Why Social Media?

If you think Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other online social media communities are only for teenagers and have no relevance in business, you're missing out on valuable and free marketing platforms for your brand (and whatever you are selling).

Further, if you're not on social media, you're risking losing your own potential clients or customers to those smart business people who are utilising social media.

Which social media platforms you focus on depends a great deal on what your brand is. Here are seven excellent reasons why you should use social media no matter what you are promoting:

1. It's the Most Cost-Effective Online Advertising

The current most popular social media platforms being used for business are free: Twitter.com, Facebook.com and LinkedIn.com. (LinkedIn does have an upgrade that costs, but it's not necessary to get this upgrade.) And this is "relationship" marketing to targeted markets. "Free" is definitely more cost-effective than spending money on online advertising techniques such as Pay Per Click or banner ads.

2. You Can Have Global Reach With Social Media

The world is now a global marketplace. Why not reach this global market? Many of the most popular social media platforms have this global reach, and you can see this clearly illustrated on Twitter. At any time of day or night you can see real-time "tweets" from people in Japan, Australia, the U.S., India and many other countries.

For example, if you have a book that might appeal to anyone in the world who reads in English, why limit yourself to just promoting in the U.K.? Thanks to Amazon people outside the U.K. can buy your book even if it is only available in U.K. stores.

3. You Can Attract Targeted Groups of People as Potential Clients/Customers for Your Brand

Social media enables you to join groups of people with the same interests and goals. On LinkedIn and Facebook you can join groups as varied as Children's Book Writers to eMarketing. If you choose groups to join based on your brand, you'll be putting yourself in front of the exact groups of people you want to reach as potential clients/customers. This can pay off in increased sales for you.

4. You Can Form Your Own Community by Using the Community Aspect of Social Media

Once you are active on social media platforms and have people who are your followers (Twitter), your friends (Facebook) and/or your connections (LinkedIn), you can start your own groups of highly targeted interests. You can create a niche market in your brand, book or business and share your knowledge with others who join your community.

These people can become your loyal followers, friends and connections - and they can help spread your marketing message to their followers, friends and connections.

5. You Can Use Social Media to Establish Your Expertise

People like to do business with people they know, like and trust. By sharing your knowledge for free online with the people in the social media groups you belong to, you can establish yourself as an expert. This can pay off in increasing potential clients/customers' trust in you.

And you can also receive invitations for blog "interviews" or BlogTalkRadio show interviews or podcasts. And these interviews lead to more free exposure for your brand and more free promotion for your expertise.

6. You Can Use Social Media to Find Cross-Promotional Partners

Amazingly in the world of social media, people who would be considered competitors in the off-line world are teaming up to provide products and services to their combined clients/customers.

And these clients/customers are very responsive to these cross-promotions (often called joint ventures) - especially when introduced to a second expert by a first expert they already know, like and trust.

You and your cross-promotion partner can each get access to the other person's "list" (the names of interested clients/customers collected at a website) and thus you've greatly expanded your potential client/customer pool.

7. With a Few Keystrokes You Can Announce New Updates of Your Activities

Your updates on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn take seconds - and you've announced to your followers, friends and connections what you're doing or what you're offering or what you're speaking on. And there are even online applications that allow you to update your status across several of your social media accounts at one time. So it is as easy as 1-2-3 to keep in front of your potential clients/customers.

In conclusion, once you become active yourself on social media platforms, you'll find many more reasons to promote your brand, book or business on social media in order to attract targeted potential clients/customers. And you'll look back at your pre-social media days and wonder how you ever did marketing without using online social media.

 When George Clooney was recently asked about his take on Facebook at the Toronto Film Festival, his response was short: "I'd rather have a prostate exam than a Facebook page.

Now, that's probably understandable when movie studios (his potential clients) have his number on a speed dial, and pesky paparazzi (freebie seekers and unqualified prospects) chase after his every move. 

But unless you already have more prospects and high quality clients than you and your business can handle, your approach to Social Networking should be drastically different.

Just consider a few of these facts:

• Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social networks initially considered online hang-out places for kids and teenagers are now attracting a much more demographically diverse crowd. 

• Big brand names, like Ford, WholeFoods, Comcast, IBM, Dell, Southwest Airlines, and many, many more are establishing a strong presence on social networking hubs like Twitter and Facebook. 

• Facebook membership has just passed the 300 million mark (that's nearly the population of USA!) and Twitter is marching towards 18 million users by year's end! That's a lot of potential customers! 

• Although, started with college kids in mind, over 50% of Facebook's members now are over 25 years old, over 55% are women (the new buying power), 51% have an annual income of $75K, with 33% claiming to earn $100K or more. 

• Finally, Facebook has become one of the most trusted companies in America, and people spend three times more time there than on Google!

Got your attention now?

Good, let me give you just five basic tips on putting this massive connection power to your advantage.

1. Get Started! Open an account on every social media and social networking platform you come across. Even if you are not actively using all of them, (which you never will) you should reserve your own name, the name of your company, your brand, or your key products, because those are like real estate locations - once the prime spots are gone, they are gone! 

2. Get Involved! Just opening the accounts won't do anything for you. You must be actively involved. Choose the best three platforms for you - where you can find the largest population of your ideal clients and it's the easiest to connect with them. Each platform provides search tools that enable you to find people you already know, current customers, as well as hubs where most of your ideal potential clients already hang out, so you can become visible to a lot of them very quickly. And start connecting and talking! But first...

3. Listen, Listen, Listen More! The most important thing you must remember is that social networking is NEVER ABOUT YOU! It's ABOUT THEM! So don't listen twice as much as you talk (I mean "post"), listen 10 times as much! Find out what the current topics are. What people are concerned about, what information and solutions they are looking for. Then make your posts relevant to other people's needs! Here is a hint - nearly all of the social networking services and tools, at least the basic version of them, is free! So don't go out there pitching your high-priced wares. Give, give, and give some more first! If your focus is on getting and taking, you will get a big fat NADA from your networking efforts. But if you focus on giving, you'll be abundantly rewarded in return.

 Following all the rules is for sissies! So don't be a social networking pansy - have an opinion (in fact, have lots of opinions on everything!) and voice it loud and often! People admire people with opinions - even if they don't agree with you, they will stick around to watch what will happen next. Social networking experts are quick to dispense all their "must not break" rules (heck, I'm doing it right now!), but the fact is, this is such a new media that most of the effective approaches are still to be discovered. And the only way to do so is by stepping on some toes and breaking some norms.

If you want a "safe" way to practice this, follow my PET formula: polarise, entertain, teach! 

- POLARISE. Whether you piss people off or make them love you, they will pay attention. If they are indifferent, they will leave! 

- ENTERTAIN. People will always choose fun over education. If people laugh with you, they like you... Plus, when they laugh - they learn! 

- TEACH. Gary Veynerchuk says "give good s#!%." And he gets how PET works, because that phrase rubs some people the wrong way, it entertains, and it teaches! Peeps love good tips they can use right away - so share some! 

5. Automate! The purpose of social networking is to CONNECT WITH PEOPLE on a very personal level. Still there are some tools that can help you impress your fans with your "omnipotent online presence" and get more networking done in less time. 

RSS blog feeds, FriendFeed.comPing.fmTwitterFeed.comSocialOomph.comTweetBeep.com, andTubeMogul.com are just a few of a plethora of tools and services - most of them free - that will kick your online socializing into high gear! 
Here is my final take on it. And I really want you to get it

In April of 2008, from a stage at one of my boot camps, I called people who use Twitter "lazy idiots with no life" (yeah, how is that for polarizing, huh?) But at the same boot camp earlier this year I had my Twitter networking activities to thank for clients from Australia, Singapore, Netherlands, Spain, England, Hungary, and a few other countries. Needless to say, I changed my tune. I'll leave it to your imagination as to what I now call professionals and entrepreneurs who refuse to recognize the client attracting power of social networking. Better yet - stop wondering, and if you aren't involved yet - get started now!