If you were to ask any executive what social media is they would certainly be able to tell you. How could they not? 2014 Facebook users are 1.2 billion. Going further, most executives appreciate that social media is a way to get the word out without having to go door-to-door. Despite all of this, the vast majority of executives have little idea how to harness social media’s enormous strengths and influence.

The reason is they are using social media in the same way they use direct mailings or publication advertising. For most, it’s a point and shoot game. But it’s a whole new world in marketing now and those old rules of being direct no longer apply. Here are three simple steps you can take to make your social media program relevant to who it matters most, your customers.

Step one – Learn from your customers: This is the one step few companies are willing to invest in, and yet, it’s the most crucial step of all. The ideal place to gather this customer intelligence is social networks using new product tests, surveys, and feedback columns from those that would ultimately purchase your products.

Step two – target a niche market of customers: This is another counter-intuitive strategic move that executives don’t like to make. The thought is “you’re limiting the size of my market!” The reality is you’re defining what is relevant and possible, and that has the built in benefit of eliminating the waste of time and marketing investment and using it for what will actually produce results.

Step three – create the right kind of buzz: We often hear any PR is good PR. Not true. Consider Coca-Cola’s marketing in China was first read as “Kekoukela” meaning, “Bite the Wax Tadpole” or “Female Horse Stuffed with Wax”, depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 characters to find a phonetic equivalent “Kokoukole”, translating into “Happiness in the Mouth.”

Had Coke asked a number of their target customers what they thought of their strategic marketing they would have easily avoided a major marketing blunder in this incredibly important market.

Knowing your market and understanding your customers’ interests will help you define what you should and should not write about. Social media is not the answer all that has to be used in every single step of your overall marketing communications. But it is certainly a part of the journey and so, discovering what your customers are mostly interested in is the most important thing you can do to begin.