Social media - led by Facebook and Twitter - has revolutionized the way we communicate with one another. Just as e-mails and instant messages changed social interactions in the 1990s, social media, combined with smartphones, tablets and netbooks, now makes communication instantaneous. Posting status updates, sharing photos and creating events has now become so simple that any other method seems archaic. As a small business owner, how can you utilize social media in your business, both within your business and as a tool for product promotion?

Within Your Company

We've all heard every employee's nightmare - their boss "friending" them on Facebook. While everyone is entitled to their own carefully constructed online persona, you can request employees to connect to you via a limited profile, which blocks off their private photos and comments. If you manage to get all your coworkers connected via Facebook, creating a private group for your office can be a remarkably efficient and fun way to keep things organized. Here are some things you can do with a private work group in Facebook.

Schedule events

Use the Facebook group to "invite" people to meetings or events. You can include the agenda and details in the invitation or event details. Facebook's events are conveniently organized into "Attending", "Not Attending" and "Maybe", so it is easy for everyone to see who else will be in attendance. Encourage your co-workers to also create social events within the group to boost company morale. Having a shared calendar on Facebook keeps everyone on the same page at all times.

Create a repository of shared documents

Upload meeting minutes, company policies, or important notes to a cloud-based documents storage service, such as Microsoft's SkyDrive or Google's Google Docs, and post the link in your Facebook group. Make sure everyone has access to these documents, and you will instantly cut down on lots of wasted time and paper.

Share important company updates and memos instantly

Facebook groups allow you to post messages on the group wall, which can serve as a bulletin board for all work-related (or non-work related) issues. In addition, members can also "tag" other members in "Notes" to insure that company memos are received instantly. No more post-its on people's desks and monitors!

Use it as an instant company phone book

If your employees have their phone number or e-mail addresses visible in Facebook, creating a workplace Facebook group will also create an instantly shared employee phonebook, which can be invaluable for employees needing to get in touch with each other.

As a Promotional Tool

Big companies constantly tap into YouTube, Twitter and Facebook for free, viral advertising. Create a customer-based front-end on Facebook, with its "Business Page", which can increase your company's visibility for free. This page should contain basic information - contact numbers, addresses and websites, as well as recent product information. Note that this is not the internal Facebook group mentioned in the previous part.

If your company has dedicated online customer service representatives, they can also staff the Facebook page and answer questions in real time via Facebook chat. Here are some other ideas to increase the visibility of your Facebook page.

Take advantage of the "Like" button

Place it your company website as well as under your popular products. Encourage visitors to share your products with their Facebook friends. On your Facebook business page, offer raffles and rewards for group members whom join and "like" your page.

Keep updates frequent

Once members join your page, your updates will appear instantly in their news feeds, which will bring them back if you post an interesting product or discount. Many video game companies and movie studios post teasers on their Facebook pages, which in turn gets shared to an exponential amount of users.

Use Facebook and Twitter in unison

Linking both pages to each other can double your audience instantly by driving traffic both ways. A number of applications currently allow cross-posting across both platforms.

Make sure your Facebook and Twitter pages are clearly printed on your business card and other promotional items.

These are some simple ideas to help you get started in integrating your business into the fast-paced world of social media, both internally and externally.