value comes from the ability to interact personally with current and potential customers. We’ve all heard the great stories of a brand taking the time to interact and have fun with their customers (Tesco, Yorkshire Tea, Jaffa cakes – being a great example – link). These are extreme examples – as great as they are – but there are lots of companies doing simple things that really make a difference to their customers.

The problem is that there are loads more that are doing it poorly. Having the presence is only a small part of the battle. Actually being able to respond to an interaction from a customer is where the action is. Same goes for individuals – if you’re not going to engage why be there?

The insights you can get as well as the good will you can build with customer are outstanding. While many will argue that it is very difficult to tie social media activity to real business outcomes I would apply a very simple test. Imagine two scenarios.

1. You tweet a question to a company on Twitter – no response.

2. You tweet a company on Twitter and get a response.

You don’t need to be a genius to know which one you would prefer or which one makes you feel positive about the brand. Of course we can argue about the quality and timeliness of the response – these are givens. And yes it will take some investment. No different to an experience at a counter or over the phone.

Personally, I would rather a company wasn’t on social media rather than be on there and be anti-social.