The concepts behind “social networking” aren’t anything new – ever since there have been humans, we have been looking for ways to connect, network, and promote with one another – but they’ve taken on an entirely new meaning (and momentum) in the digital age. Where we used to have handshakes, word-of-mouth referrals, and stamped letters, today’s relationships are often begun and developed on LinkedIn, Google +, and Facebook.

That means savvy business owners have to know and use a variety of social platforms to stay relevant, not to mention take advantage of emerging opportunities. Below, you’ll find what I consider to be the 21 most important channels and tools you need to be aware of.

The Developing Role of Social Media in the Modern Business World
Social media, although a relatively recent phenomenon, is becoming an increasingly important part of any business’s marketing and client base development platform. The perception of social media marketing has shifted quickly—no longer viewed as a trendy or passing fad, having a flexible and well-managed presence in each of the “big three” (Facebook, Twitter, and Google+) has become a must for any business seeking to secure a place in both the traditional and digital marketplace. What could once be accomplished by a traditional website now needs to be supplemented by a robust and responsive utilization of the tools social media offers. Navigating this strange, new world can be quite confusing at first, so here are some tips for those looking to bring their business up to speed.

Social Media Quick Facts
Here are some quick facts about the role social media is currently playing in the business world, courtesy of the 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report:

94% of all businesses with a marketing department used social media as part of their marketing platform
Almost 60% of marketers are devoting the equivalent of a full work day to social media marketing development and maintenance
43% of people...

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