When I launched my new site earlier this year, I knew from the beginning that at a minimum we would also need a Twitter and Facebook presence. The bad news was that a band in Holland owned the URL names that we were after. And even though the band (sadly) had only a few hundred fans and followers, they were reluctant at first to turn over their URLs.

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But getting the URLs turned out to be the easy part. Especially on Facebook, the challenge after we established ourselves was getting all the necessary Likes. Sure, our Likes grew organically, but I started to realize that Dr. Steve needed to take a bit of his own medicine – the guy who always talks about marketing and advertising needed to do some social media marketing and advertising!

 

So we invested in Facebook advertising designed to grow our Likes, and it has been hugely effective. In a little over two months, and with a frugal budget, we have gone from around 600 Likes to over 6,000. A ten-fold increase.

 

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The reason for that background story is that it should hopefully illustrate that we all need to brush up on our social media chops in one way or another. Here are five major benefits to doing so:

 

1. Social media creates brands: A brand is, essentially, the personality and promise of your company. There are many ways to build that brand, of course – have a great name for your business, consistently use a tagline, do what you promise – but there are none that are quite as easy as social media.

 

Even better: It costs nothing but time. By tweeting, posting, and interacting with folks who can share valuable comments that reinforce your desired brand and image, you will not only meet new people, but they will come to think of you in the way you intend. That’s what branding is all about.

 

2. It extends your brand: Why did I want to get all of those Likes? Because once we post something new on our Facebook page, it automatically gets pushed out to all of those folks who Liked us. The math goes like this: 1 post x 6,000 accounts = big brand extension. And that is where the real magic happens. After a while, people begin to notice you and your brand grows, as they say, virally.

 

3. Social media can get you leads: Twitter, Facebook, and especially LinkedIn, can be used for the very specific purpose of generating leads for sales. On LinkedIn for instance, the “advance search” feature allows you to search for people by profession, industry, company, region, etc. You can input your very specific criteria and out will pop a list of highly targeted people who fit your needs.

 

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4. It can help you create a community: One of my favorite social media stories is about a woman who lost her job and started her own business. Because she had never been an entrepreneur before, she joined several LinkedIn groups and got involved. She met new people. She learned new things. She gave advice. And when the time came that she wanted an advisory board for her startup, she put out the word to her online groups . . . and got more than 50 people offering to help her for free.

 

5. Social media allows you to stay, and seem, current: We live in a fast-moving culture, and social media is getting all the buzz these days because it is hot. So keeping abreast of social media allows you to be part of the zeitgeist, it keeps you in the know and accessible.

 

With the world of social media ever changing (Pinterest, anyone?) it is incumbent upon the smart small business owner to stay on top of it.

 

How are you harnessing social media? Share your story below.

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.