It's not just adding an edge anymore, it's keeping up with your competition.

With the sudden onslaught of the social media storm, it has regrettably developed a reputation by some for being a passing marketing interest, and thus, an unprofitable one. However, the statistics paint a very different picture. Hubspot reports that 92% of marketers in 2014 uphold that social media marketing to be important for their business, while 80% confirm that their efforts increased traffic to their websites. However, while an arresting 97% of marketers are currently participating in social media, according to Social Media Examiner, a lamentable 85% of participants are unsure as to what social media tools are best.

This demonstrates a huge potential for social media marketing to increase sales, but a lack of understanding on how to achieve those results. Here’s a look at just some of the ways social media marketing IMPROVES your business:

Influence: It is a simple and direct proportion: as your following increases, so does your influence. Having a substantial social media audience creates a snowball effect that can attract new customers, media interviews, joint venture partnerships, and all types of other opportunities. A recent study revealed that approximately two-thirds of the 1,046 respondents reported reading online reviews. Additionally, Facebook was the leading resource for positive reviews and an overwhelming 90 percent of respondents who recalled reading online reviews claimed that positive online reviews influenced buying decisions. Social media is not just a way to reach out to customers, but it is also a tool that keeps you in their sights and thus in their minds twenty-four hours a day. It can be likened to the phenomena of the moth effect. Be the light and the moths will inevitably follow.

Mindshare with Lurkers: The days may roll by when you wonder if anyone is paying attention to your social media networks. Stay committed! I guarantee that more people are paying attention than you realize. How many times have you personally heard someone mention something they saw on Facebook in offline conversation? Just because they aren't engaging online, it doesn't mean they aren't noticing, retaining, and talking elsewhere. According to recent studies, Twitter has risen as one of the most utilized and valued search engines for real-time information. Individuals coming upon your site in this way may not be active, but that does not keep them from being attentive and impacted by your content.

Presence: Particularly for coaches, consultants, authors, speakers, and other service-based businesses, social media can be very powerful in establishing presence or authority in your field of interest, making you the go-to resource for your target audience to seek out for help. It provides you with the ability to share relevant content, answer questions, and serve your audience, inevitably building loyal fans, referral contacts, and future customers. Having twenty-four hour access and presence online, you will be the first thought in a customer’s mind. And if you are not there, the last social media post will take your business instead.

Repeat exposure: An old marketing adage says it takes six to eight exposures to a product before a customer makes a decision to buy. Therefore, another clear benefit of social media is repeated exposure to your products, services, and network. Make sure that your products are the first seven that they see, because if it’s not yours it will be a competitor’s. Remind users over and over again about what you have to offer to gain a dramatic shortening of sales cycles!

On top: Surprising or not, your prospects and clients are checking to see if you are engaging in social media. Social media has passed from the realm of “fad” to a way of life. Even if it’s not your top priority, stay current and ahead of the curve with your activity, and your prospects will take notice. You need to ensure that you are at the top of client’s feeds, not someone else. If the internet was a great way to level the playing field, then Social Media is the next “level up”.

Vanquish competition: Given the above-stated 85% of marketers who are lacking understanding or uncertain when it comes to social media tools, the reality is that most of your competitors aren’t likely doing a very good job with social media, giving you the opportunity to stand out. Also, consider the opposite effect. Pass up on social media, and you leave an opening for your competitors to capture your audience.

Enhanced traffic: Social media can be a leading traffic generator. When you share blog posts, videos and other content from your website, you provide your audience a reason to click through and visit your site. Once there, you have the opportunity to inspire those visitors to take action by inviting them to sign up for your mailing list, make a purchase, or call to schedule a free consultation. By ensuring that your visitors receive a clear call to action when they visit your site, you can convert that extra traffic effectively and with relative ease into business opportunities. Traffic monitoring services, such as Google Analytics and GetClicky, will clearly demonstrate that social media brings increased traffic, provided you stay committed to your social media efforts.