It all starts with “why?”

As a social media professional, it’s something I hear all the time. From coworkers, clients, fellow marketers—anyone and everyone who has ever come close to working in the social space.

“Why do I need a LinkedIn profile?”

“Why does Facebook engagement rate matter?”

“Why can’t I tweet 15 times a day if I want to?”

All valid questions. All worth justifying with the correct answer, if for no other reason than to help the askers understand the massive value of an effective social media presence.

Barely a decade old (well, Facebook and everything that came after Facebook—AF, if you will), social media remains something that not everyone, marketers included, completely understands.

Most know they need it but don’t know why it’s necessary or how to do it. And the specific value social media provides isn’t always the easiest to quantify, particularly in the all-important terms of ROI. One thing it can provide, however, is a psychological edge that few other forms of traditional marketing can truly replicate.

At its very core, social media is a way to communicate one-on-one with others via the World Wide Web, or internet as we call it today. Interactions have evolved from the classic “Poke” on Facebook to replies on Twitter, and now the uber-personalized ad targeting on Instagram and other platforms.

A place to bring people together? Sure. Somewhere to build a robust professional network? Of course. A staging ground for a burgeoning marketing landscape that meets the needs of today’s ever-growing business world? Absolutely.

You can attribute a great deal of social media’s marketing promise to the real-time psychological and interpersonal benefits it can provide to a business of any size or shape.

How I reply to most of the aforementioned “why” questions typically relates to some form of relationship building that can be found daily on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or whatever your preferred network may be. Relationship building, customer growth, lead acquisition—they’re all, at their core, more or less the same form of human interaction.

And it all starts with trust.

Trust is one of the most important psychological behaviors you can demonstrate to an audience you’re trying to acquire. With social media, that trust can be built rapidly and demolished just as quickly. I’d argue that you can gain a customer’s trust (and subsequently their business) quicker on social media than on any other marketing platform.

It happens every single day. Customers, potential and devoted alike, interact with brands on social media and are either switched on to what the brand is providing, or switched off, depending on the messaging and execution. You can grow your business tenfold with the right targeting, effective content, and consistent and genuine execution.

Here’s an example: earlier this year I was sitting in a pub in North Seattle drinking a pint of German beer and scrolling my Instagram feed. I happened upon an account that belonged to a new local brewery in town. After following and liking a few of their posts, I commented on a particular photo of the brewery’s bottling process, one that happened to feature some very cool branded headwear.

Long story short, they responded to the comment and their rep (who was also the head brewer and marketing guy, as is the case sometimes with small businesses) came out to the bar where I was enjoying my libation. He gave me the hat I’d swooned over and a bottle of their signature brew, then enjoyed a pint and a solid conversation with my group.

From that point on, I became a devoted fan, follower, and customer of the brewery and I share this story with anyone who will listen. It’s so simple yet amazingly effective. This particular guerilla marketing strategy won’t work for all businesses, or even the majority of them—but it proves a very valuable point about the power of social media.

Those small interactions and the effort spent add up to a much bigger impact in the long run. That brewery now has me as a devoted evangelist. I tell my friends the story, they tell their friends and so on. The name spreads, the business grows, the social media strategy is cemented in the business plan.

And all it took was a one-on-one connection and a little TLC.

The instantaneous nature of these social networks allows for a plethora of possibilities as it pertains to your customers and their needs. Interact with them, like their content, amplify what they share. They’ll notice—and be hooked on you and your business.

Self-disclosure was at one point in our lifetime saved for a journal or the creation of art or music. Often practiced, rarely publicly detailed. With social media, it’s inherent to share your innermost feelings and beliefs with the world. We’ve become addicted to it. That cathartic exposure and willingness to open up leads us to trust others—and buy into messaging and build connections like never before. Social media is the always-available, always-on vessel where those interactions occur.

When I think about why social media is so important to today’s marketer, I look no further than the power of those connections and how the reverberations can be felt long after they take place.

Let Yesler show you more about the power of social media, starting here. You can also follow Shane on Twitter @shanevans for fun discussion about cats, sports and other necessary social media things.