These days, technology is all around us. It’s few and far between to find someone who doesn’t own a smartphone, tablet or both. And just when you think you have the latest and fastest device, something newer and better floods the market. At times it can seem daunting to keep up — at least that’s what I find. Our phones and computers are continually asking us to perform software upgrades and updates to the numerous apps. Sometimes it feels like staying on top of this technology is a job in itself.

So, if it can be bothersome at times, why do we do it? The truth is most of us are looking for convenience and ways to simplify things in our life. Today’s devices let us have access to everything at our finger tips. I can’t tell you how many times a day I google something from my phone that I want an answer to or turn to Pinterest to find a new recipe for dinner so I can surprise my family with something different.

All of this technology has pushed us into a new way of operating and communicating. It has opened the door to social media. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram are used by millions of people for a host of reasons, including staying in touch with family and friends, expressing views and sharing memories.

And social media is not only used on a personal level. Businesses are now utilizing various platforms as a marketing tool. With so many potential customers on social media, business owners are smart to reach them through this vehicle. Because social media has become such a hot topic and integral part of branding and marketing, TILE decided it would be good to ask some industry members how they are using these platforms to better their businesses.

“Social media is an essential tool for marketing in today’s digital age, especially for businesses like Walker Zanger,” said Pat McIntosh, national social media coordinator and branch manager at Walker Zanger’s San Francisco office, on behalf of the Walker Zanger social media team. “Our products are so visually engaging that they lend well to social platforms and allow us to organically connect with our customers on a more personal level.”

Some marketing experts explain social media can be time consuming and careful planning and strategies are important to make it successful. “Some may say it’s a pro that social media is ‘free to use,’ but that’s a false notion,” said Irene Williams, owner and principal of Msg2Mkt, LLC, a digital marketing and public relations firm. “Sure, any business can have profiles on social platforms at no charge, but it does take time, planning, strategy and business intelligence to use well. It can be a big misstep to relegate management of social media to entry level staff members simply to contain costs, when those staffers may not yet understand the nuances of customer communications, brand messaging and overall marketing goals.”

More advice and tips on the subject can be found in the article “The lasting impacts of social media,” which can be found beginning on page 34 of this issue. The important thing to remember is every person and business’s needs are different. Take the time to figure out what is right for you before beginning your journey into the digital age.