Social media is this century’s Model T – the accessible and affordable vehicle that drives efficient interaction between small businesses and their audiences.

According to Hubspot, 92 percent of marketers in 2014 viewed social media to be an important asset for their business, which is a six percent increase from 2013. Social media is no longer an option for businesses; adaptation is essential and only the most fit survive. Here’s a quick look at the top five benefits (of the top ten from Forbes) of social media marketing for small businesses:

Increases brand recognition. Every interaction fuels more interactions. So, sharing content immediately produces more reach and generates better brand recognition. Audiences only know as much about you as you provide and the frequency in which you share with them, the better recognizable you become. For example, say you meet someone for the first time and when you part ways, you immediately forget their name. The more interaction you have with that person, the more likely you are to remember their name and you build a relationship with them.

Reinforces brand loyalty. People want to talk to people and interaction increases interest. Engagement with customers transforms you from a number-crunching organization into a living, breathing organism. The more your audience cares about what you do, the more loyal they are to your company and the more likely they will become brand ambassadors.

Builds brand authority. When people have something to say about a product or service, they say it on social media. Their social spheres become your social sphere through association. If their followers like your services too, a ripple effect is formed and the more people talking about you on social media, the more valuable and authoritative your brand seems to new users. Posting valuable nuggets of information allow your followers to rely on you for new reliable information about their interests.

Creates better SEO rankings. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s “organic” search results. Studies show that more than 58 percent of marketers who have been using social media for one year or longer improved search engine rankings (Hubspot). Search engines look for the best possible site for what their users are looking for. It does this by figuring out which websites provide you the most satisfaction through four key elements:

  • Content – What are you contributing to viewers? This includes the products, services and/or ideas you provide audiences.
  • Performance – The speed and functionality of your website for providing information.
  • Authority – Determines if your information is unique, consistent and sharable among multiple platforms.
  • User Experience – This establishes how satisfied your audience is with your website based on appearance and how ease the website is to navigate. If a user is frustrated with their inability to find what they are looking for on your social platform, they are less likely to visit the site multiple times.

Improves customer insights. Finally, in an era of mutually beneficial relationships between customers and brands, social media enables businesses to break the one-way glass and have open communication with their audience. As customers get to know your company, they invite you into their social circle and allow you to know them as individuals. This allows brand messaging to be relevant to your audiences based on their interests. According to eBizMBA, the top user sites of 2015 are:

  1. Facebook (approximately 900 million unique visitors monthly)
  2. Twitter (310 million/mo.)
  3. LinkedIn (255 million/mo.)
  4. Pinterest (250 million/mo.)
  5. Google+ (120 million/mo.)
  6. Tumblr (110 million/mo.)
  7. Instagram (100 million/mo.)

While businesses may have been able to survive without social media in the past, they simply cannot in this day and age. Not adapting has serious repercussions, consider these:

  • It’s highly likely that your competitors are connecting with potential customers through social media and if you’re not, they have an advantage.
  • The sooner you begin, the sooner you benefit. Your audience is waiting for you.
  • Long-lasting marketing, branding and sales benefits outweigh the cost and time it takes to launch your accounts and create effective content.

You’ve passed your driving test (starting a business), you just need to get in the car (social media) and drive (promote your brand).