I joined Facebook in 2005.  I can’t dig up the initial registration email, but I know this because this was the last time that I had access to my college email, which was required to be a member of the social networking site at the time.  At first, it seemed like just another MySpace type site, although with a much cleaner interface and the ability to connect with classmates. If you watched the movie “The Social Network” or are in tune with current culture, then you probably know the jist of the Facebook story and how it’s grown, so I won’t bore you with the details.  These days, if you’re in business, have made a name for yourself or want to make a name for yourself, you need to be on Facebook. Why? Let me explain.

Back in the 1980s and even the 1990s, if your business wasn’t listed in the phonebook, you had to rely on word of mouth to be discovered by potential new customers.  Then along came the internet and slowly businesses started putting up websites.  It was great because you could put a lot more information on a website than you could in a small add in the Yellow Pages.  With the internet well established now, most businesses do have some kind of web presence.  If you don’t, you’re losing out on a lot of potential business. It’s like the phonebook of yesteryear – you need to be on it.

Now, in the past few years, social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter have grown into something more than just a place to connect with old friends or classmates.  It’s now a way to give your business a public face to interact with the world and your customers.   If you’re not on Facebook, you’re missing out on potential customers. The same goes for Twitter.

As a consumer, I’ve found both Facebook and Twitter to be excellent ways to interact with companies.  Instead of calling customer service and then being put on hold forever, only to be connected with someone who can barely speak English, I can post a message on their Facebook wall or send them a message.  If I really want quick action, I’ll @ reply them on Twitter. Companies are a lot more responsive, especially if you have a complaint, if it’s out there for the whole word to see.

But it’s not just lodging complaints that Facebook and Twitter are good for.  Since Facebook and Twitter are sites that people visit every day, you can use your account to constantly put out information about your company and to interact.  This will keep your company fresh in their mind, more often than if you just had a website because they’d only visit it when they need to.  Social media is like commercials on television for a business; you can get your info on the streams of hundreds, thousands, and even millions of people easily and for free.

Don’t own a business?  It’s still a good idea to be involved.  Whether you’re an entreprenuer, a freelancer, or a working stiff, you’ll find benefits to utilizing social media.  As a business and website owner, I can’t even begin to tell you how many contacts I have made through social media.  It’s gotten me interviews with people, press passes to concerts, PR contacts, media contacts, new writers, and so much more.  If I did not have a social media presence and if my business did not have a social media presence, I can’t imagine where we would be today.  As a freelance writer, I’ve also utilized social media to promote myself and gain contacts, and it also gives people who read  some of my work to interact with me personally.

If you’re in the market for a new job, you know how important connections are.  Networking, networking, networking is key.  While it probably helps more to know someone in “real life”, you can still make connections online that could help you now or in the future.

If you are one of the social networking holdouts, it’s time to reconsider.  If security is your concern, rest assured that if someone really wanted to find where you live, they could do so easily without having to look you up on Facebook. You’re missing out on opportunities by not giving you or your business a public face on these social networking sites. Just try to refrain from posting photos of drunken revelry or other questionable images that could land you in some hot water.

That being said, make sure to join Lifehack.org on Facebook and/or follow us on Twitter.  There are some exciting things coming soon!

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