Social media web sites have provided a non-threatening environment to aspiring entrepreneurs to gain encouragement, education, camaraderie and networking opportunities not previously available. Forums, events, articles and other online as well as in-person features and functions provide a valuable venue for making the entrepreneurial experience more enjoyable and productive. To many entrepreneurs, it is an invaluable lifeline of support in the treacherous early years of starting a business.
These sites also provide a vehicle for many players in the entrepreneurial and small business world to sell their services, espouse their views on business and brand themselves. This feature of social media provides a vast resource of expertise available to the entrepreneur. Most entrepreneurs do not have a broad background in business and find the advice and knowledge available on these sites a necessary component of completing their business training.
The founders of these sites do not vet new members by education, experience and business acumen. These are open forums and with that should go the warning: Caveat Emptor or Let the Buyer Beware! You have probably been inundated by messages regarding personal and business branding. For the entrepreneur, branding is an essential component of building a reputation of competency. It is actually quite simple, tell the world what you want them to believe and often enough and they will listen.
Entrepreneurs must be aware that just because someone says they know what they are doing, that they are highly sought after, an expert in their field or the best thing since sliced bread does not make it true. Yesterday's mortgage broker is today's business coach. Yesterday's financial planner is today's marketing guru. The economic disruption has created an opportunity for many to explore new career paths. This can be a liberating and rewarding experience for many. The problem is that expertise, work experience and competency is usually a long time in coming.
Social media addicts need to be aware that people are not necessarily, who or what they say they are. They should check out an individual's profile before they take their musings on business as gospel. Most entrepreneurs are putting their life savings at risk. The odds are that only one-third of them will survive. Before acting on the advice of others, they need to do their homework and determine if the individual is someone they really want to put their life savings at risk with. There is plenty of good, sound advice available on social media sites that can help entrepreneurs survive and flourish and advice that is a recipe for disaster. Entrepreneurs, choose your counsel wisely!
Business is a serious endeavor. The comfort of social media sites and events can soften the harsh realities of the business world, but they cannot make them go away. Unlike so many of the messages on these sites, competition is a necessary function of being in business. All the hugging, wine drinking, picture taking and reassuring applause from your fellow social media members and friends will not make your business succeed. Passion without a thorough knowledge of your markets and competition will only get you the next hug, not the next sale.
Going into business for your self can be the experience of a lifetime. Your participation in social media can be an important part of that both personally and for your business. I have met truly amazing people and made great friends in the social media world. I would recommend to anyone that to participate in these organizations, but to also proceed with caution.