The social media train long ago pulled into the station, and the smart business owners are the ones who've jumped aboard to advertise their companies.
Valerie Reynolds, owner and operator of My Way Media at www.mywaymedia.com, offered some basic tips recently about some of the most popular social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest.
Traditional advertising, she recently told members of the West Branch Builders Association, remains effective, but offers just one-way communication, while social media provides a conversation between the business owner and the prospective client.
Reynolds noted how the social media revolution has exploded in recent years.
For example, more than 1 billion unique monthly visitors are on YouTube.
In addition, another 4.2 billion people use mobile devices to access media sites.
"Social media really does have an impact," she said.
The question is: What is the most effective way to use social media?
Reynolds noted that Facebook, founded in 2004, can serve as an outlet for sharing information.
People are more apt to return to a Facebook site if they find what's posted there to be helpful or of value.
Reynolds suggested that users should post information on their Facebook sites at least every other day.
But people tend to turn away from Facebook sites that constantly promote or push their products.
"To achieve a lot of 'Likes', on Facebook, you should encourage questions and comments," she said.
And visuals on Facebook tend to receive the most Likes, comments and shares.
Twitter, Reynolds noted is a great way to get information out immediately.
The Boston Police Department, Reynolds noted, effectively used Twitter as an information source in response to the bombing at last year's Boston Marathon.
Twitter is limited in that users can only put out messages of no more than 140 characters.
But hashtags, which are identified with Twitter messages by the pound sign, can help bring more attention to a particular Tweet.
Hashtags allow one's content to get exposed to people outside their immediate Twitter circle.
"It's a great way to build relationships with customers," she said.
Businesses can use YouTube to create videos of their products or services.
Pinterest, founded in March 2010, is a pinboard style website for sharing events, interests and hobbies.
While used predominately by women, Pinterest is the fastest growing media platform, according to Reynolds.
All social media can be best utilized by users who link their different sites to each other.
Providing valuable content for helping potential customers can make for the most effective communication through social media, Reynolds noted.