Now that the New Year is underway, the question I keep hearing on everyone’s lips is, “What’s the best advice for small businesses to increase their social media networking?”  Fortunately, I have the privilege of being a part of a vibrant community of networking experts who were more than willing to share their wisdom and advice for small businesses in 2013.

Aside from the following pearls of wisdom, I also recommend reading Kathryn Rose (@katkrose) and Ted Rubin’s (@TedRubin) new book  Return on RelationshipIt’s a powerful read and marks a mind-shift in building online relationships.  Investing in relationships and building networks is the new currency.  Finally, if you’re still not convinced after reading the following bits of expert advice, check out the infographic at the end of this blog.

1. Carri Bugbee (@CarriBugbee) – Founder, strategist & writer – Big Deal PR + Social Media: Make sure your employees mention your social profiles to customers.  Put your social account URLs on receipts, hang tags, shopping bags, counter cards, posters, etc.  Don’t say, “Find us on…” That’s too much work for customers.  Spell it out.  It’s your job to make it easy.

2. Chris Carragher (@AlphaBrandz) – Chief Marketing Strategist – Alpha Brandz: Create a social media content calendar and plan to share content on a consistent basis.  By dedicating a couple of hours at the beginning of every week to creating content and map out important blogs and messages, small business owners are able to focus more on what they want to say and how they want to say it, and spend less time every day wondering, “What am I going to talk about today?”

3. Kellye Crane, (@KellyeCrane) Founder – Solo PR Pro: The best advice is to find out where your customers are (you can ask them!), and focus your efforts on their top 1-2 networks to reach them.  Use those platforms to talk about the issues that matter most to your audience, not just about your products/services, and you’ll succeed in building a thriving community that benefits your business.

4. Kristen Daukas (@KristenDaukas) Director, Social Media Services - Atlantic Social Media Group, A Division of Atlantic Webworks – Blogger: Small businesses that will make the commitment to dedicate a certain amount of time each day to building their audience and finding their voice will gain so much traction.  Set a goal of finding 10 new people to engage with each week, and soon you’ll have a core group of followers and sites like Twitter will become a wealth of resources.”

5. Anne Deeter Gallaher – (@AnneDGallaher) Owner/CEO, Deeter Gallaher Group LLCBlogger: Choose the channels that fit your marketing strategy, create profiles, start following people and companies of interest, and listen to what the world is saying about your brand, your services, and your competitors.  Engage in conversation, be helpful and tell your story—one tweet, one picture, one blog, one video, one link, one post at a time.

6. Caroline Di Diego (CASUDI) (@Casudi ), Principal & Solution Specialist ESSE GROUP blogs at Designing Success:  If the small biz customers are not currently on social networking platforms but are attending traditional business networking groups, like the Rotarians, this is what I do: I suggest bringing in a Social Media speaker to help them learn how and where to network online. This works well, the small biz owner is a hero, and his/her existing and potential customers move to networking online, often learning together.

7. Karima-Catherine Goundiam (@karimacatherine) Digital and Social Media Consultant at Angels Marketing. Time and time again, businesses allow misunderstandings about the social media space negatively impact their bottom lines and get in their way of successful digital strategies. For anyone who is in business and wants to be successful, 2013 is the year to revisit old beliefs and concepts about social media and digital and ask whether they have the right people, resources and strategy in place.

8. Heidi Cohen (@HeidiCohen) – President – Riverside Marketing Strategies: Small businesses have limited resources, and everything they do must contribute to generating sales. To ensure your social media activities translate to supporting your business, incorporate a social media call-to-action and related tracking code to assess results.

9. Amy Howell – (@howellmarketing)- CEO Howell Marketing Strategies, LLC – www.Howell- marketing.com: Make sure you have a strategy and realistic, measurable expectations.  Social media doesn’t replace traditional marketing.  It leverages it.  Adding social to your marketing campaigns can make a huge difference in business, but it must be strategic and deliberate.

10. John Jantsch, (@ducttape) – Founder Duct Tape Marketing:  You have to stop thinking about social media networking and start focusing on a total online presence in all that you do—including social networking.  Your conversations must be about content partnerships, creating awareness for your email newsletter, and ultimately, building network connections that turn into bigger opportunities.

11. Aaron Kilby – (@kilby76) – Director of Marketing & Business Development at Artisan Colour.   Founder and Host of #MediaChat: A great way for a small business to grow its social media network is to build a community with their followers and potential clientele.  They need to find the network or networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest) that best fit them and interact with groups on those platforms daily.

12. Shelly Kramer (@ShellyKramer)  – CEO – V3 Integrated Marketing her blog: Social media channels provide the same networking opportunities as in real life networking.  SMBs need to quit trying to mail it in and use social media channels to network.  Find out where your customers and prospects are, and engage and interact there in a meaningful manner.

13. Markus Orlyus (@MarkusOrlyus) – Media Strategist – Cover Story – If you think about a really great dinner party where everything seems to just flow, all that sparkling conversation and witty repartee doesn’t just happen; it’s facilitated by a thoughtful host working unobtrusively to involve all the guests and gently nudge things along.  But to be a great host you must be present virtually all the time—managing your web presence in real-time is a must for community building.

14. Peter Davison (@ourmaninmtl) Co-Founder & CMO - Trendr: The Mobile Meeting Plaform: The best advice for small businesses to increase their social media networking is to realize that their social campaigns have the ability to strengthen their offline relationships.  Mobile makes it easy to take social on the road—get out from behind your desk and use social to meet key customers, learn about their interests and create events that bring people together face to face.

15. Stan Phelps (@9INCHmarketing) – Experience Architect – 9 INCH Marketing – Speaker – Author of “What’s Your Purple Goldfish?:  Your social media plan should focus on ways to further engage current customers to leverage authentic word of mouth.  Provide incentives for check-ins on Foursquare, follows on Twitter or likes on Facebook.

16. Neal Schaffer, (@NealSchaffer) – President, Windmills Marketing, a Social Media Strategic Consultancy: Small businesses need to leave the buzz behind and focus on the basics in 2013. ISocial media marketing requires consistency to be successful, so in order to avoid a “crash and burn” scenario, start by just spending a little time a day on a consistent basis and build up from there.

17. Andrew Spoeth (@andrewspoeth) – Team Lead, Social Media Marketing – CA Technologies - Blogger: Connect with your happiest existing customers on social channels and let them be a gateway to others like them.  Through social media, give your customers access to little bits of information that are important to them, even if it’s not directly related to your product or service.

18. Frank Strong (@Frank_Strong) Blogs at – Sword and the Script: Aim for real conversations on social media, ask questions and respond to them, share advice but also accept it, and focus on the long-term outcome.  Relationships are built over time with consistent engagement: it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Cheryl Burgess (@ckburgess) is a digital and social brand consultant, blogger, and speaker. Her knowledge of business strategy, passion for creative expression, and marketing technology helps businesses achieve the remarkable. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.