Many companies are planning to ramp up their investment in social media marketing this year, as the channel continues to prove itself as an easy, cost-effective way to reach both customers and prospects.

Indeed, more than half (53 percent) of the approximately 375 advertising and marketing executives who took part in a recent survey by The Creative Group said they expect enterprises of all sizes to channel more marketing funds toward Facebook in 2012. Just 4 percent of respondents forecasted a drop in spending pertaining to Facebook-based outreach.

If your organization is not yet developing a social media presence, now might be the time to take the plunge. That said, do not let your enthusiasm get the better of you. It can be tempting to go on a tear of signing up to every social networking site you can think of – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, to name but a few – but when it comes to effective social media outreach, think quality, not quantity. Each site has a slightly different demographic and lends itself toward different outreach methods, so you will need to zero-in on the one or two sites most populated by your current clients, or inhabited by precisely the kind of prospects you want to target.

In Facebook’s early days, users had to have a college email to join the site – not exactly the preferred demographic for some industries. Now, however, it is open to everyone from teenagers to older professionals. While individual users have profiles, companies can set up business accounts that allow them to share news and updates with “fans” of their brand. Becoming a fan of a company or brand is simple – just search for its page, then click the “Like” button.

Does your company use social media?
How do you incorporate social networking into your marketing mix?
Do you feel this has expanded your circles of influence?

It is important to set up some sort of social media presence, regardless of which social networking channels you choose to leverage. After all, your customers and prospects are most likely using the sites in some capacity, so you should be too.