The number is going up as you read this, but Facebook is closing in on having a billion active users and, according to their own statistics, half of those users log on every day. Further, this is only one aspect of the phenomena that has been labeled "social media" in recent years. Blogs, Twitter and other sites similar to Facebook are playing major roles. Remember MySpace?

Here are four ways to leverage social media in your business and professional life.

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4 Ways Any Business Can Leverage Social Media

1. Connect with your community on Facebook

This is a great tool for connecting to your community, which should include a major portion of your business community. Facebook says the average user has well more than 100 "friends." You will want to create a business page, not a personal profile, for your business. Once you start making connections on Facebook, it's easy to dramatically increase your friends network. It is relatively simple to invite your personal friends to connect with with your business page on Facebook. You can offer an occasional coupon or perhaps broadcast useful "tips" via your status update.

2. Position yourself as an expert by blogging

Some of the most interesting reading on the Internet today is being provided by bloggers. They seem to break more important news stories than the New York Times. You're an expert in your field. Write about it. Don't think you have to write something every day. Posting a piece of value every few days is far better than writing something on a daily basis that most people find irrelevant. Readers want useful information. Don't consider your blog a sales tool as much as a way to position yourself to advantage in your market or industry. Don't forget to link from your business Facebook page to your blog, and visa versa.

3. Network with others in your industry on LinkedIn

If you head over to Linkedin you'll see that it's a much more professional and business-to-business related online environment. Establish an account here to represent yourself as an industry professional. It's not really setup to promote your business, although you'll be able to mention your business in your profile. Your associates can give you recommendations which can be quite valuable. You may also discover that it's a good way for you to find quality professionals to perform services for you or your business.

4. Post updates on Twitter

We've already talked about blogging, now let's cover "microblogging." With Twitter you send out short—no longer than 140 character—messages.They might be considered the electronic version of Post-it Notes. We've all worked with folks who have their computer screens covered with Post-it Notes, right? You want your tweets to be short, sweet, interesting, useful and engaging. Studies show that the users with the most success on Twitter send out tweets at least once an hour when their followers are most likely to be reading.

As you have probably noticed, social media is evolving. Keep an eye on the businesses that seem to be making the best use of these tools and adapt their strategies.

A final word of caution: Ignore social media at your own risk. You competitors are busy working every angle.

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