The longer social media thrives, the bigger the role it will play in companies. Today, 81 percent of businesses both small and large are using social media. Out of those, 94 percent use it to communicate marketing messages.

But this year social media should be more than just an outlet for your business’s marketing messages. Read on to learn three new ways your business can use social media.

1. Social listening

Often social media is seen as an outlet to blast out your own message, but as PR professionals know, every conversation needs to be a balance of listening and talking.

That’s why your business needs to use social media for more than voicing your own message — you need to use it to listen to what people are saying about your brand and how they’re saying it through social media. Truly listening to this social buzz will allow you to see what your business is doing right and what you can be doing better. The next step is then to take what you’ve heard, and solve problems.

And, of course, interact with social commenters directly to let them know, too.

2. Social advertising

While advertising often brings to mind images of billboards and glossy magazine ads, your business can advertise on social for far less. As it turns out, this smaller investment may get you more bang for your buck, too.

Social ads on Facebook and Twitter have been around for a while, but their effectiveness has always been up in the air. New research found that in 2013, social advertisements work extraordinarily well at delivering new, quality audiences to your brand.

For the small price tag, running social media ads has low risk — and it could be a real difference-maker when it comes to attracting new customers to your business.

3. Social market research

Market research on social media takes social listening to the next level. Brands know they have a captive, engaged audience on their social sites, so now they’re floating new ideas on social media.

From new product names to taglines and magazine covers, customers love having their voice heard in either the comment section or a more formal poll.

Plus, when you ask your customers for direct feedback on a specific solution, they become invested. Then, when your product hits the shelves, you better believe they’re going to be one of the first to see if their vote won. A true win-win situation.

Remember, social media is a two-way street. While it’s important to continually share your brand’s material, it’s just as important to foster engagement by listening and responding to your fans, too.