By now we've all heard that social media is the way to go, that it's the key ingredient for any business.

Ok, sure you say, smiling on the outside, stomach churning on the inside trying to figure out what this key ingredient is. You may have read success stories like Naked Pizza's but you're still unsure of what this key ingredient actually is!

I'd like to share my views on the importance of building social followers and how that can impact the bottom line. Here are 5 tips to improve your social presence -- and I'll show you how that can help increase business.

1. Stand Out From Your Competition

You're a small business and you're trying to get more people to notice you. You've got your competition like anyone else so you're trying to stand out. You figure if more people see me, more business should come my way.

Figure out why and how you're different from your competition and how that can impact your customers.

2. Create Your Main Social Profiles

Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are the engine of a car: they help you get your social presence moving.

Create business pages and accounts that interested people can follow. Add important info, pictures, and more to really help give you a social presence.

Start with channels like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. There are a lot of other social media platforms that are great for certain niche industries so take some time to find out what they are.

3. Start Building Content

Great content is what's going to get people to you.

There are different types of great content depending on what your goals happen to be.

Light content can engage people looking for a short read.

Educational content can provide people with much-needed information.

Sharing your knowledge of your industry is great: you're the specialist in what you do, not me!

4. Attract New Followers

You're looking for like-minded people so search them out! On any social network you can do a search for keywords related to your business or industry.

Start following these people. Find out who the thought-leaders are in your industry and follow them. See what they do and how they engage with their followers.

5. Get Your Content Out There And Be A Part Of Conversations

Don't just put the content out there -- be a part of it! Engage in conversations, show your expertise, provide value, and listen to customers and potential customers. Most of us are excited to talk to someone about their business when in person; here's a great opportunity to do this online.

We've now got our social profiles set up and in place, we've got great content rolling in and its being shared. How does it help my bottom line? Think of your website as a news source. Not just any news source but a source that's the specialist in your field. You're giving people what they're looking for, people who may one day be interested in making a purchase instead ofread information about it.

Think about your local newspaper. They have a solid readership because they provide quality content across a wide spectrum of topics. Their readers trust in the content and advertisers trust in seeing results from their marketing dollars because they expect to get some level of sales action. Well, if your site is industry-leading, thought-provoking, established and knowledgeable then you stand to gain from it.

Studies show that companies who blog vs. those who don't see a marked increase in monthly leads. This is because you're getting a message out to an increasing number of followers. Who wouldn't want more eyes on their business?

The fact is there are people out there who you can engage with via social media. Are you willing to put in the commitment in order to achieve success?

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