As mentioned in my previous post, I was recently a guest speaker at the Columbus Women’s Business Development Center’s FastTrac New Venture Class. The twelve week program was developed for anyone interested in starting a business. It was created by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, and is designed to help participants evaluate and perfect their business concept and complete a comprehensive business plan.

My presentation included a discussion on social media.  Here are some of the highlights.

There is absolutely no substitution for face-to-face networking.  As a small business owner, the vast majority of my work has been through referrals from people I know or people I met through networking.

However, I also recommend having a social media presence.  Why?   First, it’s totally FREE!  When you are a small business owner and on a limited marketing budget, free is always good.  Social media is an amazing way to share information with people you would likely never have had contact with.  LinkedIn is the best platform for this as there are countless groups you can join to learn about topics that interest you or your business.  LinkedIn is also great for reconnecting, and staying connected, with your professional contacts as you, or they, move on to better opportunities.

Twitter is good for reading the latest news in your industry.  For example, I follow the American Bar Association’s solo and small firm division and receive updates almost every day on small firm news and trends.

When using social media for business, I recommend keeping your personal and business lives separate.  For example, set up a separate page on Facebook for your business and direct clients or customers to that page.  This way your new client is not subjected to photos of you at the beach.

Blogging is another way to share information about your expertise and business with others.  Blogs can help small businesses establish themselves as experts in certain areas, and also provide a perfect opportunity to drive people back to your website.

Whether you use one or all of the social media resources available, stay professional, meet new people, exchange information, and have fun!