social media business since 2007, although I've used social media for personal use since 2005. MySpace was all the rage and a fun way to get our viral comedy skits out to the public. I swore then that I wouldn't hang out on Facebook because it seemed to be too "young" and "college oriented", but soon we were surfing page after page because the content was so interesting and MySpace had become too creepy with their videos of pretty young girls, flirting into the camera.
These are exactly the same reasons why a lot of small business owners today have yet to embrace social media. Quite honestly, they don't feel "social" and wouldn't go out to make new friends like the young "kids" tend to do so naturally. I've met a lot of these business owners at various networking events held through our local business associations and I know the type. They sit around at their booths waiting for people to come and ask them questions. They have heard us networkers say time and again, get out from your booth and go meet people! Get excited about your business and what you do and what you can offer to people!
Now imagine if you were omnipresent and you were able to stay at your booth to talk to anyone who asks questions AND you could be at all of the other booths to talk to those people? This is exactly what social media can do for you. It allows you to interact with people not just in your town, or City (although for small businesses, this is exactly who they want to interact with) or anyone who is interested in the same things that you are. Social media allows you to find people with like interests and makes it easy for you to interact with them.
Let's take it one step further. If you were able to be at all booths at one time, would you only choose to be at one booth and not at any of the others? You could, but that wouldn't be very smart and I'll tell you why. If you have the ability, then what does it hurt to get to know everyone there? You have no idea what those new personal connections could do for your business. We are all human and when you start to connect with people, you begin to see the further connections that they have with people that aren't even there. You can start to understand this person and who they know and what they do and who knows, perhaps you have an idea or two to share that can help this person in some way?
Sounds like a lesson in making new friends right? Well that is exactly what you do when you are involved in social networks. You make new friends, you meet new people, you learn new cultures, you get a few surprises but most of all, you grow your own network. Social networks aren't just about the bottom line, although any business owner would be crazy not to pay attention to that, it's also about the reputation of you or your brand. It's about showing everyone your personality or simply giving your brand a personality that someone can get to know. It's putting a human face on your business.
The fact is that most people are using social media of some sort to find information and if you aren't there, you are getting missed by someone. You can be on all of these networks, and grow connections at all of those places, and know all of the things that you need to know to make yourself feel... well... omnipresent AND omniscient! Isn't that a great place to be when you are running your business?
So, by selecting Facebook as your only "booth" and choosing not to be at any of the other booths like "Twitter" and "Foursquare" and "LinkedIn" is not being very smart about utilizing all that social media has to offer.
We really recommend being in all places at the same time and there are lots of ways you can do this. Programs like the one we use, Tweetdeck, or even Hootsuite and Ping can help you keep daily updates (although it is much more authentic to each community if you update each place individually) and they all offer great ways to announce important events. But the most important thing you could do in all of these places is to start having conversations! Real ones, like the kind you would have at a networking event. Listen to your contacts, share a little about you, go for it and put your best foot forward.