In our ever-changing world some things remain constant. This is particularly true of successful professionals who tend to have rolodexes filled with contact information on a large number of connected professionals. We use our rolodexes to find resources, make connections and build our businesses. In fact, more than 90 percent of business comes from networking and referrals. Now imagine being able to super-charge your traditional networking.

Social networks, such as LinkedIn, Plaxo and Twitter are changing the way professionals are building relationships and transacting business. Social networks are business tools not to be ignored. Based on trends, professionals must learn to embrace new tools. Otherwise they will find their competition gaining a distinct advantage.

Professional networking sites such as LinkedIn are growing by more than one million members each month. Today, there are more than 25 million members on LinkedIn world-wide. If you use a professional networking site, you could be just one connection away from a new client or a strategic relationship. On LinkedIn alone, the demographics of the typical user are strong: 46 percent are business decision-makers, their average age is 41 years and their average household income is £79,000.

Here are just a few ways that you can use social networks for business:

Manage Your Online Image & Increase Your Visibility

In a recent report by AC Nielsen, 96 percent of people use the Web to conduct research before making a phone call, visiting a company, or deciding what to purchase. Social networking sites allow you to build your business profile and your brand online. When you spend time developing a profile that explains the benefits of working with you and back it up with solid recommendations from past employers, collogues and clients – you immediately increase the level of trust with your prospects.

LinkedIn also helps you to improve your “Google Rank.” As a result, your product or service has a greater likelihood of being found online. Since LinkedIn profiles receive a fairly high Google ranking, in many cases your profile may appear higher than that of your web site.

Enhanced Knowledge

When used properly, social networks can enhance your knowledge by allowing you to tap into the collective wisdom Rolodexof your network. For example, you can quickly obtain information or advice that might help you solve a business problem; research a company; seek insight on a company, product or service when developing a proposal; or even get “real” references on someone who you’re considering to hire.

An Ever Expanding Rolodex

Connecting is a basic human need. Humans by nature are social creatures. We have a need to connect based on our profession, interests or even by the college that we attended. For most of history, connections where limited to the geographic area in which people lived. Today, social networks allow us to connect with people who we know, re-connect with former classmates or colleagues, and help us find those who can best support us in achieving our goals.

As a professional, staying in place in our ever-changing world means falling behind. I encourage you to embrace this change by understanding how to build your virtual image, and grow and successfully manage your business relationships through social networking.