Social Media has moved from the back burner to the forefront of online marketing tactics.

There are two compelling reasons for this:

The first is that more businesses are benefiting from the conversations their customers are having online. We know that consumers trust the recommendations of friends and families over any form of advertising available today. We also know these consumers are taking to the social networks to discuss their experiences about what they like and don’t like about companies, products and services. By inserting your business into the conversation you are showing the audience that your company is personal, are interested (and interesting), plugged in and over time this will help your business garner the trust of the audience.

The second reason is simply the search engine indexing equity you receive from social networking. Earlier this year Google decided that the traffic coming into a website or blog site from social networking sites, online review sites and online voting sites would get a bigger benefit because the traffic coming to a website or blog site from these networks were both relevant and contextual. An easy way to explain this is if you choose to like a social network site you are giving that company permission to talk to you. When they send out a message that includes a link back to some relevant content on their website or blog site and you follow that link to get more information, the search engines view this traffic and extremely relevant and thereby give you a bigger bang for the buck.

So where to start?

With literally thousands of social networking and social review sites on the net today, the biggest challenge that faces most businesses is where to start. We suggest starting with where your customers are currently hanging out. If your business is largely B2C, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and perhaps Twitter are the top candidates. For B2B the top sites would include LinkedIn, Twitter, perhaps Google+ and Facebook.

What your personal beliefs are about these individual sites really should not come into the decision process. If your business is B2C and you are fundamentally opposed to having a Facebook presence you are losing the opportunity to connect with hundreds if not thousands of your existing customers and potential business.

From a strategic perspective here are some objectives to consider when marketing your business on the top social networking sites:

LinkedIn – Develop a 100% complete profile. Build and connect with your inner circle then expand your network from there. Develop a strategy to connect with literally everyone you meet. Seek out and join groups of other like-minded individuals. Create a company page. Encourage employee contribution and participation. Define a post strategy of publishing n number of posts daily.

Facebook – Create a fan page. Make use of the about section to develop an SEO friendly profile. Invite your friends and family to like your page – encourage them to ask their friends to like your page as well. Share a mix of relevant links, engaging content, pictures, videos and polls. Define a strategy of publishing a number of posts daily. Most important is to be engaging – participate in the conversation.

Google+ – Optimize your Google+ profile for SEO indexing. Share engaging content, videos, images and relevant links. Comment on posts. Take advantage of the Google Hangouts. Create and promote your upcoming events. Define a strategy of publishing a number of posts daily and engage with those that are in your circles.

Pinterest – Create a complete SEO friendly profile. Create boards that leverage content, company culture and lifestyle content that closely matches your business. Follow other businesses, thought leaders, customers and partners.

Next week we will delve into the discussion of microblogging (Twitter).