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The Independent Investor: Why Social Media is Important to Your Business

By Bill SchmickiBerkshires Columnist
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Bill Schmick
It's bigger than the entire television viewing audience of the United States. It is growing faster than all the world's economies put together. It can be just what you need to invigorate your business and all it takes is a computer. So what exactly is social media?

We usually refer to it as "the Internet" but that's not quite accurate. The Internet is where we go to blog or to find a blogger, to access Facebook, YouTube or Twitter, to name four of the most popular sites, but it encompasses much more than those sites. 

Today there are roughly 850 social networks available but by the end of the year there could be as many as 250,000. To say that this is a growth business would be an understatement.

Wikipedia states that social media "is information content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. At its most basic sense, social media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content."

Traditional newspapers, for example, can tell you all about how social media has undermined their business. Citizen journalists using social media have sprung up in every corner of the globe. Today there are over 20 million bloggers (myself included) and 455,000 of them are full time and making money from it.

Facebook, where users can join networks organized by city, work place, school and region as well as connect with friends, is valued at $15 billion although it has barely turned a profit.   

Consider this: in the middle of the worst recession and market decline since the Great Depression Facebook grew last year from 66 million to 175 million subscribers. It is estimated that 20 percent of the population of Canada is on Facebook. Suffice it to say that social media is only going to get bigger.

Ninety-three percent of Americans believe that companies, big and small, from Fortune 500 to Mom-and-Pop grocery stores need a social media presence. Imagine how fast your business could grow if you could tap those billions of social network users. And don't think this is purely a game for the young or young at heart. 

Take Twitter, the free social messaging utility for staying connected in real time that is exploding in usage. Roughly 10 million twitters in February worldwide were over 35 years old with 45- to 54-year-olds 36 percent more likely than average to visit and use Twitter.

So what can it do for you and your business? For the first time in marketing history you can actually talk "with" and not "at" your client or customer. It opens up a two-way street with your targeted audience whether she is a prospective auto buyer, a vegetarian shopper or a vacation home prospect. 

Social media allows you to pass on information about your product or services and build a relationship with the end client wherever they are in the world at relatively low or no cost.  All it takes to get started is time, effort and the willingness to research on the internet.

"There is a community out there for any business," says Ken Blass of Chatham, N.Y.-based Blass Communication, "so find a community that fits you."

If you are in the wine-making business or running a home-decorating service or offering any service or product, find out what media outlets are available to you on Facebook, Twitter or among the millions of blog sites by simply querying Google or another search engine.  

Focus on your target market. Given my interest in the financial markets, for example, I signed up in a Twitter community called stocktwits.com that allows me to twitter or talk to stock traders all day long. I can pitch in with my own insight or opinion anytime I want. It is only one of two dozen social media sources I use.

"At the very minimum, every business should have a Web site and a blog," argues Rob Johansen of MidHudson Media, "either do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you."

That's good advice. I have followed both routes. As a self-confessed computer illiterate, I could barely send an e-mail four years ago. Today I have my own Web site, blog and can even post this column via the Internet. 

At times when I just couldn't get to first base with something technical I hired a pro to get me through the problem but at other times I persevered and did it on my own. I suspect I learned more that way. I am even now working on my first podcasting (radio broadcasting via the Internet) venture. On most weekends, you will see me leafing through one of those ubiquitous black and yellow books for dummies. I don't get it right away but the point is I'm willing to invest the practice time until I do. 

In starting a Web site or blog, the important thing is to do your research, surf the Web, identify the top-tier influencers in your marketplace and learn from them. Walk before you run. I spent months reading blogs and looking at Web sites before I started my own. It was worth it. 

So if you want to expand your business, start with social media if you haven't already. It's cheap, effective and the future of marketing in just about any enterprise.

Bill Schmick is a registered investment adviser representative and portfolio strategist. Direct your inquiries to Bill at 1-518-610-1553 or e-mail him at wschmick@fairpoint.net. You can also visit www.afewdollarsmore.com for more of Bill's insights
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Cultural Pittsfield This Week: July 12-18

Next Thursday, July 18 is 3rd Thursday: Food & Drink!
July's 3rd Thursday celebrates the city's cuisine, with more than a dozen food vendors popping up at the celebration, along with the two dozen brick-and-mortar restaurants that dot North Street. There will be almost 100 vendors in all! 
 
3rd Thursday's presenting sponsor, Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, will be offering FREE snow cones at Palace Park. The Boy Scouts of America will be bringing its rock climbing wall, and Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness will offer FREE Zumba in Park Square. 
 
Entertainment will be provided by Berkshire Bateria, Jacob's Pillow and Music in Common, plus enjoy a sneak peak at Barrington Stage and Ragtag Theatre's  Hansel and Gretel and Berkshire Theatre Group's Shrek The Musical. 5-8 p.m.
CALLING ALL ARTISTS!
 
The Let's Go Pink Art Exhibition is a cancer awareness exhibit that will be on view at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield throughout October, 2019. The opening reception will be Friday, Oct. 4 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. as part of that month's First Friday Artswalk. A portion of all sales will benefit two local organizations: 20% of sales to BTG PLAYS!, 15% of sales to BMC Integrative Health Program's intuitive painting class for cancer patients, and the other 65% to the artist. Submissions will be accepted until Friday, Sept. 6. All artists will be notified of acceptance on or before Sept. 9. For more information, please email the Let's Go Pink 2019 team at auntsessy1@gmail.com.
  MUSIC & NIGHTLIFE
 
100 Years of Nat King ColeCelebrate the centennial birthday of the unforgettable Nat King Cole with timeless songs and intimate stories told and sung by two-time Grammy nominee Clint Holmes, accompanied by award-winning pianist and vibraphonist Christian Tamburr. Mr. Finn's Cabaret at Barrington Stage Company. 
Plus...  
FRI Blue Light Trio at Rainbow | FRI Hunks: The Show at The A | FRI Lita Williams at Hotel on North | FRI Karaoke Night at Friends | FRI Jessica Wilson at Rusty Anchor | SAT Food for Thought Dinner w/Simon Winchester at Hancock Shaker Village | SAT Rock 'n' Roll Dance Party at Polish Falcons | SAT Jason & Trev at J. Allen's | SAT Dan Gingras at Rusty Anchor | MON Berkshire Athenaeum Book Club at Hotel on North | MON Jazz Night at Mission | TUE Green Drinks at J. Allen's | WED Live on the Lake: Shyne at Onota Lake | WED Gruppo Mondo at Rainbow | THU Lady Di & The Dukes at Mazzeo's | THU Fabrizio & The Fever at Rainbow | THU The Picky B's at Mission
  FAMILY FRIENDLY

Explore the science of YOU during this annual celebration of science, invention and sensory fun! Explore the brain, transform into a germ, follow the life of a sneeze and more. Don't miss the grand finale at 7:15 p.m. Berkshire Museum. FREE, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
 
Plus...
FRI WeeMuse: Adventures at Berkshire Museum FRI Yoga for Kids at Berkshire Athenaeum FRI-THU Parenting Classes & Play Groups at Berkshire Children & Families | SAT Pop-up Play Day at Berkshire Museum | SAT Chow Time at Berkshire Museum SAT Designing with da Vinci at Berkshire Museum SAT Sensory-friendly Screening: Incredibles 2 at Berkshire Museum SAT da Vinci After Hours at Berkshire Museum SUN Discovery Tank Program at Berkshire Museum | MON Exploring Our World at Berkshire Museum MON Kindergarten Countdown at Berkshire Athenaeum MON Star Lab at Berkshire Athenaeum MON Stardust Cafe at Berkshire Athenaeum MON+ Learn to Code at Miss Hall's School TUE WeeMuse: Littlest Learners at Berkshire Museum TUE Designing with da Vinci at Berkshire Museum TUE Circus Minimus at Berkshire Athenaeum TUE Project SpaceCRAFT at Berkshire Athenaeum TUE Screening of Wall-E at Berkshire Athenaeum WED Little Gardeners of the Galaxy at Berkshire Athenaeum WED Solar System Paint & Snack at Berkshire Athenaeum WED Gallery Scavenger Hunts at Berkshire Museum THU Farm Friends at Hancock Shaker Village | THU Exploring Our World at Berkshire Museum THU Designing with da Vinci at Berkshire Museum THU Lego Lift Off at Berkshire Athenaeum THU Story Time at Berkshire Athenaeum
  WELLNESS
SAT Restorative Yoga w/Live Music at BYDF
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