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What Is Social Media And Why Should You Care About Social Media

Social Media is a buzz word among members of the media and press. Has our entire society gone social?

Well, first, let's take a look at what social media is, using some help from a our (social media) website friend, Wikipedia.

Social media is "participatory online media where news, photos, videos, and podcasts are made public via social media websites through submission."

The definition goes on to say that social media is normally accompanied by a voting process so that media items (i.e. anything talked about, blogged, or captured in audio/video) can become "popular".

Someone later came along to Wikipedia and put this part in...

"Social Media Expanded Definition: Social Media is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into content publishers. It is the shift from a broadcast mechanism to a many-to-many model, rooted in conversations between authors, people, and peers."

So basically here's the idea.

Since the invention of the printing press, up until the opening up of the Internet in 1989 and the World Wide Web in 1993 (Thanks Al Gore), the communication (i.e. media) coming from those in the know has been primarily one-sided. Sure, there have always been letters to the editor, but imagine telling the author of an article that you don't like what they had to say, 5 minutes after the article was published, and imagine how you would have to do it if there were no Internet.

That's life without social media.

What social media does is give anyone the opportunity to broadcast information, in a real-time format.

Wikipedia says further that social media uses the combined knowledge and application of lots of people, who are able to collect and tie together all that they know. Social media can be anything from email user group (an early form of social media), forums, and message boards, to weblogs, wikis, podcasts, pictures and video.

Some of the more known social media sites are Google Groups, Wikipedia, MySpace, Facebook,YouTube, Second Life (a virtual reality game where the users actually create the reality in which their characters live), and Flickr (photo sharing).

Here's what you really need to know about social media.

If you use it and effectively embrace it, social media can do amazing things for any business.

But it involves unpredictability. If people are given a place where they can freely say anything they want about you and/or your business (which, by the way, already exists on thousands/millions of social media web sites), then they are absolutely free to say anything they want (and they will).

If you're not thinking about opening up your business to discussion, and instead (still) thinking that you are going to produce all the content, and control all of the information, which will ultimately be consumed by an audience in the way you want it to be consumed, then social media is very likely to kill your business in short order.

So, how can you use social media?

Here are five simple ways.

1. Start a forum on your site (your web host should install one for you if you don't know how.)

2. Set up a blog (and actually blog something worthwhile about you or your company).
(Your web host should install one for you if you don't know how.)

3. Get started with a YouTube account and post a video.
(Don't know how? Watch a video on YouTube (or below) which will teach you how.)

4. Sign up for an account at, and Digg something you think is cool.

5. Add a button for someone to "Digg" your page to all of your blog entries.
This is the Digg button.  It's an easy social media button to add

If you're thinking that this social media stuff sounds like a lot of work, it can be.

But you can outsource it, or you can learn to do it yourself.

Either way, the days of one-way communication are done, so if you aren't using social media, you can bet your competition will be, and because social media works so quickly, you can bet it won't be long before they're kicking your butt, whether you've been the market leader for 3 or 35 years (And to that company in Ada, Oklahoma, I'm glad to see you've FINALLY started a blog.)

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