?In the last few weeks I have been reading anything and everything I can on social media. Partly because it's my business to stay on top of what's going on in the social media world and partly because I am fascinated by other peoples take on what exactly social media is or is not. So I thought in this blog I would discuss what social media is not. It is not the same old way of doing business: I think most people and businesses on the net understand this but there are still a lot of those who don't. The ones who grasp the concept of two way marketing, also known as Inbound Marketing, where the customer not only comes and looks at your wares, e.g. product or services, but can comment on them, the look of your website, past dealings with your company and more. These businesses know and understand they are no longer "in charge" or "in control" of their customers or clients. Long gone are the days of publishing an ad, running a radio or TV spot and you were virtually guaranteed a good if not great response resulting in sales. That's not to say some of that type of advertising isn't still effective it just isn't as effective as it once was. Just look at the big players of the product world, Coke?, Pepsi?, Ford?, etc., I think you get the picture, all of their ads whether print, radio or TV all show and/or mention their website, Facebook? page or Twitter? account, plus other social media sites. Now if these "big boys" of the business world are seriously using social media why would someone just starting out or wanting to expand their existing business not use social media? It is not about being in control: In the old version of marketing the idea was to structure your advertising in such a way to not only draw traffic to your business but to influence what they bought, how they bought it and when they bought it. Not now, even though the media can and does influence buying trends the very fact that most consumers have ready access to the net puts them in control. If they don't trust you because your site or ads just don't look or "feel" right to them they will simply pass you over and go somewhere else. Remember on the net there is no captive audience and you are NOT the only game in town. Now we must tailor everything we do for the consumer and invite their participation into that process. That is why its called Social Media you want your business to be very socially attractive. It's like having a party and sending out invitations no one will come if they don't like you or have heard bad things about you. So in social media your reputation and image mean a lot more than they used to when you were using just print, radio and TV. Why is that, because now everyone talks, e.g. Twitter?, Facebook?, et al, to everyone else about what they think of you, your company and your products and/or services, that's why! It is not about the product of service: Now I know a lot of people will read that heading and wonder if I've have lost my mind completely or I'm just plain crazy. I understand the sales of your businesses products or services are what makes your business money and without them you would just be wasting money on social media. But you must understand the way of social media is to focus NOT on what you sell but what you CAN do for the consumer and who YOU are. The new age of social media has people wanting to know who you are, what you are doing, where you come from and where you are going. The products or services are just something extra. Being on the net today and not telling your whole story using text, photos, video, etc., is like placing a personal ad with one sentence about you and an email address then hoping your prince or princess charming calls. You would be very lonely this weekend and probably most weekends. Present yourself and your company in a positive light using every tool available, don't just throw something together and hope they will come. Have an audit done of your company website. See my blog "Integrating Social Media into Your Website - Part II for more information on website auditing. Then look at the results of that audit. If you're honest with yourself you will be open to making the changes necessary to bring more people to your website. Summary: Social media is here to stay, it will of course evolve over time as it already has demonstrated, but it isn't going away. The good news is it is not too late to get on board I don't think it will ever be too late, but why wait? Your competition is already there, just Google? your business type or service and you will find you are most likely not the first one of your type of business to go online. So jump in! But make a plan first you wouldn't just jump in your car and start driving across the country without a map would you? The net is bigger than a country so getting lost in it is very easy. But with a plan (map) you will be able to get where you want and need to go, quicker and easier than just heading off in to the unknown. This is where social media managers and assistants come in they work with you to develop your plan, i.e. strategy, of where you want to go and how you're going to get there. Don't be afraid to ask for directions, it's not macho to go it alone because it really is a jungle out there and it's the smart thing to have a guide.