Five Myths About Social MediaSo you haven’t taken the plunge into the fast-paced, confusing world of social media. Or maybe you have dipped your toes in the water and then wondered what all the fuss is about. Either way, you might be thinking social media marketing isn’t worth the time and effort.

Don’t give up so fast. With the dizzying amount of information and opinions about social media, it’s easy to get the wrong idea. Here are a few common myths about social media that should be put to rest.

1. Social media marketing is a waste of time.

Social media let users quickly connect and communicate with other people -- lots of other people. Suddenly people are catching up online with their third-grade teachers, finding soul mates and connecting with others who share their interests.

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So why does that matter? A fundamental shift has occurred in the way people communicate and make decisions. Simply put, they talk and they listen to what other people say -- and those people are your potential customers. Don’t you think your business should be part of that conversation?

2. My business is too small to benefit from social media.

Social networks revolve around communities of people with a connection to one another. Most likely, numerous communities would be relevant to your business, no matter how small, niche-oriented or local it is. If you show an interest in and appreciation for some of the people in these social groups, chances are good that you’ll win some loyal customers. What’s more, these new customers won’t be quiet about it because social networks thrive on people passing the word along.

For example, if you just opened a coffee shop, you should connect online with as many of your customers as possible. Later when one of them comes into your shop, leave a Facebook comment or a tweet, asking if you made the coffee the way he or she likes it. You’ll be surprised how quickly you build a reputation for caring about your customers as people talk about you in their online communities.

3. Social media activity isn’t going to affect my bottom line.

Nearly every purchasing decision people make is based on two things: what they’ve heard from other people and what their own research has revealed. And where do you think people do most of their research and talking today?

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Whether it’s finding the name of the freshest sushi bar, the car dealership with the most polite salespeople, or the hotel with the hottest hot tub, everyone turns to social media these days to decide where to buy. If you aren’t engaging with the people who provide those answers, how likely is it that they’ll recommend your business?

4. Social media marketing is too complicated and time consuming.

Keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of sites and services that make up social media can be daunting and complicated. Luckily, you don’t need to. Start simple: Set up a basic Facebook page or Twitter account and focus on creating quality interactions with your customers. You needn’t become a social media guru or hire a full-time employee to send out superfluous tweets and status updates every 10 minutes.

Once you create your social media presence, it won’t take an inordinate amount of time and effort to reach out to your customers regularly, listen to what they’re saying about you -- and about themselves -- and respond to their comments and concerns. If you keep it simple, social networking with customers shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes a day.

5. Nobody cares about what I’d have to say on social networks.

You’re right -- if you just talk about yourself. Create a conversation and ask your customers questions. Announce changes to your business that they influenced. Share new products or specials they would like. Invite suggestions and even constructive criticism. The point is to use social media to learn what your customers want, improve what you offer them and make it a joy to be your customer. And who says technology can’t be old fashioned?

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