There are now more than 500-million Facebook users. That is one in 12 people in the world – Facebook could be its very own country! Are you in or out? In recent years social media has changed the way we connect, communicate and do business. The strides have not been step-by-step, but rather gigantic leaps and bounds. Distances have shrunk, and the world has become a global village as we Tweet, Skype and Webcam each other. This article takes a look at whether all this cyber-change is here to stay.

Did you see what Joe Bloggs posted on his Facebook page today? Have you seen the YouTube videos around the Old Spice campaign? Do you follow Eye Witness News on Twitter? Updated your personal blog lately? Did you skype your sister in Australia today? And most importantly, do you feel as if you are part of the conversation, or does it sound like someone jabbering at you from another planet? What relevance does all this, which falls under the catchphrase of “social media,” have in your world? Is it just another fad or is there some relevance you should be taking note of, and should you be learning some new skills? All these questions…!

Let’s look at just what Social media is… It’s a bit of a mouthful but describes it thus: “Social media are media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media use web-based technologies to transform and broadcast media monologues into social media dialogues.” In a nutshell social media turns you from a consumer of content into a producer of content – it gives everyone a voice and an opportunity to share, to communicate, to have an opinion. It is, well, a whole lot more social.

The tools on offer give us the opportunity to connect and share information, music, videos, photographs and much more across the Internet via our computers and mobile phones. Easy-to-use applications and processes allow people across the planet to connect and share in an instant. The vast globe has become a global village. Social media has redefined the way people connect, communicate and work.

Just as media channels like radio and television are communication so are all the “instruments” available under the umbrella of social media. But unlike their predecessors, with these you do the networking and interacting yourself, along with millions of others who have chosen this new route along the information highway.

Tools of the trade

You no longer have to wait for the news-on-the-hour to pick up on latest bulletins. It is there in an instant, on Twitter. You can be the person to relay breaking news to the networks and to the individual: take a photograph of a major event and load it with ease via your mobile and have it circulated around the world within minutes.

Applications like Skype have changed the cost of communication – we can chat for ages to family overseas at almost zero expense – and webcams allow us to have conversations with friends and business associates as if we are sitting around the same table. Facebook allows us to share photographs, videos, conversation and opinions about what is important in our personal world.

These new media tools open opportunities for business to be done differently. It also demands that businesses look at their customers through a new lens. If your customers are playing in this new playground and you want to connect and sell to them, you need to be in touch with how they work and what opportunities this may present for you. They may already be discussing and sharing the good, the bad and, unfortunately for you, the ugly about your industry or company and you are none the wiser. Best you stay on your cyber-communication toes…

The human way of connecting has always been via personal referrals and connections. Social media is changing the way we network and do business. You may be a sales person adviser who is offering great service and advice to your customers. They are likely to share this with their friends – the challenge is that they will share, more easily, both the good and the bad experiences. Individuals will share great experiences with friends and family more openly and if you happen to be the person who is adding real value from a sales perspective you may find yourself with a whole bunch of new clients.

Social media is likely to change some industries forever. They are changing how people work, make decisions, develop trust and relationships, see the world, and communicate. Now may be the time to put aside your concerns and sign up to this exciting new world. It’s here to stay. Don’t get caught in the slow lane – you may never catch up.