We speak with a lot of people who are beginning to grasp the use and value of social media in a business environment. They are unsure, hesitant, overwhelmed and anxious about adding social media to their marketing mix.

To the many in that situation we say, “prepare and plan, but don’t overthink its use – but get started”. The secret for the beginner is to try a few social networking tools that will work best for their company or event. You don’t have to use everything, pick two or three tools you think will be the most beneficial, and then use them well, frequently, and consistently.

Facebook is probably the easiest place to begin. It has developed into the world’s largest social network – having over 500 million active users. Facebook has become an important tool to reach and inform an audience. A company page here becomes a great resource to share information and images.

Twitter is used for immediate contact that is short, sweet and timely. This 2006 tech craze has gained a following as a serious business tool. It is now one of the fastest growing networking tools with over 175 million worldwide users. It is a popular way to connect with an audience. Your comment or message can be read by your ‘followers’ who have chosen to follow your updates. They can then ‘retweet’ or send info onto their followers – thereby spreading a message or idea quickly.

LinkedIn is another social network that you should explore. It is focused on leveraging business connections. This site allows one to connect with individuals or groups to target a specific audience, versus the broader approach of Facebook.

The making and posting videos online is a popular way to build interest or excitement for past or upcoming events or activities. Video is a great way to get word out to your community (audience). Video clips can be posted to YouTube, your website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, and e-newsletter.

Keep in mind that technology is the great equalizer – but first you have to be willing to give it a try, and then be consistent with its use. Successfully developing and utilizing these technologies into a comprehensive social media strategy is another great way to put the web to work for you.

What social networking challenges are you facing?