This post was first posted as part of Nashville Business Journal’s Social Madness Campaign. To read more from Green Apple Strategy articles published by the Nashville Business Journal, click here.

A few days ago, I ran across an interesting article that predicted social media users in North America will total 179.4 million by 2016. The article went on to explain the positive impact this rise in social media could have on small business across the country.

small business social media

While some people think small businesses are at a disadvantage compared to larger brands on social media, I disagree. In fact, I think we’ll continue to see how social media can give small businesses the advantage. It’s all about how you engage with your audience, no matter the size of your company or its marketing budget.

As social media use becomes more and more mainstream, here are a few ways social media can help small businesses create big audiences and increase their overall growth:

Social media hinges on relationships. In some ways, social media is taking us back to the old days of mom-and-pop shops, where relationships trumped everything else. Because small business owners have had to learn how to build relationships by helping their customers, sometimes they’re more naturally wired to succeed with social media.

The key: Social media success hinges on a lot of the same ideas that got you to where you are today: helping others, building relationships and being human.

Social media doesn’t require you to be on every platform in order to have an effective strategy. If you’re a small-business owner, you know what it’s like to have to be strategic about the way you advertise your business because your budget doesn’t allow you to use every outlet. The same goes for social media. You don’t have to use every platform to have effective social media. Focusing on the one or two platforms where a majority of your audience is makes much more sense.

The key: In the same way you determine what advertising tools to use, pick the most relevant platform and focus deeply with it versus spreading yourself, your message and your budget thinly across multiple channels.

Social media breaks down barriers for financing your dream. Before the days of crowdsourcing, small-business owners and entrepreneurs had to rely on pitching their ideas to a small group of potential investors. Social media has provided the fuel to launch dozens of great business ideas and products that might have otherwise gone unfinanced. Because of social media, ideas can grow organically.

The key: If you have a great idea for a product or business, social media can help make it a reality. The key is telling your story in a way that is going to inspire others to support it.

What are some other ways that social media has given small businesses the advantage? Sound off in the comments below.