The profiles you have on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms to promote your business have good and bad uses. That’s something most business owners find out as they try to engage buyers on each site, they discover what does and doesn’t work.

That process can take months or years, though, and a lot of the clients I work with simply don’t have the time to experiment. Today I want to share with you a few rules of thumb about what will and won’t get you results. Here are a few of the best uses for the social media profiles you keep for your business, regardless of the specific platform…

To Spread News About Discounts, Promotions, and New Products

Testing a number of different industries has shown that people like news items on their social media feeds, but generally don’t respond to ads. There is an exception to the rule, though, that involves saving money or getting the latest hot item. If you can frame your post as a way to get discounts or let followers be first in line for something special, they’ll respond.

To Get Contest Submissions and Event Signups

Event marketing is popular on social media for a couple of reasons. For one thing, you can hit targeted groups of customers by age, location, interest, and other factors. Even more importantly, you can get them to post about your event, which can help to draw in other friends and colleagues. That can make the job of filling a room or online seminar much easier.

To Gain Referrals and Customer Testimonials

Given that social media allows for direct, one-on-one communication, it shouldn’t be surprising that many top marketers use it to gain testimonials and referrals. Even better, the positive things they say about you and your company can be added to your timeline or description, meaning future customers and prospects will be likely to see them.

To Answer Customer Service Questions Directly

You may have customers who prefer using social media communications (like Facebook Messenger, direct messaging from Twitter, or LinkedIn mail) rather than traditional email. If that’s the case, you can actually use your social profiles to answer questions and deal with customer service concerns. It won’t take you any extra time, and could make things more convenient for your buyers.

For Fun Jokes and Stories

Even though your social media marketing should be focused on your business, there’s nothing wrong with posting the occasional joke or amusing video clip, so long as you keep things clean. It’s a good way to show customers you have a sense of humor, and to keep them interested in your feed.

In my experience, many of the business people who say social media “doesn’t work” aren’t using it in the best ways. Social media isn’t like search engine optimization or pay-per-click advertising; you can just put marketing messages out there and hope for the best.

Keep these best practices in mind, though, and you can get real, tangible results from your social profiles. In the process, you’ll have done something that most of your competitors couldn’t.