Typically, when it comes to social media, a particular question is brought up time and time again: “Will it really benefit my business?” Because all businesses are very different, it’s hard to come up with a “one-size-fits-all” type of answer. However, if you asked me, I’d probably say “absolutely!”To help you figure it out, let’s go over what social media is.Social media (SM) is web-based technology used to interact with others. Basically, it is a way to share information through the internet via a group with commonly shared interests. Most of the time, it begins with a person creating content like a video, article, blog or audio then relaying it to a SM network like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or LinkedIn. Once this information is released, then others share it as well with additional comments, content or sharing it themselves.Right now, different types can fall into 1 of these 5 categories:Wikis: User-created content that also allows users to add, edit or comment as well as vote on quality. (Wikipedia)Networks: Profile creation sites where people can join groups, add friends, comment, share and network. (Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn)News: Sites that are informational-based where users may comment, like or dislike and share information. (Digg, Reedit, and Newsvine)Media Sharing: Sites that are based on the uploading of different media such as photos, videos or music and in turn, others can view and share. (Flickr, YouTube, and Vimeo)Social Bookmarking: These sites are for those who want to bookmark content they really enjoy. Other’s can view their bookmarks according to topic. (Stumbleupon and Del.icio.us)Should my business be a part of this?All businesses main goal is to gain new customers or clients. If you are planning on having a web-based business or interact in the internet world, SM is a valuable tool to drive these customers or clients to your site. However, for social media to really work, you have to first concentrate on your content. Your website has to present valuable information, services or products in order to gain customers at all. If you’ve developed a great site that is user-friendly with valuable information, then it’s time to get people there.What Can Social Media do?Boost your Brand: SM is basically a free way to promote your brand, company image, services and products. The downfall is that it takes time, and if you aren’t willing to stick with it, then you shouldn’t waste your time starting it.Defining your Audience: creating accounts on different SM sites (and keeping up with it) can help you gain an audience, either that you didn’t think about before, or one that you’ve always wanted. It is also a great place to get help with feedback, testing new products, and promotions.Boost Search Ranking: When you publish content on your SM sites, it automatically increases your visibility in search engines which in turn, leads to more customers. Also, with the sharing of content, others share it too. Some great advice is to always remember what you’re saying reflects on your business or products, so use your wording wisely!There’s a catch, right? How much does Social Media cost?Social media costs time. It doesn’t cost money, even though some sites do offer premium accounts for more visibility and advertising, but for basic accounts there are no out-of-pocket costs. The main factor is having enough time to keep up with it daily or every other day. If you don’t have time to do it, hiring a virtual assistant to do it for you is always an option, and a great way to start your social media campaign.Just remember, focus on creating an intriguing and interactive website and then jump into social media! It will most definitely help you spread the word! If you think you don’t have time, set up a daily schedule to help manage your time or hire a social media virtual assistant!