Though most savvy businesses now use social media to spread their reach and connect with customers in more intimate ways, many are missing out on the full potential of this expanding network of communities.

So says Spencer Smith, a social media speaker and consultant who spoke yesterday at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference. Smith teaches social media strategies at UW-Madison, and works with Fortune 500 companies like IBM, Kohl’s, Kimberly Clark, Oshkosh Truck and others.

“Social media — for all of us — is the greatest opportunity there has ever been to help other people look good,” he said. “So if you ever question, ‘Well, what do I say?’ or ‘How do I spend time effectively?’ look for good things happening in the community, your customers… and highlight what they do first, because there is an inherent virality to that.”

And that’s important, because as Smith pointed out, public relations is a $14 billion industry in the U.S. Using cheap social media tools can keep costs down for companies as they work to mitigate negative exposure while elevating the positive.

One common issue with companies is that they are simply giving up too quickly, according to Andrew Foxwell, co-founder and CEO of social media advising firm Foxwell Digital. He focuses much of his work on using Facebook for digital marketing.

“Social media takes time if you want to do it well,” he said, emphasizing the importance of determining which channels will work best to achieve an organization’s strategic goals.

Read the full article here.