Navigating the social media labyrinth can be a daunting task, but with the right education and tools, social media can offer turnkey solutions that open doors for you and your business. Check out these statistics.

  • Twitter officially claims 175 million registered users and says 95 million tweets are written each day, a 250 percent increase.
  • LinkedIn has grown 100 percent in the past year, with more than 100 million professionals who use the platform worldwide. More than one million companies have LinkedIn company pages.
  • There are some 640 million Facebook users worldwide. Facebook users accessing the site through mobile devices now tops 200 million – a 200 percent increase in a 12-month period.

The great thing about social media is its ability to harvest relationships between users. The relationships you build online are the basis for your business’s marketing efforts. Social networking campaigns can be used as a low-cost, high-impact way of positioning a business or individual as a thought-leader and industry expert. This opens doors for business development, such as leads; referrals; inquiries; and, most importantly, sales. Successful social media users know content is king when it comes to engaging their audience. Good content not only demonstrates expertise but also creates relationships with followers and fans to generate referrals and long-term business benefits.

Social media success does take time and effort. Setting up your social media networks includes optimizing your profiles, uploading company and personal information and importing your existing contacts. Once you have your social media systems in place and understand the best practices, your social media strategy should include creating content, adding new followers, and interacting with fellow users.

For those still skeptical, remember the old question, “Why should I email you when I could just affix a stamp and mail it?” It is important you take hold of the social media reigns and start communicating online. Social media’s primary purpose is constant interactions and active participation with users in order to create and develop trustworthy relationships. The best part? Not only does social media not take up a large portion of your time but it helps you and your business grow online and off.

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Amy McIlwain is a professional speaker on social media and president of Financial Social Media, an online marketing firm specializing in the financial industry. She can be reached through her website at www.financialsocialmedia.com and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.