What do you think the key to social media is? In thinking about social media, the buzz and hype that surrounds it, it is becoming clear that social media is more about a concept than about the tools that make it work.

The key to understanding social media is to be able to understand how the social media tools work independently of each other or in conjunction with each other to facilitate online conversations people are having in their online communities.

It can also be explained in much simpler terms in that social media can include the process of moving an online customer into the realm of being an evangelist for your business.

Customers can fall into three categories in your social media world: 1) customer. 2) endorser. 3) evangelist.

Here is my story of how a company turned me into a social media evangelist for their business (unknowing to them).

I was in the market for an inexpensive audio mixer board. Someone told me to go to the Guitar Center near my home in Oakdale, MN. I went over there and met a gentleman named Brian who; after telling him what I was looking for, brought me to a small 5-channel mixer that cost a whopping $49.00. Appeared that it would suit my needs so I purchased it. At checkout, I provided Brian with my contact information (per his request), paid for my purchase and went on my way.

Some three days later to my surprise, I received an email from Brian wanting to know if the mixer was working, doing what I wanted and whether I had any questions. If I did, I could bring it back over, they would go through it with me and swap it out for another product if this one wasn’t serving the purpose. I was stunned.

Several minutes later, I turned to my Facebook page and documented my experience with Guitar Center and Brian. Within about 30 minutes, I had ten replies to my post, 2 from people I had never met.

Little does Guitar Center in Oakdale know but the fact that they cared enough about my satisfaction as a customer, they turned me into a social media evangelist, and that, I believe is the real key to social media.