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With 47.4 per cent of Canadians using social media at least once a month, it's surprising that social media content hasn't been given a greater place of prominence on brand websites.

Though most companies have Facebook buttons featured on their home pages and Twitter updates streaming down the side, there is still so much more that can be done to engage customers and take advantage of the full power of social media.

PepsiCo Inc. is a great example of a company that is getting it right.

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It has dedicated its entire homepage to a beta version of Pulse, an innovative way to marry its social media feeds and other curated content into a tile-based interface that constantly updates. It highlights Pepsi's focus on entertainment, with music and movie content, as well as events and conversations the brand is having with consumers all around the world.

The company is also getting the visual aspects right. As sites like Pinterest have shown, great visual style can drive engagement and provide a social media environment that attracts consumers and keeps them coming back. The tools are out there but far too many brands don't know how to use them, or lack the courage to completely shift away from the status quo.

McDonald's Corp. has recently launched " Your Questions," where users can sign in via Facebook or Twitter and ask a question on a public forum. The design stands out, but so does the fact that the company actually answers the questions in a conversational way – from the number of sesame seeds on a Big Mac bun to more difficult questions about 100-per-cent beef claims and 'pink slime."

Providing more transparency and sharing those conversations on its main site signals to consumers that the company cares about what they think and is confident enough in its brand to have that discussion in so prominent a place as its website.

A lot of companies are having these conversations with consumers somewhere online. It may be through a team of customer service employees on Twitter or on their Facebook page.

But when it comes to companies' main Web page – their most valued online asset – brands are missing the boat.

While all companies don't have the resources of Pepsi and McDonalds, their examples can be applied to any brand.

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Consider the McDonald's model when thinking about a new approach to frequently asked questions (FAQs), or the great way Pepsi Pulse has merged social feeds with curated content from around the Web to keep the experience fresh. It really can be as simple as publishing testimonials or product reviews and leveraging new visual tools to really bring your story to life in a more engaging way.

If done correctly, conversion rates and engagement will go up, and your content will travel further.

Social media is so much more than a few Facebook and Twitter buttons on your page. With the tools that are available, why not make your most valuable online asset as social as possible?

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic . She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

Join The Globe's Small Business LinkedIn group to network with other entrepreneurs and to discuss topical issues: http://linkd.in/jWWdzT

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