For the past decade, web professionals have been telling you, "if you aren't online, you don't exist" and sure enough, progressively more and more businesses have found themselves with a website online. If this includes you, congratulations for making it this far but unfortunately being online isn't what it used to be. With billions of sites online and many more added each day, it can be close to impossible to find your site without some extra marketing.

You've probably heard talk about some businesses 'going viral' on social media and are attracting a huge audience and following as a result. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube - three of the Internet's social media giants are becoming an increasing necessity in your company's arsenal of marketing strategies. Whether you're an online store selling shoes or a high school providing education, there is an abundance of ways in which your business can benefit from social media services.

If you've lived in this universe in the past five years, chances are you've heard about Facebook and you probably even have your own personal account. Founded by Mark Zuckerburg in 2004, Facebook was initially created as an online hub for Harvard students to find and contact each other. 8 years, countless revisions, 80+ languages, and 1 movie later, Facebook has become so much more as the world's largest social media network with over 845 million active users. People are making profiles, exchanging messages, posting photos, playing games, organising events and infinitely more - but most importantly for businesses, users are sharing links!

Facebook is essentially an online playground for users to play and socialise and because of its relative anonymity (physically at least); it's inherently a place that users feel comfortable in sharing their honest opinions; be it good, bad, or exceedingly ugly. Whatever the case may be, these off-the-cuff comments of appraisal or defamation are things that people can trust because they're from 'real people' - just like them!

I can hear you think to yourself, "but I already have a testimonial box on my website" and that's fantastic BUT, any feedback that is placed directly on your website automatically feels constructed and falsified. The beauty of social media is that is largely disconnected from your professional profile (don't forget it is actually part of your overall image though!) so people will be more accepting of anything they read and view.

While these conversations will happen whether or not you are actively engaging on social networks, if your business manages its own page, it gives people an opportunity to contact you directly and you can effectively facilitate discussions. If you can get people to relate to your company on a social level, you can develop stronger consumer relationships which can in turn, create a passionate brand loyalty and following. Brand loyal customers are a powerful tool for your business in that they will be more willing to share and recommend your products to not only their close friends but with all the people they are connected with online! Essentially it IS just like a testimonial, but one people fully trust.

When it comes down to it, all consumers want is a bargain; quality products and services at a great price and social media is enabling them to find them. This digital age is seeing proactive consumers more willing to jump online and find out more but they need honest reviews in order to do so. As people talk about your products and as your business interacts, you are leading your potential customers; everyday people to make the right decisions in their consumption. Make sure you are giving your business the best opportunity to lead the way!