The number of companies not doing anything with social media gets smaller and smaller by the day, but that doesn’t mean that business has social media figured out.

Despite the increasing comfort that many companies and marketers have with social media, questions still linger about efficacy and ROI.

Andrea Fishman, VP of global strategy and partner at interactive agency BGT Partners, however, believes that some of the challenges companies face in using social media is based on the fact that they’re applying the AIDA (attention-interest-desire-action) model. According to Fishman, “The problem is that the AIDA model tends to be linear in fashion.”

Instead, she suggests, companies can use social media to shorten the buying cycle by defocusing on this linear process and applying social media in more thoughtful ways:

…stop thinking of how to apply social media to your current channels. Instead, take a step back and assess all they ways your audience may be impacted by social media – and develop new content, offers, and experiences that take advantage of the disruption. Use the two-way nature of social media to engage in conversations that accelerate the buying cycle. Create “social only” offers that take advantage of the immediacy of the Internet. Use sentiment and activity data to spot trends sooner – and apply that knowledge to your product pricing and promotional strategies.

These are all good suggestions, and many companies are increasingly realizing that social media works best when it’s not kept in a silo. As the second screen phenomenon shows us, consumers are increasingly interacting with brands and content across multiple channels, often at the same time. So to get the most out of each channel, it pays to look at how the channels can work together.

But can social media, properly applied, really accelerate the buying cycle? Perhaps. But this, in my opinion, is a red herring. The challenge with social media, as with most channels, is not creating attractive new content, offers and experiences that can entice consumers to take some action. That’s often quite easy if you’re willing to bend over backwards. Instead, the challenge is to drive meaningful action in a way that’s profitable and sensible over the long haul.

The group buying market is a great example of this. Daily deals force a shorter sales cycle by offering consumers a product or service at a hefty discount for a limited time. For many businesses, this results in hundreds or thousands of sales in a single day. But the deals aren’t always profitable and if numerous anecdotes and studies are to be believed, most of the customers don’t stick around.

With this in mind, companies should consider that social media may add a wrinkle to the familiar AIDA model, but that doesn’t mean that in social channels they should look to drive ‘action’ no matter the cost.