As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information.
–Benjamin Disraeli

Today, the internet has become a way of life for most whether for business or pleasure. Take away one’s internet connection and he is virtually lost, feeling isolated from the world. The information super highway not only offers a vast array of knowledge at our fingertips, but also provides large, diverse online communities that permit us to reach beyond our local communities and interact with others on a global scale. The internet has broken down barriers and opened the door for greater opportunity.

So, what’s all the hype about social media? When used and managed correctly, social media is an invaluable business tool. It’s a convenient, low-cost and efficient means to:

1 )  Stay current with industry practices
Participating in industry-related online groups allows you to expand your horizon, get exposed to new ideas and stay current with best practices.
2 ) Connect and collaborate with peers
Sharing ideas, resources and interacting with a varied group of people throughout the world allows for more creative ideas, accelerates learning and generally produces better results.
3 ) Manage the most valuable asset, the reputation, of your firm
Building your reputation can take a lifetime, yet it can be destroyed in an instant. Monitoring the reputation of your brand online is crucial, especially when today’s consumer controls your brand.
4 ) Lend credibility to your organization
Providing useful, relevant information to your target audience positions your firm as a trusted solutions provider and resource for the industry.
5 ) Create awareness of your brand
Embedding keywords correctly in your web copy helps achieve high search engine rankings in the search engine result pages, allowing greater visibility with your customers, prospects and vendors.
6 ) Build your brand
Consistent exposure in online communities while adding to the conversation helps build your reputation and increase awareness.
7 ) Establish yourself as an expert in your field
Contributing quality content to the discussions defines your level of expertise and professionalism.
8 ) Develop and strengthen professional and personal relationships
Displaying trust and respect for others provides a framework for developing relationships while encouraging interactions.
9 ) Promote products and services
Positioning your company as a thought leader in the industry indirectly helps promote the products and services you offer to your target audience.
10 ) Attract top talent
A corporation that has a solid reputation as a knowledgeable, credible and trusted resource in its industry and is actively engaged in social media activities is likely to attract top talent through its online networks.

Although there are many reasons for participating in online social networks, the 10 benefits listed above are likely to apply to most business settings. Furthermore, actively participating in social networks reveals the firm’s personality, humanizes the organization and offers transparency.  In the upcoming posts, we will explore the advantages of blogging and discuss the most popular social media networks; LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook; and social media management tools. Therefore, you’ll not only be able to get the most from your social media efforts but you’ll also learn how to acquire the best information. Stay tuned.