Think of Social Media as a Conversation

One of the benefits of writing a Question and Answer column for USA TODAY, and getting to speak at conferences all over, is that I hear from a lot of small business owners. I learn what works, and what doesn’t, and in the process I am able to gauge the pulse of small business.

So what do you think is the one question I get more than any other over the past year? Actually, it’s several inter-related questions:

  • Is social media really that important?

 

  • Do I have to tweet?

 

  • If so, how does it make me money?

No, of course you do not have to tweet, or Link In, or engage in any other social media, but I also say this: You are missing an incredible opportunity if you don’t.

Look, this is the golden age of small business for two reasons: First, compared to even a generation ago, there are vast new markets available to us: Online, overseas, down the block even. And it is the second reason that makes tapping those markets possible: Technology. Computers, software, websites and the like offer the small business owner an incredible chance to grow as never before.

One of the best of those opportunities is the ability to reach and influence a vast number of people for very little money – using social media. Sure, it may take a little time to master, and yes, that is probably the downside to the technology revolution, but it is a small price to pay.

Think of social media as a conversation. People are already there, chatting about your industry, your products or service, your business even. You can choose to be part of the conversation, or not, but we both know which one will be more effective.

I met a woman last year whose business fell into a hole when the economy tanked in late 2008. At the start of 2009, with nothing to lose, she decided to figure out this newfangled social media stuff. She joined Twitter specifically and began to engage people in her industry. She shared ideas and engaged them in the conversations they were having about their business. As a result, she “met” people she never would have otherwise met. And she impressed them.

And her business grew by 34% that year.

It doesn’t matter really what social media platform you choose. You can create valuable videos and post them on YouTube or create a fan page on Facebook. The important thing is that you continue to evolve your business practices, learn some new tricks, and take advantage of these great opportunities.

I promise you that if you do, the you a year from now will thank the you of today.

And yes, you can follow me on Twitter @SteveStrauss.

Steve Strauss is a contributing writer for Say Breeze. Visit Steve's website.

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