To call Canada a nation of social media fanatics is something of an understatement. According to a poll from Forum research earlier this year, Facebook is used by close to six in 10 Canadian adults, who visit it, on average, about nine times a week, while Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter just keep growing in popularity. If you’re running a small or medium-sized business in Canada, chances are a lot of your customers are on these sites.

On the other hand, it may be challenging for SMBs to know the best way to use social media effectively to sell, market, or provide customer service. They may lack the kind of dedicated social media teams of larger organizations, and the wide array of potential platforms and services can seem overwhelming.

That’s why starting internally, with social tools designed for business collaboration, may be a better way to begin.

Think of employees as your customers: A recent post on Forbes provides some good suggestions on how small and medium-sized businesses should plot out their social media strategy. This includes choosing a target audience, listening to what they’re already saying on social networks and creating an editorial calendar of planned posts and updates. Those same tactics may work just as well with staff. Instead of deploying the tools and hoping they get used, leaders within SMBs should consider social media as a way to build a strong culture. Plus, they probably already have the advantage of knowing the habits and attitudes of employees better than customers using public social media services.

Identify the potential social sellers: Some staff will prove better able to leverage public social media services to find customers than others. Internal use of social tools can be a way to help find them early on. As the Globe and Mail suggested in its recent article, ‘Ten ways small businesses can use social media to generate leads,’ it’s not enough to treat things like Facebook and Twitter like digital billboards with basic messaging. The successful companies not only create compelling content but find “influencers” who can spread their message and nurture “ambassadors” who will become even more vocal champions of their products and services. Internal social media works much the same way. Use the tools to offer information that might get overlooked in staff meetings, provide tips to help your best talent shine brighter and encourage experimentation among those who start discussions with the tools.

Develop the measurement habit: There are lots of studies about how large companies are effectively using social media, such as a recent report about Canadian automakers and their growth on Facebook and Twitter. The research breaks down the quality of the content, the kinds of conversations that take place and the number of people participating. These are some of the same data points that should be used to analyze internal social tools as well. For example, most SMBs probably don’t end a staff meeting by assessing what was said and how lively it was, but as you start to quantify the value of collaboration through social media, you’re bound to improve the results over time. This will pave the way for greater success when firms start using public social media services, too.

For more ideas on the power of business collaboration, check out Salesforce’s free eBook, Communities: The New Key To Business Success.