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shashi-bellamkonda1There are still many people out there who are not convinced that social media can help build their business.  The reasons are varied: social networks are for teenagers, they take to much time to be involved in, my target market isn’t there, and on and on.  I get these doubts.  I understand the resistance.

But there is no question that if 2008 was the year that social media broke into the big time, then 2009 is the year it will go more mainstream than ever.  It is vitally important to your success to understand how it can benefit you and why it is worth the time it will take in the beginning to learn it and make it part of your marketing routine.  Use it to support your business or risk getting left behind.

So why care about social media right now?

Proves You are a Living, Breathing, REAL Person

This sounds kind of funny but it’s crucial.  Humans need to feel they are connecting with others and that they are being heard.  You can’t get away with being a faceless entity doing business on the web as much anymore.  Those who are still doing it that way risk alienating those making the buying decisions.

Branding

There is plenty of opportunity to build and make visible your particular brand—while still being human. You don’t need to think of this in terms of the big boys like Coke or Pepsi-type branding.  It could even just be a logo, colors, your avatar picture or tagline.  If your usage of the tools is regular, each impression strengthens others’ awareness of what your services or products are about.  Keep your messages and branding activities cohesive and consistent and you have a powerful way to promote yourself and what you are offering.

Viral Word of Mouth

Is every follower or friend you have on social sites going to be a member of your target market?  No, and it doesn’t matter.  If you are providing great content, helpful links and regularly contributing something useful to the community, the viral nature of social media will help push this content through the networks to the people who need to hear it.

Speed of Results

While building up page rank takes time and often cannot be predicted, the impact of social networks and tools is often instantaneous.

Traffic

Sites where you list your link in your profile or direct people to your latest post or article is just another way to drive traffic to your blog or website.  I’ve had good results with Facebook and Twitter especially by looking at the traffic source stats in my Google Analytics page.

Value Contribution

You’re in business because you have something of value to offer others.  The conversational nature of social media makes it easy to engage others in discussions which naturally reveal what you may be able to help them with. Be authentic, give regardless of how much you get back, and stay involved.

It’s Not Going Away

The names and faces of the latest and greatest networks and tools may change but the benefits that the interactive nature of Web 2.0 provides are real and working very well for countless small business owners and solopreneurs.  Isn’t it time you discovered that for yourself?

Let me know your thoughts.  How active are you in social media currently?  If you aren’t, what’s holding you back?

Photo credit: Shashi Bellamkonda