You have fans on Facebook and you're connected with peers on LinkedIn. But if your social media activity generates few leads and little in the way of brand-building, it may be, says one expert, that it's not enough just to be there. You need a goal and a way to reach that goal.

Many home improvement companies, notes Tom Audette, of Three Deep Marketing, in St. Paul, Minn., primarily see social media as a branding tool. But it can be much more, he says, when you build networks by encouraging customers and others to share their content with their network via all social media.

LIKE US ENOUGH TO REFER US? A handful of companies are finding new ways to do that. In July, 1-800-Hansons, the Detroit area home improvement company, set out to build on its base of 19,000 Facebook fans by rewarding those who refer the company on Facebook to their friends. Register to refer, and if someone buys a job you get $100. If six buy jobs, you get a full refund on your last project, up to $10,000.

Owner Brian Elias says that he started out intending to build a social media presence. But one night, while watching a friend solicit advice about a possible painting project, Elias says, he realized “[homeowners are] not interested in what a business has to say about itself; they're interested in what their friends have to say about that business.”

The key, he points out, was to find a way to reward Hansons' social media contacts for posting about the company. The goal: to double Hansons' referrals by the end of the year.

MOVING UP IN THE RANKS Audette says that a social media strategy needs to come in two parts: create your own site content, then get friends and fans to post it to one another.

Adding that content has an SEO (search engine optimization) value as well. About a year ago, Terry Derosier, owner of Window World of the Twin Cities began posting customer testimonial videos on his company blog. Most are filmed with smartphone devices by salespeople, who get an extra commission for usable video. The site makes the testimonials easy to bookmark and share.

“Are we good at it?” Derosier asks and then responds, “We're just getting started.” Tagging those videos has helped push the company's standings on organic search. At last check, Window World of the Twin Cities was number two and number three on Google search results.