What do Facebook and the country of India have in common? I found the answer a bit surprising — population. That's right, both India and Facebook are home to over 400 million residents. In fact, the number of registered social networking and online gaming accounts (over 10 billion) has exceeded the number of people on the planet. Those kinds of numbers should have your marketing instincts drooling like a hungry dog to get a social networking presence established for your institution, or if you already have a presence in place, those numbers should inspire you to be look for ways to leverage your presence for stickier and more numerous relationships with your web-based clientele.

It is not only Facebook that is on fire with activity. The number of users accessing Twitter is astronomical as well. According to the Twitter Blog, there are over 24 million unique visitors each month and over 500 million tweets per day. That's a lot of information being passed on and much of that is generated by creative companies looking for new ways to reach out to this growing online population.

The viral video community continues to be dominated by YouTube, with over 2 billion videos viewed every single day and 100 million of those are via mobile devices. If that doesn't inspire you to start uploading some multi-media marketing, consider that the top two YouTube viral advertisements, Blendtec and Evian, have generated over 230 million voluntary views since their individual launches. Understanding the success of those campaigns may provide the key to success for your own viral channel.

For professional business networking, LinkedIn is king, with over 100 million professional members worldwide. About half of those are in the United States and distributed among virtually every vertical market. The more than 50 million remaining members are distributed around the world, primarily in Europe and Asia. This situation isn't unique to LinkedIn. World-wide access to YouTube is not only possible, but facilitated, by built-in translation engines and features designed to simplify communication. The possibilities, and challenges, for developing world-wide channels are nearly endless.

If there is an overriding theme here, it is that there is a huge and proven, but only barely tapped, customer-facing communication channel available to any business entity creative enough and motivated to take advantage of the opportunities. Those companies that do invest in marketing and selling through social networking channels will outpace and outlast those concerns trapped in a brick and mortar world or those wallowing in the WWW status quo. Over the course of the next several months, I intend to expose opportunities for marketing, customer support, community outreach, direct sales and public relations that leverage the vast marketplace represented by the world of social networking. Furthermore, I will be identifying particularly successful and groundbreaking campaigns based on social networking, in whole or in part.

Oh, and I promise to go easy on the statistics in the future.

DAVE MARTINA [david.martina@NEPS.com] is the vice president of systems integration for NEPS, LLC of Salem, New Hampshire, a firm that provides solutions for the automation of document-intensive business processes.

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