So, what’s all this buzz about social media? What started as innovative online networks that helped tweens remember birthdays, share party pictures and keep track of who’s dating who has developed into the latest marketing channel.  Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter and others have proven themselves to be very successful advertising tools and have just about everyone scrambling to figure out the best way to integrate social networking into their marketing mix.  

These sites are fantastic because of their organic nature — they are very low cost compared to other advertising mediums, yet have an international outreach that spreads like news of swine flu! The audience is extremely broad.  On one hand, you’ve got users who live and breathe through these sites (and we love to watch videos that poke fun at them). Conversely, some people think they are an absolute waste of time and only log in for a specific reason, like when they receive a message or photo notification.  

In the marketing world, social networking absolutely can be a waste of time if you’re not working it correctly. The trick to successfully cracking social networking is figuring out how to use it to help you achieve your goals.  

Learn what you can about how each type of social media works — ways you can search to make contacts, what interactive component options are available, how much time you should spend to keep up your profile effectively, and so on. Once you’ve created accounts, make sure you have an effective program to keep promotions current, respond to posts, and manage updates and tracking programs.

Your strategy can be as unique as your brand; however, it’s always a great idea to take a look at some of the successful campaigns out there. Check out this vast list from guru Peter Kim to get you started.