Small businesses, franchises, nonprofits and entrepreneurs all got into the social-media game -- throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what stuck.

Businesses had a lot of options to try to connect with customers, and some clear lessons emerged from the chaos.

A lot of marketing energy is spent on branching out to find new customers.

What 2011 showed us, though, is that a loyal customer is still your best customer and ultimately your least expensive path to new customers.

Your best customers will help bring you more customers, so don’t forget to engage them as you seek new business via social media channels.

Participate in conversations with your customers.

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