Years ago, explorers were defined by the new lands they discovered. Today, we’re re-defining exploration and discovery through technology; we’ve become digital explorers, learning the intricacies of a myriad of social media platforms—and it’s an exciting time to be a part of such a worldwide quest. It’s also frustrating.

And much like learning to survive in an unfamiliar and unstable climate, social media forces brands to be ready to immediately react to changes in the way it works, as well as adapt to new platforms, and adjust to ever-changing public expectations.

What’s left is the rise and fall of brands that have discovered new ways in which we can make social media work, as well as ways in which it does not. Thankfully, any brand can rise from the bottom of the social media pit. So where are brands now?

Let’s take a glance at a few brand Twitter accounts:

From the absurdly irrelevant tweets from Skittles, to the more self-promotional ads like Nike, to the in-between from Coca-Cola, we find that brands are representing themselves in a variety of ways; in other words, they’re still exploring and trying to figure it out. But if the goal of social media is to build relationships with current fans and gain new ones, then who is doing it right?

As we try to tame the beast that is social media and find an answer to that question, here are three common complaints about social media and how to attack them:

We don’t have the right content!

Give your content some element of purpose and passion, and relate it to your brand. Unless you seek to convey yourself in a way that’s similar to the random brand of Skittles, or even Taco Bell, stick to what you know. Be authentic and transparent in all communication channels your brand utilizes, from web copy to television ads.

It’s important to stay engaged in conversations and to pop into new ones you’re not already a part of, especially in the B2B world. Social media extends beyond Facebook and Twitter. It’s blogging and engaging in conversation through comments. It’s LinkedIn connections and participating in conversations with other colleagues in the field. It’s sharing slide decks on Slideshare and learning from others who also hold valuable insight into business. So get writing, and get talking.

Apply some of these tips, and you’ll see a natural reduction in self-promotion and increase in relationship building, which brings us to…

We can’t manage this mess!

An article in Digiday stated the average global corporation has 178 social media accounts. 178! So you can imagine the difficulty brands have in establishing a unified system for managing online reputation. Ford established its own framework to manage social media accounts across the globe and created a networked environment where employees can learn from each other.

Chobani is one brand that not only represents itself online, but also makes a point of responding to every tweet that comes its way. This not only allows for conversation to develop further between Chobani and the tweeter, but also adds a personal touch that wouldn’t be achieved anywhere else.  Small brands with small audiences, you can do this too!

I can’t prove the value!

Ford also set up analytics to discover which messages audiences liked best, and that allows them to tailor future social media posts and even advertisements like TV commercials. Even basic Facebook analytics will show which posts are more popular than others, in terms of views and shares. Websites like HootSuite and Klout can also provide social media analytics that might be beneficial not only to proving the value of your specific campaign, but also to help you control and fine-tune reputation management.

In a world where preference marketing now prevails, relationships and trust garnered by social media can be the key to gaining and keeping customers. We’re still figuring out how it all comes together, but if we take one step at a time, we’ll eventually find gold.