Things are changing in the Social Media world, and whilst dire predictions of people leaving social networks in their droves are probably over-cooked, this article does make some important points.

In the early days, brands (including micro businesses) had simple choices when it came to Social Media:

  1. Ignore it and hope it goes away
  2. Purchase an existing social network where your customers and prospects already hang out
  3. Build your own social network from scratch
  4. Piggy-back on a social networking site which already has multiple prospects and the functionality to interact with them.

Choices 1, 2 and 3 were never really considered an option for all sorts of reasons - not least of which was cost, so as Facebook and LinkedIn have grown, publishers and brands have clearly opted for number 4.

For a while everything was hunky-dory, but as time has gone by, Facebook (and LinkedIn to a certain extent) have made it harder for brands to get visibility for their content without paying.

But here's the thing; for the most part, the every day user of Facebook doesn't actually want to see much content from brands - however well disguised it is.  Social Media is about people first and we don't like brands advertising at us.  Engaging with us maybe, but advertising at us, no.

So it's looking like option 3 is becoming more appealing.  In fact, it always was the most credible option because successful businesses understand the value of Community.  What's more, technology has moved on and the cost of building your own social networking site or online community has dropped through the floor.

Community is everything when it comes to successful use of Social Media by brands.  And it's important to get away from the idea that your community has to be huge.  Size is not everything in the Social Media world unless you have massive budgets to target prospects at a granular level, and even then it's still advertising at us.

When you start to build Community around your brand, your customers will reward you by becoming long-term loyal advocates and by doing your marketing and advertising for you.  And that's a great place to get to, because when we're searching for goods or services, we infinitely prefer the recommendations of friends.