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I’m going to go way out here. I’m going way out on the weakest, most rotted out extremity of the nearest and most treacherous tree limb and make a blatant assumption. Here it is…

If you’re reading this, which neither of us can dispute the fact that you are, I’ll bet my salary on the fact that you’ve heard of at least one of these behemoths of social media.

  • Facebook – Ain’t just for young kids. The largest growth on Facebook is from 30+ year old patrons and 50 million people in 35 languages use it almost every day. Wow. Facebook is killing MySpace, and not softly. (Oops. I wasn’t going to mention MySpace because I wanted you to connect the dots. MySpace was the pioneer in social media so naturally MySpace belongs in this list of social media giants. Even though it deserves a mention, I’ll leave them MySpace “unbulleted” in this bulleted list.
  • YouTube – Nielsen Online estimates that Youtube serves over 32% of the videos watched online. I guarantee you’ve laughed at a video from YouTube. Inescapable.
  • Twitter – The incredibly popular micro-blogging platform grew at 752% growth last year. You must get on Twitter. This is one of the best ways to listen to and follow the pulse of your industry.
  • StumbleUpon It’s just what you do when you stumble across something cool. (My personal favorite for social bookmarking. If I find some content I enjoy, I can bookmark it using StumbleUpon so that everyone can enjoy it).
  • iTunes Podcasts – Even Apple has joined “social media.”
  • LinkedIn – Business networking powerhouse.
  • Squidoo – Community of content sharing “lenses” created by the Social Media, Permission Marketing Master Mogul himself, Mr. Seth Godin.
  • Blogger – Google’s baby. The most popular and user-friendly hosted blogging platform.

If you haven’t heard of any of these mega-sites it’s safe to assume that you have no business reading this blog post either. I’d also guess that if you’ve never heard of them you don’t use a computer (which is impossible), haven’t turned on your computer (impossible), don’t watch television (almost impossible), or you don’t have teenage kids (very possible). So what is this fad? It’s called Web 2.0.

What is Web 2.0?

With technical geek speak aside, Web 2.0 is synonymous with social media. For our purposes, it’s that simple.

The sites I mentioned above are just a few sites that make up a major part of the new generation in internet user experience. Social media is made up of online social communities built around an interactive, conversational delivery and sharing of all things media. Social media is about content.

Just how popular is Web 2.0? Here’s a stat offered by Dave Rosenberg over at CNet: social networks and blogs are MORE popular than email.

“He’s kidding, right?”

No, he’s not.

Why You MUST Be Using Social Media

If you aren’t utilizing social media in your marketing (called social marketing or social networking) you’re leaving mounds of cash on the table. Why? Social media is FREE to use and the absolutely best way to create raving fans of your brand or product.

Is your business struggling? Hit social media and you won’t strain your budget. Is your business already successful? Use social media to bury your competition so deep they won’t be able to get out. There are just no excuses not to use social media. If you’re not using it, your competitors will. Just do it.

People spend more time in social media than ever and the amount of time they spend sharing stuff, and chatting, and posting, and commenting increases by the hour.

The social media landscape just gets better and better and better and better. New social sites are popping up all over the place. What’s more is that supplementary sister sites with software and programs to help you use the behemoth social media sites are showing up more and more. For example, Twitter users have new tools that are published to help them generate more Tweeps (Twitter followers) and analyze their Twitter traffic and statistics and even allow for incredible search capabilities (how you keep up on your industry). There are almost two dozen of these programs that I’m aware of. These useful tools help to eliminate any excuse you have for not getting involved in social media. All these tools allow you to automate and analyze some social networking tasks. Even more evidence that you just can’t ignore social media.

Social media allows for you to brand your business, share media, generate traffic, presell new customers (without actually selling anything), create relationships, monitor the pulse of your industry— and do it all for FREE. You can’t beat that. Social media is the kind of thing that your bottom line loves.

Start with Facebook and Twitter. As of today, these are the two pillars. Set up a LinkedIn profile next. Steadily build your profile and your exposure will increase. Honestly, you won’t find a subject that isn’t been worked over in social media. Just jump in and get involved in the conversation that’s already taking place in your industry. We’ll talk next about social media rules that will help you do social media right.

Basic Rules of Social Media:

  • Be real. Be genuine. Be yourself. Social Media is not about selling stuff. It’s about communicating with others. If you “promote” yourself you’ll get hammered and it will ruin your brand. Social media is a lot like high school where everyone will start talking about you, whether for good or bad.
  • Most important Rule of Thumb: Add indisputable value to the conversation. Nobody likes people who are always selling stuff. By adding value to a conversation people will seek you out in large numbers and look to you for answers. The biggest way to add value is to give away free stuff and to TEACH. People will begin to see you as an expert.
  • Transparency is the social media protocol. Transparency has never been easier to recognize than it is now. It can absolutely catapult your business or rip it apart. If you are real and genuine, people can see you for who you really are in social media. If you’re fake, you can’t hide. So don’t be fake. If you’re real, let people in to your life (Don’t worry, you’re in control of what they do and don’t see about your life). You’re literally bringing thousands of people in to your world through social media so let them pull up a chair, sit in your parlor and chill with you for a minute.
  • Use real names and profiles. Unless you’re branding your business, use real usernames and real profiles that don’t sound promotional. People are wary of salesmen. Don’t be salesy.

That should get you pointed in the right direction. Now go set up a Facebook account for yourself and a Facebook Fan page for your business and put a link to that on your site. Sign up for Twitter, study Twitter, and go kill it. Put a link to your Twitter profile on your site as well.

Any questions, concerns, or rude comments?

Post your comments below.