Marketing today is quite different than it was a year ago. While consumers continue to flock to social networks like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter in unprecedented numbers, most small business owners are only now seriously considering social networks as potential marketing channels.

For many businesses, this means seeing the new opportunities social networks offer without recognizing how different social media is from traditional media.

The push-style advertising of traditional media, used to run ads in newspapers and magazines, produce promotional fliers for mass mailing, conduct automated telemarketing calls, advertise on billboards, TV and radio, doesn’t cut-it on social media.

Social media moves talking about products and their benefits to a different level, a whole new game.

This is the stark contrast that social media offers. It is about earning the right to share information and engage with an audience that has given you permission to do so, in the hope of increasing brand awareness, building brand ambassadors and, ultimately, positively impacting your bottom line.

Social media, the newest tool in the marketing arsenal, is revolutionizing how people research, discover and buy products, and how they engage with brands.

Social media is not without risk, as highlighted in a recent report by the Altimeter Group: “Guarding the Social Gates: The Imperative for Social Media Risk Management”.

But ignoring social media doesn’t mitigate this risk! In reality, it may enhance it.

Knowing what is being said about you on social media and being proactive is better than sticking one’s head in the sand and thinking “if I ignore it, it can’t hurt me”.  Not only can it still hurt your business, ignoring social media ensures you are not able to capitalize on it’s potential benefits to your business and may leave you at a competitive disadvantage.