When Dr. Alan Glazier, CEO and founder of Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care decided in January of 2009 it was time to grow his business, one of the first things he did was launch a social media marketing campaign. One year later, Glazer's Rockville, Md., optometry office is a blogging and tweeting pro, and the results have been nothing short of spectacular.

"I was forced to consider alternative options to keep my business visible," Glazier says. "With a very small investment, I was able to generate new business opportunities through social media marketing. Our Google ranking is now consistently No.1 for many of the phrases people use to search for eye doctors in and around my city and we have received a significant bump in terms of new visitors to our website."

Just as impressive is the fact that Shady Grove's blog is now read by journalists doing background research on eyesight-related articles, which has led to Glazier being interviewed and quoted by a number of leading news sources.

While there's nothing particularly unique about what Dr. Glazier and the team at Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care are doing--aside of course from doing it extremely well--new research into social media adoption by small-business experts suggests Glazier is not alone. According to the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland's Smith School of Business, social media adoption by small businesses has doubled from 12 percent to 24 percent in the last year alone.

Still, while nearly one out of five small-business owners are actively using social media to market their businesses today, that means four out of five are either oblivious to the opportunity, in the dark about how to get started, or are using social media inappropriately or not at all.
For those who are actively marketing through self-owned community platforms, blogs, micro-blogging, Facebook, LinkedIn and other similar services, the University of Maryland says the biggest expectation small-business owners have is the expansion of their reach and market engagement for the express purpose of identifying and attracting new customers, building brand awareness and staying connected with existing customers.

If your business is in the "four out of five" category, consider this: Consumers expect businesses and brands to be active participants in social networking. Don't believe me? Well, you don't have to--according to a study on consumer expectations with respect to businesses involvement in social media, 93 percent of social media users believe your company should have a presence in social media, and 56 percent of users feel both more closely connected with and better served by companies when they can interact with them in a social media environment.

Not sure where to start? Check out these resources fromEntrepreneur: