A recent USA Today article cites a survey that shows a surge in social-media use by small businesses. According to the study by MerchantCircle, small business owners are adopting social-networking services such as Twitter, Facebook and more to promote their products and services in growing numbers. MerchantCircle is a social network for small businesses that polled a fraction of its 1.3 million members for this study. This is the first time that social media has become the most visible way for small businesses to promote themselves. More than half of nearly 10,000 respondents nationwide say they plan to create or maintain a social networking presence in the next three months, compared to 41 percent in the first quarter of this year. The biggest B2B social media site in the green industry is Moose River Media’s own, with over 100,000 registered members of industry professionals at your disposal to network with, gain insight from, ask advice from and more. For those who also offer snow removal services, is the place to log on to talk with other professionals about commercial plowing and ice removal.

The University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business has also studied the relationship between social media and small businesses, and found that technology adoption rates have doubled in the past year, from 12 percent to 24 percent. That information comes from the university’s third installment to its Small Business Index report, based on a December 2009 phone survey of 500 small business owners, and compared with a baseline report conducted in December 2008. Small business owners using social media are primarily engaging in it through company pages and status updates on Facebook or LinkedIn, and they believe that social media can help them on lead generation.

Let’s take a look at Facebook, which is one of the most popular sites. There are more than 400 million active users on the site, with half of those logging on in any given day. According to Facebook’s press room, people spend over 500 billion minutes per month on the site. It was started as a place for people to connect with high school friends in 2004, but has since turned into much more than that. Just about every company out there from Wal-Mart to McDonald’s now has a page on the site. These are some of the bigger companies, but you can take note of how they’re using the site and adjust it to fit your company. One example is that McDonald’s is offering coupons for their “fans” for $1 off their smoothies. How about offering your fans a coupon for a percentage off a new service they book, or a discount on mulch if you are installing a landscape bed. Facebook is a great place to let your clients know about upcoming promotions you are offering or you can upload photos of a recent project, or, you can use it as a place to just interact with your clients and get to know them better. You can also post upcoming events and open houses you are planning, and your followers can respond on whether or not they will be attending.

Social networking is becoming a hot topic in the marketing world and is something that you should look into. It’s not the only place you should be marketing your company, but it is a tool that should be added to your marketing arsenal.