"Community" and "communication" both draw their meanings from the Latin "communicare," meaning to impart, share, or make common. With social media, consumers have a new avenue for sharing their thoughts and brand experiences with friends, family, and followers, building their personal community while communicating the peaks and pitfalls of these brand interactions.

But, as social media's popularity continues to gain momentum, companies must grow their social presence into active participation, thereby using social networks to develop a dialogue with these vocal consumers. Yet, while embracing these customers is paramount, many companies don't know how to approach these potential brand advocates and harness their value in a way that's advantageous to both their customer bases and their brands.

Justin Ramers, director of social media at The Active Network, explains that there are two sides to social media: social media marketing and social sharing. When social media came to be, marketers primarily aimed to grow their following so they could broadcast their brand message on the one-to-many level. However, as social media and its users evolve, social sharing and integration encourage "many-to-many" interactions, enabling and empowering customers to share experiences with their networks—groups inevitably more likely to respond to promotions from friends.