I hear a lot of people talking about "social" in corporate environments. To many, that means tweeting that their company has a product launch coming and it magically gets 80,000 new customers. For most, that's not how social works.

Yes, you need great content on your site. But the big networks have gotten to the point where they are laden with so much content that it's difficult to get your message heard without paying for advertising. These days, achieving tangible results from social media efforts requires trying some off-the-beaten path techniques.

Start by looking at some of the sites you might not think of as social networks but absolutely are.

Meetings

There are a number of social networks that allow organizations to facilitate in-person meetings of otherwise potentially disconnected people.

One example is Meetup, a site for scheduling groups of people to meet. This includes marketing groups, singles groups, groups in specific technical niches, businesses, running groups, etc. Facebook also has the ability to connect people to meetings they wouldn't otherwise hear about.

More than likely, there's a group for the market that your organization serves. It can be an excellent venue for making great contacts over time. Also, don't forget that many an organization still publish calendars to their sites rather than using a service; therefore, a quick search for local meetups or user groups can net additional results.

It's never a bad idea to use a number of different tools to try and locate places where you can meet potential customers or just expand your network!

Events

Eventbrite is another terrific site for finding events, but also comes with the ability to schedule, manage, and even sell access to events. Eventbrite is the bigger of these types of apps, but Picantic.com, Townscript.com and others will help drive attendance and locate semi-impromptu conferences and meetups.

These type of sites are useful for recruiting employees who do specific tasks (e.g. Ruby programmers, online marketing gurus) and can put you in touch with real people in industries your company may serve.

Additionally, Eventbrite makes it simple for your organization to host user groups and conferences about your product or industry.

Answers

Quora, Reddit and Yahoo Answers are all wonderful sites where people can to ask questions about a variety of topics. You might find visitors asking questions about about your product, more general questions that signify the need for your product, or just questions about the industry you're in.

Quora's etiquette is such that rather than directly telling people to buy your product, you should use the site to brand yourself as an industry expert, or thought leader. And be gracious to your competitors, if questions about their services come up.

Comments

Disqus and Livefyre are commenting systems that are embedded in many websites, such as WordPress. While they may not seem like social networking sites in the traditional sense, these can be great because if you see someone ask a question on a blog that relates to your industry, you can click on their profile and see what other sites they ask or answer questions on.

Sites like these provide a clever way to find contacts, and you never know where those people work or how a message to them might be amplified. Especially if their account is actually linked to a blog they run!

Communication

Slack is a site and app for building communities. These communities, just as LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups and other sites with similar functionality, can easily take a life of their own. For example, the community of Apple administrators around the world now has 3,000 people in a single Slack channel.

You can reach new customers here as well, but as with Quora, do so with your content rather than pushing people to buy your product.

If your organization caters to a specific audience, or micro-market, then you can narrow the focus even further and find social networks and message boards dedicated to your niche. Your message will get to fewer people that way, but the message will be far more impactful when it reaches those who see it.

And it can't be emphasized enough: Don't spam these communities. Nothing will make you seem less legitimate!

Doing so will make your product look bad and likely get you banned. There's more legitimate authority in simply being a leader in your industry and letting the business come to you organically.

Published on: Oct 27, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.