Social media marketing (SMM) and networking is a new wave of socialising, keeping up with friends, meeting new people, and developing new business contacts, and it all happens online. The networking takes place in the clouds over the Internet and allows people from halfway around the world to be at the same place at the same time.

For example, most people have been exposed to Facebook or Twitter in some way or other. This type of networking brings businesses and consumers together in a way that allows for timely, nearly instant responses and reactions that in the past would have taken days.

The world of today is about the fast flow of information one can put out and receive, and how quickly that can be accomplished and using social medias to network affords this opportunity for businesses big or small.

Everyone knows and recognises the big brand names like Pepsi, Virgin, or L’Oreal for a number of reasons but the most apparent is that we see them all the time in magazines, billboards, commercials… anywhere they can attach their logo. Why? How? Extremely large budgets. This is not something most small businesses have. Therefore, they have to think smarter – not harder.

This is where the social networks come into play. The main reason is that it is essentially virtually free exposure.

The 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, now in its third year of publication, surveyed more than 3,300 business marketers, of which nearly half were of the category of self-employed or small business. The results showed that during the three years of the report’s existence, using social medias for marketing purposes has gone from a niche idea to ‘we need to get on the bus’ to ‘this is the only marketing one needs.’ Now if I may backtrack slightly, one must understand that the variety of small businesses out there range from freight to personal care to international funding groups, so there’s quite a distance from A to Z. This, in turn, provides a way for the small businesses not only to generate exposure for their brand but to also stand out to a defined consumer base.

What social media networking and marketing has allowed small businesses to do is to put them out into the market with the “Big Boys” and be competitive on an equal playing field and succeed sometimes simply by tweeting something to the effect of, ‘hey, we are at First and Main…See you there.’

Another key factor to the success of this type of marketing and networking is the amount of time (quality time) spent cultivating an online presence, which can markedly improve brand awareness and organic ranking results. The 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report states that 58% of marketers are using social media for six hours or more each week and that an experienced social media user (three years or more of experience) spends upwards of ten hours devoted to social media marketing.

The same report goes on to note that those who spent at a minimum of six hours per week working the social media scene saw double the amount leads versus those who spend five hours or less. While certainly there are circumstances under which less time spent may concede equal or better results, nevertheless a commitment of six hours per week produces far better results.

The main and most important goals of social media networking is to increase the businesses exposure, more importantly, increase brand awareness, and also increase web traffic and generate more (high quality) leads and conversions. The benefit of social networking is that it can allow small businesses to carve themselves out a piece of the proverbial action where they may not have been able to do so via traditional marketing methods. This is why it is worth the effort to invest in social media marketing, however small or large the effort one puts forth.

In fact, nearly two out of every three marketers surveyed from the 2014 Report indicated an increase in their search engine placement from their time spent on social marketing, which in this internet world is where all businesses what to be… the first page of the search engines, top of the food chain.

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