Here in mid-2013, the value of building a social media presence for small businesses has been firmly established. What’s less established, however, is how social media engagement actually leads to a measurable payoff or sale. Your business has bills to pay after all, so it’s imperative that your social strategy be built not just to engage, but as a viable avenue for sales.

#1 Avoid the community of robots

First thing’s first: You have to take a look at who makes up your community. Social branding isn’t simply about having followers. If half of them are dummy accounts or people not very active in social media in the first place, you’re probably not reaching as many people as you think, and certainly not the kinds of people who might actually buy something from you.

If you want a community of actively engaged customers, industry peers, and interested prospects, then it’s your job to identify them and invite them to celebrate your brand with you. Passively waiting around for people to follow you will lead to a passive, robotic community. Your brand must drive passionate, active engagement, or else no sale. Here are some tips for driving genuine engagement through your Twitter community.

#2 Sell your product by celebrating it

Social engagement should be no different than any other marketing strategy—your product or service must be part of the conversation. Prospects and customers on social platforms know how to tune out unwanted noise, so you don’t want to be pushy, but that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to share the latest news on your company’s offerings.

So, while a bald-faced sales pitch won’t get you anywhere, there are plenty of situations where it’s more than acceptable to talk yourself up. Did a major publisher just feature your product in a glowing review? Share the article! Did your third-quarter sales exceed your predictions? Spread the word!

Of course, one crucial element of celebrating your brand and products is maintaining visibility. This means spreading the word across multiple platforms. The AT&T Messaging Toolkit is perfectly suited for helping brand stay visible and on-message.

#3 Bring value to your relationships

Your prospects are far more likely to reward you with a sale if you contribute value to them or their network. Social media, as they say, is a two-way street. You can’t expect someone to want to help you and your brand unless you’re ready to show a willingness to do the same.

If you know the answer to someone’s question, by all means answer it. In the best case scenario, the question ties back to one of your products—but don’t force the issue if it doesn’t directly relate. If you don’t know the answer, put the question to someone in your own network to see if someone else can help out. Social engagement is very often a game of reciprocity. When it comes time to build buzz around a new offering, your helpfulness will be remembered and rewarded.

Another key way to boost value is to make the user experience as fluid and accessible as possible. With mobile purchasing on the rise, your brand may want to consider offering users a dedicated, AT&T-powered app, providing a one-stop shop for news, products, and feedback.

#4 Reward your advocates

Your advocates are your greatest allies. No matter what you do as a brand, ultimately people are more likely to trust the recommendations from people in their own networks. Identify your most vocal fans and amplify their message. Take the energy they’re expending on behalf of your brand and find ways to match and reward it.

Your goal is to create serial advocates, people on your side for the long haul. By recognizing and rewarding their enthusiasm, they will be far more likely to want to advocate for your brand again in the future. Rewards don’t have to always come in the way of freebies or giveaways—sometimes recognition is enough. There are many strategies for building rewards systems, but at the end of the day, the goal should always be to put a satisfied customer front and center.

#5 Cultivate a culture of testimonials

Social isn’t just what happens on Facebook or Twitter. Keep in mind that these platforms are at least one step removed from a point of purchase. Where do people buy your products, and what are people saying about you at those touch points?

It’s your job to cultivate a culture of positive reviews. Don’t be afraid to ask your community to leave positive reviews at their points of purchase, and encourage them to share those reviews with their extended networks afterward.

What is your business doing to turn social engagement into sales? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Mark is a digital marketer, social brand strategist, speaker, blogger and educator. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.