Social media is growing more and more important in the world of public relations. The internet has created and expanded many ways for companies to contact their consumers and it has increased the amount of information that consumers can find about companies.

There are many ways to break into the world of social media. Mack Collier is a social media consultant. He resides in Huntsville, Ala., but all of his clients come from other areas of the country. “More than anything else, I need to know why these new social sites and tools are important to companies and show them how they too can use them to better communicate and connect with their customers,” explained Collier about the growing importance of social media.

“Back in 2005, I was asked to join a new advertising/marketing blog called Beyond Madison Avenue. I started writing for the blog in the fall of 2005, and it grew very quickly. By spring of 2006, I decided that I wanted to write my own blog and launched The Viral Garden in March of that year. Since that time, I’ve also started writing for Marketing Profs’ Daily Fix blog and the Search Engine Guide,” explained Collier.

His blog, The Viral Garden, is in the top 50 of the AdAge Power 150 blogs. Collier thinks that social media is not only changing public relations, but that it is changing all elements of business and communications. “If nothing else, I think social media is making companies aware of just how empowered their customers are to share information and content. And if that information is about their company, then they need to find a way to participate in that conversation. Social media is a way to do that. The companies that understand this now have a huge advantage moving forward.”

Collier believes that individuals wanting to get involved with social media should start participating in existing communities that share your interests. “The thing about social media is that in order to be effective in using social media as a way to connect with other people, you have to love it. It takes a lot of time to use social media effectively, so if you don’t like connecting with people and sharing ideas/content/thoughts with others, you probably won’t like social media and probably won’t have the determination to stick with it,” continued Collier.

“The more you put into it, the more you get out,” he explained. “I spent 10 times the amount of time off my blog as I do on it. When I go to Twitter to link to my blog posts there, I make sure that I keep a ratio of linking to at least 10 other bloggers’ posts before I link to mine. The more you contribute to your social community, the more they will give you back.” Social media not only takes a lot of effort, but it also takes time. Collier spends approximately 8 hours a day on maintaining and growing his social networks and 6 hours a day on client work.

“Social media isn’t going anywhere, so I would advise a fresh graduate to start building your network now, the sooner the better,” said Collier.

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