Businessman using a smartphone ©CP Cheah, Flickr, Getty Images

Social media is for staying in touch with your old college roommates and sharing silly cat photos, right? Clearly. But it can also be a smart way to get more out of your credit card.

More of us are realizing that social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Foursquare, Instagram, Google+ and YouTube can help us resolve problems, find out about perks and maximize the benefits we get from our credit cards. All you have to do is look at the growing number of followers and likes for credit card companies on these sites.

Not every card issuer has figured out how to use social media for something other than advertising. "Some companies do very little when it comes to building a relationship with customers that are their friends or followers," says William McCracken, CEO of Synergistics Research, which analyzes the financial industry. "But there are other providers that do take this relationship-building opportunity through social media very seriously."

To see how your credit card company measures up in social media, do some following and friending, then watch for these 10 ways to engage:

1. Score good deals

In a Synergistics survey of why customers follow credit card companies on social media, McCracken found "people do it because they think it gives them a leg up on specials." Card companies often reward their followers and fans with special discounts. For instance, in 2011 American Express launched the Sync program, allowing customers who registered their Amex cards to access exclusive digital coupons by, say, tweeting a special hashtag or checking in at a merchant with a special Sync offer on Foursquare. "AmEx's card members are heavy tech users, digitally savvy and very engaged in social media," says Bradley R. Minor, the company's vice president of digital communications strategy. Sync is one way of "connecting to Amex's card members where they are engaged and focused."

2. Resolve customer service issues

According to a February 2013 J.D. Power & Associates survey, among customers who had engaged with their credit card company on social media, 71 percent had done so for service reasons such as resolving a problem or getting an answer to a question. When it comes to customer service, "satisfaction is driven, obviously, by response and resolution times, but the actual social service representative is critically important as well -- the way the representative interacts with the consumer, the kind of verbal rapport they establish, their knowledge and their ability to respond to the customer's issue," says Jacqueline Anderson, director of social media and text analytics at J.D. Power.

In the J.D. Power survey, Chase, Citi, Discover and Wells Fargo came out on top for social media customer service. That service pays dividends for the banks: In April, a customer tweeted a complaint to @Discover about not receiving electronic statements. Shortly thereafter, she wrote, "OK, serious props due to @discover. I tweeted an issue and they not only replied back immediately, they solved it for me all under an hour." Some banks even maintain separate social media accounts just for resolving issues, such as @AskAmex or @BofA_Help.

3. Enter contests

To excite customers about their social media presence, many credit card companies are flinging prizes at their followers. For Capital One's 2013 Rally Cry sweepstakes, Twitter fans who cheered their favorite basketball teams with the hashtag #rallycry entered a drawing to win $100 Visa gift cards, autographed basketballs or courtside seats to the NCAA semifinal and final games in Atlanta. Often, companies combine contests with cause marketing efforts, allowing cardholders to vote for cash to go to a favorite charity. Chase Community Giving's Facebook page, where customers can vote on which do-good projects should get a piece of the pie, has 3.8 million fans.

4. Find out about perks

Credit cards usually come bundled with an array of hidden perks, such as extended warranties or travel insurance. Social media helps get the word out. Citi, for instance, has tweeted about its Price Rewind feature, which refunds customers the difference if a product purchased with the card drops in price. Meanwhile, Capital One used its Facebook wall to alert fans that Visa Signature cardholders are entitled to free upgrades at a network of luxury hotels.

Click here to become a fan of MSN Money on Facebook

Chuck Christianson, group vice president of Connexions Loyalty, a division of Affinion Group, says that the natural next step is for customers to share the perks they're happy with. "Wherever there's value, customers are going to latch onto it and they're going to proliferate it, especially if they've taken advantage of it."

5. Get in on events

One not-so-well-known perk is a VIP experience program that entitles cardholders to attend special events, or at least get early tickets. Citi dedicates a Twitter account, @CitiPrivatePass, to its Private Pass program, which gives eligible cardholders access to coveted goodies like presale Rolling Stones concert tickets or a VIP experience (box seats, unlimited food and drink) at a New York Mets game. Pink recently tweeted that American Express cardholders could get advance tickets to her concerts in Brooklyn and Los Angeles -- and the news was instantly retweeted by @AmericanExpress.

More from