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Social media isn't just for marketing professionals

Everywhere you turn, people are extolling the virtues and the pitfalls of social media. Most business owners have bowed to the pressure and are participating in at least one of these social media platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or possibly a blog.

However, many companies also feel the role of social media falls strictly in the lap of those whose primary responsibility is to market the brand of the business.

The question I am most asked by professional business people across industries is this: “I’m a professional (fill in the blank — attorney, accountant, physician, engineer, architect, designer): why do I need to engage in social media?” They usually add, “There is someone at my office who ‘handles’ social media.”

I contend it is exceedingly important for business professionals to engage in social media, and here’s why:

To connect and engage

With the advances in technology, everyone is more connected and has the freedom to use social media any time and anywhere. It’s a highly engaged audience, and it’s where the business professional’s future clients; future, past and present colleagues and peers; and experts with solutions are hanging out.

According to a recent survey by Nielsen and McKinsey,* people continue to spend more and more time on the Internet (up 21 percent from July 2011 to July 2012), and, of that, they spend more time on social media than any other category of site (20 percent of all time spent on PC’s and 30 percent of all time spent on mobile devices.)

To gain knowledge

Social media tools are a free, easy and timely way to share information and advice to help professionals significantly increase their knowledge and expertise. Business professionals can deepen knowledge in their field by engaging with others in their industry who may have a different expertise or by following industry conversations on topics on which they want to expand their knowledge base.

In order to keep their jobs or find better jobs, business professionals must increase their knowledge to stay competitive, up-to-date and relevant.

To shine

Social media is a place where business professional can “show their stuff.” Creating a blog is the ideal way for the business professional to create a personal “brand.” Business professionals engage in social media to acquire knowledge from and ask questions of a community of other business professionals.

The engaged business professional can become the go-to person in their niche or industry by consistently sharing their wealth of knowledge, branding themselves and letting everyone know their areas of expertise.

To find solutions

We’ve all heard the adage, “there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel.” Social media can help business professionals research effective solutions with the least amount of effort and without leaving the comfort of their desks.

They can post questions and engage directly with others as they seek suggestions and feedback via individual discussions, blog postings, discussion forums and tweets. They can also connect directly with providers who may have the product that will resolve their issues.

To lessen risk

Business professionals charged with making buying or policy decisions on behalf of their company can lessen their risk by engaging those who have made similar purchases or decisions. They can discover their decision-making process, what factors they took into consideration and in retrospect if they are happy with their choices.

As they say, “hind-sight is 20-20 vision” and professionals can benefit from the experience of others to lessen their risk.

To gain ground

To succeed in business and advance in their careers, professionals must grow their networks and let relevant people know what they do. As business professionals become engaged in social media, they can meet, build and develop professional relationships and dramatically grow their business networks.

Social media tools are not necessarily a substitute for meeting others face-to-face but can help solidify connections made at a face-to-face meeting.

Social media appears to be here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. Savvy business professionals will realize this and take steps to become knowledgeable users able to take advantage of these tools to enhance and advance their careers.

Those who don’t will find themselves being left farther and farther behind as their clients move forward without them.

Ann Carroll is the director of marketing and business development at Hancock Askew & Co. LLP, Accountants & Advisors. She can be reached at acarroll@hancockaskew.com or 912-704-7650. You may also want to connect with her on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

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