Everyone's telling you to think about it, move on it, just do it. But, wait a second. What in the world is it?
Social media is about information sharing and community. You've got outlets like Facebook, which allows users to be connected to each other as "friends" or to connect to a celebrity, band, place or organization as a "fan." You've got Twitter, which lets people, in short spurts, tell us what they like, what they're up to and what they don't like. And you have LinkedIn, which lets professionals build a network, connect with other like-minded people in "groups" and promote their business or skills.
One of the most definite things that all of these outlets have in common is this: they open up the conversation. Thousands of people are on these sites offering their opinions, skills, rants, raves and compliments every day. They're talking about their lives. And they are also talking about businesses.
One negative example of this is Dell Hell, a google search of which will bring up tons and tons of examples of dissatisfied customers using the web to tell everyone else to stay well away from Dell. Bummer for Dell, right?
Only Dell didn't just let the internet fill up with criticism. They joined the conversation, which is --by far--the best strategy. They developed a forum where customers were invited to express their concerns, directly to Dell. And they've effectively calmed the onslaught of bad press.
The moral of the story is this: you are already a part of the social media space, whether you want to be or not. Where your opportunity lies is in joining the conversation.
Maybe you've already got some negative twitter, facebook and myspace press. Or you're one of the few beloved whose twitter searches result in happy clients and positive language. Or perhaps you aren't being talked about at all. No matter which stage you are at, joining the conversation can only benefit you.
If you've got the bad press, open yourself up for conversation with those unhappy clients, take care of them and listen to them. If you're one of the beloved few, rise even higher by inviting those who already love you to talk with you as well as about you. And if you are feeling bereft of webspace for your product, company or place, you can be the one to start the conversation.
That's what social media is and is about.