These days, running a successful business means being creative and staying on top of current technology. Like it or not, a part of that technology involves the use of social media. Don’t believe me? Just consider for a second that business schools around the country have added classes that focus specifically on social media. Using sites like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin can be effective ways to advertise, communicate, and of course, network.

Create a Facebook Page

If you think Facebook was only meant for the college crowd, you are wrong. Facebook has become an integral component of marketing and advertising campaigns. Why? Well, social media has revolutionized the way consumers and businesses interact. If a company has a new product coming out, rather than having to use TV and radio as their only vehicles of promotion, they can just post information about their new offering to their Facebook page and immediately keep their followers in the know.

Companies also use Facebook to put out fires. In the past, if a customer was having a less-than-positive experience with a particular product or service, he or she would likely call customer service or write a letter to the company using snail or email. However, with social media, companies can use a direct-to-consumer approach to respond to complaints, allowing them to make personal connections quickly. This type of proactive approach to customer service and marketing provides an opportunity for companies to strengthen their brand and personalize their company, keeping customers loyal and satisfied.

Speaking of Facebook there were recently dramatic changes made to the social networking site. The changes made to Facebook were intended to make the life of a frequent Facebook user easier, making their updates more organized and news feeds cleaner. Facebook users are not taking kindly to the changes and have begun petitions to change Facebook back, including starting a twitter page. Whether these disgruntled social network users will have an impact on discontinuing the changes is another story. But, because of social networking Facebook users are able to have their complaints heard quickly.

Here’s how you can create a Facebook page for your business:

  1. Go to Facebook’s website for businesses.
  2. Select whether you are a “Company, Organization or Institution” or a “Brand or Product.”
  3. Check the “I agree to Facebook Pages Terms” box.
  4. Type in your brand or company name.
  5. Click on “Get Started.”
  6. Upload your profile picture.
  7. Invite your friends and/or import your contacts.
  8. Paste in your website address.
  9. Summarize your service or brand in 255 characters or less.

And viola, you have created your Facebook page!

But having a Facebook page and successfully marketing your company on Facebook are two different things. In order to network efficiently using your Facebook page, you should consider the following:

  • Updates: How often do you want to make updates? Updating your page three to four times a day could turn followers off, causing them to unsubscribe or block you. So, think about quality as opposed to quantity. When you make an update, it should always be with your customers in mind: Are you offering a promotion or discount on your services? Are you alerting your fans to a new product or cost-cutting upgrade? If you are updating your page properly, followers should be excited to hear from you.
  • Keep It Current: While you don‚Äôt want to annoy your fans with incessant posts, you also don‚Äôt want your page to appear dormant. If your company hosts any events, take pictures and upload them to your page. If you are a local business having a sale, post a video about the promotion. Showing Facebook followers that you are active will encourage them to remain connected to you.
  • Be Timely: If your fans comment or write to you, make sure to respond in a thoughtful and timely fashion. Responding even days after your fans contact you won‚Äôt reflect well on your company. On the other hand, if you are monitoring your pages, fans will feel that their interests and concerns are being prioritized and respected, which will strengthen your brand.

Place Social Media Modules on Your Pages

Social media is a two-way street, meaning that your website visitors should be able to share your content on their preferred social network.

Many companies use a social media module that lives on all of their pages, asking visitors to follow or subscribe to them on Facebook and Twitter, for example. Another method of integrating social media into your site involves the use of Facebook “Like” buttons on your pages. Whenever a reader “Likes” something on your site, there’s a chance that hundreds of other people in their network will check it out. Websites such as JoomShaper, allow you to download Facebook boxes on to your webpages, complete with “Like” buttons, comments, activity feeds and facepiles.

Update Your Twitter Status

Another way to keep your company both relevant and fresh is to update your Twitter status. Again, you may think this is for teens with short attention spans, but you’d be wrong (again). If you are going to be offering special promotions for the week, updating your status about your new offering is a smart way to keep potential customers in the know.

Don’t have a Twitter account yet? Here’s what to do:

  1. Go to Twitter’s homepage.
  2. Click “Get Started Now.”
  3. Input your company’s information.
  4. Input your password and email address.
  5. On the next page, select your relevant categories.
  6. Locate other companies that are relevant to your business and Follow them.
  7. On your Twitter page, go to the “Settings” tab.
  8. Upload your company’s logo, create a bio and add in your contact information.

An example of a company that’s excellent at Twitter promotion is Ford, which uses their head of social media Scott Monty to connect with fellow Tweeters. Ford’s approach to Twitter is to give its brand a friendly and personable face, involving new product updates and up-to-the-minute event information. Since Ford jumped on the social media train, they’ve been able to gain at least 58,872 followers. For a guide to Twitter’s business best practices, go here .

Here’s a final tip concerning Twitter: Take the time to monitor what types of tweets get retweeted by your followers. This data should help you hone your message and develop your following. There is no reason why every business shouldn’t take advantage of this free marketing tool.

Engage in Relevant Website Forums

By performing a quick Google search based on your type of business, you can easily locate multiple forums and begin interacting with them. For example, let’s say you have a hardware supply business. If you found a DIY home improvement forum that was discussing a type of washer that was needed to stop a faucet from dripping, writing a helpful post that contains a link to your supply of washers and pipes would be a great addition to the conversation (and you’d probably get a lot of traffic and connections out of it). However, it’s important to only provide links where it naturally makes sense – taking the same opportunity to promote your latest hammer line could have you labeled as a spammer and, consequently, banned from the forum, which can tarnish your brand.

What You Need to Network

The Basics: Obviously, a clear wireless Internet connection is vital for keeping up with social media. People visit Facebook, Twitter, Google+, forums, and countless other sites at all times of the day and night. Being able to access your social media pages any time, anywhere is essential. Your quick response to inquiries will be noticed by your followers. Also, take some time to become familiar with all the tools provided by each social network. Do you know how Twitter’s hashtags work?

Knowledge: Taking a look at how other companies employ social media is useful and can give you ideas about how to implement your own strategies. For example, companies, such as Red Bull and Zappos use a combination of “Like” buttons, video, customer service and status updates to ensure that they keep the public educated and satisfied about their brands.

A Good Hire: While using social media is free, thinking anyone can manage your businesses social media is a mistake. If you don’t want to do it yourself (and, trust me, it does take a considerable amount of time), make sure the person you hire has tangible experience in the following areas: Has he managed social media at previous companies? Is he up to speed with the newest developments in social media? Does he know how to interact with potential customers properly? These few questions can make all the difference in whether a fan continues to follow or ignores your page.

Consistency: If you are looking to increase your customer service satisfaction, you can’t respond in minutes to a follower’s request and then take weeks to respond to another. Figure out ways to make your interactions with the public consistent and of a high quality. It will mean the difference between a conversion and bad press. Also, think about how much you post. Don’t post so often that it’s annoying, but don’t let your followers forget that you exist.

Social media networking is an indispensable tool for increasing engagement, establishing your brand and promoting your products and services. To be blunt, if you’re not networking using social media, you’re falling behind in the world of business.