Social media offers entrepreneurs so much more than a way to build their personal brand. Recently, I read an article by Forbes contributor Christine Crandell that gives some perspective to the strategic role social media fills in an enterprise. She argues that too many companies have added social media to their marketing campaigns for shallow reasons. They think it will be the magic bullet to building better relationships with their customers, when in fact, it is a tool for gaining understanding and business intelligence.

While relationship building is one aspect of social networking and its ability to connect entrepreneurs with their clients and prospects, to derive the full value of the medium, it’s necessary to think about how your target audience wants the company to interact with them. When you identify exactly what it is your prospects and existing clients want, you can make a more informed decision about how social media fits into your overall business plan and strategy. Additionally, the understanding will guide what you say on social channels in the forms of blog posts, tweets, webinars, podcasts and other digital content.

“Social media is not a destination; it is an enabler of business strategy,” Crandell writes. “In and of itself, social media will not drive customer satisfaction, robust collaboration, or revenue. It’s like putting a toy sail boat in a pond and huffing and puffing into the sail to make it go. It will go but randomly for it lacks a rudder.”

To gain greater control over this metaphorical rudderless boat and make your social media efforts deliver a return on your investment of time and money, think about how they can advance your one-, five- and 10-year goals of building client capital and branching out into new markets and services.

By tuning in to what clients and other professionals are saying about your industry, you may be able to conduct market research and learn how to not only market to your ideal clients, but also provide them with better service and establish more meaningful relationships.

Do you use social media in your business? Is it a way for you to not only market your firm’s brand and spread awareness, but also connect with clients and prospects? Do you “listen in” on what consumers and others are saying about your industry, and apply that insight to inform the direction you take your business?

More industries are starting to integrate social media into their operations. However, there is still some confusion about how to include the technology in marketing, client service and goal-setting tasks. Consider how social platforms can do more than enable your connection to a wider audience of potential clients. As you create a plan for building your business, think about how social media can facilitate and advance that strategy.