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April 2009
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"Why do I need Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter? I've gotten along just fine without them!"

A Look at Social Media and 4 Ways it Can Benefit You

Hello :

If you're just getting involved with social media, or only know what you've heard, I'm inviting you to let go of any preconceived notions you may have as you read on.

Facebook friends, Twitter tweets, Linked-In connections - no matter how computer-phobic you think you are, you've probably had, or overheard, at least one conversation today that involved one of these three terms. They're part of a growing phenomenon called social media, which refers to technology designed for the express purpose of keeping people in touch via the Internet and/or their communication device (phone, Blackberry, computer) of choice.

Some people dismiss these technologies as entertainment for tweens or Hollywood starlets, when in fact they offer tremendous potential to promote your business or a favorite cause to literally thousands of people (Facebook alone has more than 200 million users). Imagine being able to spread the word to an audience of that size - for free.  Over the next two months we'll examine ways to harness these powerful tools and put them to work for you. For starters, here's a demonstration of the power of Facebook I find particularly touching:
Kritika's Page"Help to send Kritika's body home" ... Given only a week, how do you reach your own circle - and across the globe - to raise thousands of dollars in support of a worthy cause? My girlfriend, Maggie, is the accounting director for a small university in Virginia. In November, one of its 380 students, Kritika Singh, was killed in an auto accident. Kritika's parents could not afford to ship their daughter's body home to Nepal and asked if the university could help with expenses - it would cost about $15,000. As a non-profit, the university could not afford that, but one of its IT guys had an idea. He placed a PayPal donation button on the university's home page and started a Facebook group for the express purpose of raising money to send Kritika's body home. Word spread, and soon (very soon) thousands of people were supporting this cause by "joining" the Facebook group and/or donating what they could.  Within a week, they had raised $39,060.83 - Enough to ship Kritika's body home and for her parents to start a scholarship fund in their daughter's name. For me, this is certainly the most poignant - and powerful - of the many social media success stories I've heard.

The Tipping Point ... Maybe you're thinking "Sure, social media are powerful now, but they're probably just a flash in the pan. Why should I invest my time in learning a technology that won't be around tomorrow?" The answer is because social media have reached the tipping point - the point at which it changes from something you engage in occasionally to an everyday pursuit. Think back to about 1996, when e-mail was reaching its tipping point? Perhaps you had your first e-mail address and you were using your account ... about once a week. Soon, you were checking it a few times a week, then every day, then ... well, you already know where this story goes. I feel we're at a similar place now with social media. Many of us are using it on a daily basis and, based on a recent study from *Nielsen, people now spend more time on social media than on e-mail.

While we may be in a similar place with regard to frequency of use, as compared to e-mail in 1996, social media is much more dynamic, engaging, powerful and, some are even saying, addictive! I have my own ideas as to why it's become so addictive for many, but I'll cover that topic next month. This article is more about recognizing the power of social media and how I believe it can benefit absolutely anyone ... when viewed properly. I can think of dozens of examples as to how you can leverage social media ... here are four:

1.    Connect with Friends and Family
No more asking or reminding loved ones to "send" you their pictures. Just visit their Facebook page or your own Facebook home page to see what's new. With the numbers growing every day (every minute!), and with more of your family and friends using it to stay connected and share their life and happenings, what are you waiting for?

Recently, my mom was asking if I'd seen my cousin's pictures from a family gathering. I had seen those pictures days prior, posted and shared my own pictures and communicated with my cousin, all through Facebook. ... time to teach my parents how to get involved and be connected.

2.    Grow Your Business
Driven To Excel Facebook GroupCountless people are using Twitter and Facebook in a way that has made them very popular, and established them as the go-to person, thought leader, or even expert in their field. (More on how to do this, in next month's article.) Imagine having hundreds or even thousands of people following you on Twitter, having thousands of connections on LinkedIn, or thousands of people becoming "fans" of your Facebook "Group." Could your business find a way to leverage that type of popularity?

I just checked my stats and I'm two degrees from 13,400 people on LinkedIn - that means each of those 13,400 people and I have someone in common. I have heard several success stories from people leveraging LinkedIn to expand their networks and build their businesses.
Steve Dorfman on LinkedIn
Go where the people are!

In business, this used to mean, in many cases, getting in the car and going to your prospects and clients (which is still important, by the way, and always will be). Today, with so much of your audience already using social media, if you're not "there," someone else may show up and take your place. Ten years ago, I remember advising, "If you don't have a web presence (web site), you will be taken less seriously, be perceived as less professional and perhaps even less credible." Today, the same is becoming true of having a social media presence. Want to learn more about social media marketing, or just make sense of it all? Join us here.

3.    Remain Top-of-Mind
We're all passionate about something. Are those who know Driven To Excel on Twitteryou clear on what your something is? Whether it's personal or business related, social media is a wonderful tool to be sharing your something with the world ... or at least your circle. There is great power in numbers, as illustrated above. Social media gives you the ability to share whatever it is that you are up to, passionate about and/or want to be known or remembered for - be it your child's little league team, scout troop, favorite charity, upcoming events, growing business, writings, new web site, hobbies, sponsorships, groups, organizations, company, associations, adventures, etc.

TK Sports CampFor five years, my cousin Terry - an elementary school Physical Education Teacher - has spent his springtime campaigning for sign-ups to TK Sports Camp - his summer business. In his case, "campaigning" in large part means "reminding." With most of his "TK parents" already using Facebook, (Did you know that the fastest growing Facebook demographic is ages 35-49?*) Terry began a TK Sports Camp Facebook Group. This way, he can regularly (and easily) update the group's page with tips on kids' health and fitness, camp pictures, special promotions and more. By doing so, he'll remain top-of-mind with these parents ALL YEAR 'ROUND. Imagine how much more often his summer sports camp will be remembered and talked about ... and it costs him nothing.

4.    Be "In The Know"
What I'm about to share may seem extreme to some. While attending a recent seminar, a 60-year-old audience member said to the group, "If people hear you saying something like, 'I haven't figured out this Facebook thing yet,' you will look old and out of touch!" I must say, today's tools are becoming easier and more intuitive. Want to learn more about social media sites and how you can get involved? Attend our upcoming event: "Making Sense of Social Media."

Are you sick and tired of how negative and/or slanted today's news can be? You can use social media to bring you only the types of stories you want to know about - and depending on what individuals you connect with, your "local news" will become much more ... well ... local.

Looking forward, how will you be using social media? I invite you be more involved and leverage it in a way that makes a positive difference for yourself and others.

...Let's Connect!

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