A more personal take on what you can get out of social media…
For me, this is the Main Point. Everything else listed here is essentially a subdivision of this overarching concept. Social media gives you any number of outlets through which you can reveal aspects of yourself through the information you choose to share, how you choose to help others, opinions you express and the communities you choose to participate in. Social media empowers your self-expression by giving you instant access to a targeted community of your choice where you can find validation, maybe constructive criticism, inspiration, food for thought and overall stimulation. As you participate in social media, your ability to self-express will grow and this is an empowering process in itself.
2) Business IS personal
Most business happens between actual human beings and all other factors being equal, people will choose to do business with the person or company that they like better on a personal level. Successful social media involvement requires the human touch to put the human dimension to a company, so all that self-expression stuff applies as much to your business as it does to you personally.
Social media is particularly powerful for entrepreneurs and small businesses because starting a business is in itself a form of self-expression and social media gives you a forum to amplify that. You get to express explicitly your ideals and values that go into your business. Why did you start your business? What’s your particular genius that your business expresses? What have been the challenges, the lessons learned and the success stories? What can others learn from your experiences? Social media is the perfect outlet to answer all these questions in a way that amplifies the essence of your brand, business or personality.
I used to consider myself to be shy and didn’t get the point of social media and was not particularly interested in it, but as I’ve grown, my social media usage has changed and I’ve become more and more involved. Participating gives you an opportunity to expand your perception of who you are. It might push at the boundaries of your comfort, especially for those of us with introverted tendencies, but that is a good thing because it allows for growth. The act of self-expression through social media is somewhat like journaling in that it helps you organize your thoughts and assess what you consider to be important. It forced me to examine how and why I wanted to present myself to the virtual world and therefore guided how I contribute. The more you get involved the more rewarding you will find it. Conscious engagement, not isolation, leads to growth.
4) It’s like real life, just faster
In the course of socializing and doing business in real life, we meet people, introduce other people, make referrals, ask for help, create partnerships etc. Social media can help all those things to happen even faster, with brand new people you’ve never met, but also by giving you a way to connect and stay in touch with people that you might meet briefly in real life. Social networks are a great way to develop those casual connections.
5) Make a contribution
The bigger picture of social media, for me, is not just about everyone knowing at all times your every move – unless you happen to do really interesting stuff all day. The bigger picture is that social media helps you to examine and identify your contribution to your chosen community. It helps you find and refine your voice. You share what you’re interested in, what you care about, events or information that you feel is important to yourself or the world. How can you add something valuable to the community? What is your unique perspective? Everyone has one and social media helps you define yours and express it in the most natural way for you – text (could be blog posts or short status updates), photos, videos, audio etc. You can find the tool and the community that best suits your form of contribution.
6) Information Distribution
As you develop your networks in your chosen communities, you essentially start to build your own information distribution and publishing platform, which is a business asset – well, sort of. I say ‘sort of’ because really you are just renting, well, more like house-sitting, those networks from Twitter, Facebook etc and if they, god forbid, go away, start charging, lose your info, or any number of other circumstances beyond your control, you could be, well, a**ed out. So you should still be building your real assets such as an email database that you can backup and know where it is at any time of the night or day. And this is another reason to try and make real connections, that way if the platform disappears, the relationship doesn’t have to. But assuming these tools don’t go away anytime soon, you can leverage this virtual platform to your benefit and get your information out there easily and freely to a targeted audience with the potential for viral dissemination.