In theory, every person you interact with is a potential customer.  It’s just that some customers are more obvious — or more immediate — than others.

If you sell house paint, then homeowners are more likely to be interested in your products than gardeners would be.  Thus, homeowners are your more obvious target market.  And yet, whenever a homeowner visits Home Depot or Lowe’s to buy paint, she also sees everything else Home Depot has to offer, and she begins to think of them as future providers for the needs she doesn’t even realize she has — yet.

Your website works the same way.

A Google search may send someone to your website for a specific purpose.  But once he’s arrived, how easy is it for him to discover everything else your company offers?  (This question is covered quite extensively in Search Engine Land’s post about making sure your website is “READY.”)

This same logic also applies to your social media outreach.

The difference is, unlike a Google search result — which is likely to reward you with traffic based upon the long-term relevance of your content — a social media lead could be sparked by nearly anything your brand shares through Twitter, Facebook or a blog.

For example, let’s say you manufacture faucets.

Your company might tweet about the materials you use to create your products, or share water-saving tips with your Facebook fans.  These links might also be shared by your audience, with their audience, eventually catching the attention of everyone from florists to mechanics — none of whom would seem to be the target audience for your faucets.

Is their socially-driven traffic to your website wasted?

Not at all.

A florist who learns more about your products today may find herself remodeling her house next year.  She may not convert to a sale immediately, but knowing more about your company now — and doing so personally — increases the likelihood that she’ll remember your products when the time for a sale is imminent.

She might also share your valuable knowledge with her friends, family and coworkers, any of whom might be ready to make a purchase tomorrow.

As you evaluate your social media strategy, worry less about your immediate conversions to sales and focus instead on the long-term relationships created by your shared knowledge.

And make sure your websites — and your social media channels — are READY to keep new visitors coming back for more.

Speaking of social media, you should follow us on Twitter!