Recent reports have shown that only 30% of small businesses actually engage in social media. That number is currently rising but where to these companies begin? I've personally seen far too many times where an organization wishes to (or actually does) open up a Facebook Fan Page or Twitter account and kick back and wait for the followers to come in. It's like they expect the social media floodgates to immerse them in sales. While social media - used effectively - can be a catalyst to your bottom line, it's not always the answer.

What sort of social networks does your company want to engage in? How do you know which is the right one? You have to go to where your customers hang out. As a marketer, you can't expect to start a social media effort and expect prospective people to just flock to you. Effective social strategy is derived from solid research. If your prospective base does a lot of communicating on Twitter, jump in on those conversations. Twitter searches for keywords are great for finding out what people are talking about online. You can't interrupt on Twitter (little known fact). Are they talking about your services or industry on message boards? Which blogs out there talk specifically about things related to your particular industry.

In my role running the social media efforts of my company, there are several different efforts we could use. Some are even more high tech and cutting edge. I've developed plans completely re-building a communications portal, QR code strategies for trade shows and even developed a company iPhone app just for fun. These are all great tools and would put us lightyears ahead of others in the same industry. Will we embark on these efforts right away? Most likely not. Just because a tool is new, shiny and cool, that doesn't necessarily mean it's practical. Sure we could do all these other fancy high-tech initiatives, but we would completely miss our core sales demographic. Being in a B2B market, older and more traditional means of outreach are where most of our customers are at. It's an industry where email is still a really heavy player in marketing communications. Focusing too much emphasis on soley the new and shiny stuff and overlooking the older mediums that most of our audience still actually uses would be poor marketing on my part.

Where are your customers at? Are you hanging out with the cool kids?