What IS social media? Wikipedia defines Social media as: primarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings.

If you thought that social media was only for teenagers or single people trying to find love, you thought wrong! It’s here to stay and taking the internet by storm. There’s no time like the present to jump in, join the crowd, engage in conversation and if truth be told have fun while building your business.

Social media is quite literally a “virtual” word-of-mouth marketing network. Just how important are social media conversations about you and/or your business? Check out the following statistics:

• More than 1 in 8 viewers make a purchase after watching a video ad online – eMarketer
• Facebook has 150,000 new users sign up every single day – Time Magazine
• As of October 2006, about 100,000 new blogs were created every day – Technorati
• LinkedIn has a 137% growth year over year bringing its visitors to about 8 million per month - compete.com

Small business owners are beginning to realize the need to leverage social media to grow their businesses. However, it has been my recent experience that many do not know where to start, or worse--how to get the most out of their social media efforts.

I attended a networking event for women business owners and decided to conduct my own case study. I posed a seemingly simple question to each lady I encountered. “Are you incorporating social media in the growth strategy for your business?” One of two things occurred. Either the look of a “deer-caught-in-the-headlights” appeared on their face, followed by a blank stare, followed by the inevitable response of “HUH?! Social WHO?” or I received an overwhelmingly confident “I have a profile on LinkedIn!” Obviously, the latter was given in an effort to imply THAT was all they needed. How would you respond? Wait…don’t answer that!

Whether you realize it or not, the only person who is going to drive your business and our economy forward is YOU. It’s time to put a new plan into effect and it is crucial that social media networking be included in that plan. People aren’t just wasting time on social networking sites anymore. Savvy and growing businesses are utilizing these tools to build new relationships with those that can bring them new business. Even more impressive are those “BIG” businesses (E.g., Jet Blue, Dell, Whole Foods, Apple) using social media tools, such as Twitter, to improve customer retention and satisfaction by adding a “human” element to their brand—thus driving sales.

For the record, social media is NOT a sales tool. It is a relationship building tool that will drive sales, if done properly. Utilizing social media is a lot like networking offline, meaning that it’s easier to get and give business with people you know on a personal level. Your goal is to let them see the authentic you in order to build relationships. Once that is done you’ll have a captive audience ready to give back to you!(Hint: that’s where the SALES part comes into play.)

It’s not so much the method that you choose (whether LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, etc.) but what you do WITHIN that community that matters most. Having 10 profiles in 10 different networks only to never return again will do LESS for you than having 2 or 3 profiles in communities where you are an active participant.

Bottom line: You better put your “big girl” panties on and just do it, because your competition is!

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Comment by Cyndi Gutowski on February 23, 2009 at 11:11pm
Love it! It's funny about your case study.....believe it or not most in my field do not even use the computer in their office!!! They use it for POS systems only, that is when a customer calls or walks in! I am thinking , how do they survive?


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