Social media as defined by Wikipedia is “any communications format where the users publish the content.” A simple definition, but not as simple of a process, especially for small businesses where time and resources are at a premium. To simplify the social media landscape just a bit, here are 9 simple ways for small businesses to leverage social media:

1. Have a Voice – The first step for any small business looking to tap into social media is to have a blog. A blog acts as your business’ voice on the Internet. It should be a place where employees can share thoughts, tips, news and anything else with the general public. Any business interested in starting a blog should give WordPress a look first. MovableType is another worthy option.

2. Speak Up – In addition to running a blog, small businesses should actively be conversing on other industry blogs. The more conversations that your small business can be a part of, the better. If you’re not sure where to start just Google search for some industry-related phrase and the word ‘blog’…you’ll find at least a few.

3. Stumble and Digg for Blog Fodder – The easiest way to keep fresh content in your company’s blog is to find recent news stories in your industry and comment on them. StumbleUpon and Digg are both fantastic resources for finding stories that people are talking about. Pick a story and throw your hat in the ring…

4. Build Your Online Network – LinkedIn is the MySpace of the business world. Encourage employees to create profiles and invite clients to join their networks. Over time your company will build a substantial online presence and open up tons of new channels for client acquisition and finding new hires (see #7 for more on this). Depending on your business’ product or service, MySpace and Facebook may also make sense for online networking, but LinkedIn will provide the most benefit.

5. Answer Customer’s Questions – There’s no need to wait for a customer to approach you in order to answer their questions. Sites like Yahoo Answers, WikiAnswers and 43 Things are filled with people looking for help, you just need to give them what they want…

6. Prove that You Are an Authority – Show off your business’ expertise in your field by creating high-quality, authoritative articles on sites like Wikipedia, Work.com and eHow.com. Not only will you be gaining exposure on other websites but you’ll also build a reputation as an authority in your field.

Wikipedia

7. Find the Right Employees – The social web has opened the doors for communicating and finding new hires. Jobster, for example, takes the standard job search model (think Monster.com) and adds social aspects to beef up the overall job search experience. On the other end of the spectrum, Craigslist allows companies to add free, no frills job postings in a local market.

8. Create New Flavors of Content – The runaway success of YouTube and Flickr has created a tremendous opportunity for small businesses to show off their product offerings in new forms of media, namely videos and photos. Leveraging these two forms of media often requires a great deal of creativity, but also can have a big payoff.

9. Get Reviewed – If your current customers love you then you might as well let them tell your potential customers about their experience. Yelp, Yahoo Local and Google Local are your best bets for sites where people freely review and search for businesses.

For now those are probably the 9 easiest ways for small businesses to tap into social media but it seems like every day there’s a new idea out there so keep your eyes open for opportunities.