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5 Ways to Leverage Your Social-Media Following to Close Sales Once you've done the work to build a following, it only takes imagination to dream up new ways to capitalize.

By John Pilmer Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Like all savvy business owners, you've invested significant resources into building up a social network you are proud of. You've got a wide fan base, enough "likes" and "followers" to make you feel validated, and have begun to generate engagement among your consumers. You're on every major platform and a few of the newer, more experimental ones. You've seen and done it all - now you simply have to sit back and relax, right?

While the benefits of having an extensive online social presence are numerous, many businesses – particularly small businesses – are not utilizing their networks to their fullest potential. Social media is about public relations, yes, and there is long-term value in keeping an open dialogue with your customers. But there can also be intrinsic value in your social network – opportunities to make money that you might be missing. Here are five simple, low-cost ways you can generate sales directly from your social network.

Related: 9 Steps to Get Your 'Social-Selling' Program Off the Ground

1. Instagram pop-up sales

If your company isn't on Instagram, you should consider it. Independent business owners can offer products direct-to-consumers within seconds by snapping a photo and posting it, along with a price, to their social network. In this manner, even a one-person operation can generate sales through social media. Small brick-and-mortar operations can also use this method to reach a wider audience than they might be able to locally. You needn't base your entire business model on Instagram. Try offering flash sales on overstock through photos.

2. Facebook 'members only' coupons

Facebook is probably the most widely used social platform among corporations, but many of these companies aren't sure how to use Facebook to gain more customers. Try offering members-only coupon codes that promise a discount to loyal followers. If you offer meaningful coupons, you can refresh relationships and directly drive sales. You will likely also pick up some new customers in the process.

3. Kickstarter campaigns

You may not consider Kickstarter to be a social media platform, but don't overlook its potential as a sales-generation tool. Gaming companies, in particular, have discovered that they can use Kickstarter, in conjunction with their other social media tools, to generate sales of a game before they even develop it. They then have a committed return on invest in advance, something almost unheard of for small corporations. It's a great way to test your market before committing significant funds to production and advertising.

Related: Boost Sales With These 7 Social Media Steps

4. Blog tours

Some niche markets have already begun to harness the power of bloggers in moving their products. With a little research up front, you will find a group of bloggers willing to feature your product over the course of a few days or weeks. Some PR firms are even starting to offer this service as part of your social media package. Not every business model lends itself to a blogger campaign, but if your products or services seem to fit, especially if your company runs its own blog, this can be a powerful way to generate sales at a minimal cost.

5. Twitter contests

Smart companies have turned Twitter into a money-making machine by making their followers part of the creative process. Mom-and-pop shops can ask their fan base to vote on product designs, color schemes and slogans to generate interest. Ultimately, the consumer feels involved enough in the merchandise to purchase it.

Take another look at the toolbox of social media that you already have at your disposal before investing in costly ad campaigns. Your network is full of consumers who already like your brand. With a little time and effort, you can generate new sales in an unconventional way.

Related: Social Media's Role Will Soon Shift From Driving Awareness to Creating Revenue

John Pilmer

Entrepreneur Consultant, Owner and CEO of PilmerPR

John Pilmer, APR is an award-winning, accredited public relations and marketing communications advisor for emerging sector leaders. His firm, PilmerPR LLC facilitated the launch of 4 startups into the Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Companies in America. He holds an undergraduate degree in Business Management and Marketing from Brigham Young University, as well as an MBA from the University of Utah.

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