If you are in business, you know you need a social media presence.

Social media is an important part of marketing as well as a great way to listen to your customers. Social media gives you and your products attention, drives fans to your website and generates leads.

People shop and search for information at all hours of the day. Social media allows you to market while you sleep. You have a website, but it is not enough. 85% of customers expect businesses to be active in social media and 36% of people trust companies more when they have a social presence.

This means if your competitors are active in social media and you are not, you are going to lose a significant share of your market.

Many marketers feel they are playing catch up in the social media game if they jumped in late or resisted the trend, leaving many business leaders to wonder, “What does a company really need to do and how do you “do” social media effectively?” Answer: You need a plan.

Your social media checklist, with annotations:

Facebook – a fan page or a group. You need this for your business, brand or key product to have a presence. You can run promotions, ask questions and solicit feedback from your customers. Oreo, the cookie, has a Facebook page with 27,000,000 Likes. People visit this page and make comments on how they feel. (Yes, I know. It is a just a cookie, for Pete’s sake.)

Twitter – for your company or brand. You can test products, promote products, discuss industry trends, and connect with potential buyers. Search engines are recognizing Twitter and real time data so Twitter cannot be ignored.

Pinterest– This is the fastest growing site, so jump on it. Yes, it looks like a bunch of bored teenagers got together and put up pictures. It is also a viral magnet. Pinterest is growing fast, only behind Facebook and Twitter. According to Ken Barber of the Denver Business Journal (Aug 12, 2012) a PriceGrabber.com study showed that 21 percent of Pinterest users purchased directly from Pinterest.com, and their average order value was more than double that of Facebook-driven sales.

YouTube – people love video, so create what you think is worth sharing. Funny videos work really well, because people want to be entertained. What’s funny about your business, product, customers or industry? What can you poke fun at or parody?

If you’re not funny (or if humor is not right for your business), don’t despair. How-to and instructional videos are also wildly popular. People want to be informed as well as entertained. How can you demonstrate your expertise? What problems can you show your prospects how to solve?

Also consider video interviews, videos of your products in action, time-lapse videos of your services being performed, video tours of your facility and any other way you can use this versatile medium.

LinkedIn– if you are in business and you are serious, you need a LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn has a tutorial that walks you through how to create one. LinkedIn is where business people screen other business people by seeing their resumes, people in common, and recommendations. You can also link your blog, add videos and even post products for sale right on your profile.

Hint: Get recommendations on the characteristics that people want when they think about hiring you. For example, a doctor should be knowledgeable, a good listener, and exhibit genuine concern. An electrician is going to be thorough, careful, and meticulous. You get the idea.

Google+ – was started by Google for their employees and they really don’t seem to care much about making it commercial. Google + is particularly helpful for business groups who share information in teams or for families who don’t want every detail of their lives all over Facebook.

Klout – measures how “influential” you are in social media. Your influence is measured via an algorithm (which no one knows) that factors in the size of your following, your social media activity and the actions others take in response to your postings. You can increase your klout score by commenting on other people’s online conversations and by posting interesting tidbits that others find worth liking and sharing.

Blogs– are handy to keep fresh information on your Facebook page and on your website. The search engine spiders like fresh information, so having content as a blog is helpful. Many shoppers and businesses look for the latest trends and blogging shows that you pay attention in your industry. Not blogging is like being a hair stylist and displaying hair style from the 1980s on your website. Okay, an exaggeration but you get the idea. Bottom line: Businesses that blog get 55% more web visitors and 67% more leads than businesses that don’t.

Source: Mary Kelly, PhD improves profit growth.  More articles and information are at  www.ProductiveLeaders.com