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So, what does social media really do for you?

It's inevitable. People always want to know what's in it for them with everything. Of course, the use of social media is no exception. 

If you ask an avid social media user, each one can possibly rattle off a number of benefits - connections, friendships, marketing opportunities, promotions, information and news source... I'm sure there can easily be at least a dozen more uses that can be mentioned in the list of benefits. 

In fact, my once 'anti social media' husband (who's still nowhere to be found on any social networking platforms, mind you) has even finally conceded that even though he doesn't use social media, he can see the value in them now.

Benefits of social mediaWell, of course, it helps that I found myself creating a career in the online media industry over the last decade. And, he was the beneficiary of my very first Foursquare special offer, courtesy of a check-in at The Highway Hotel. Yes, the free beer and the dip plate worked. 😉 Not to mention, the great treatment my friends and I received from The Highway during a get-together + my scrumptious birthday dessert plate a few days ago. 🙂 (Thanks again, Tom & HWY folks!)

So, for folks like my husband, seeing these tangible benefits of being on social media helped to solidify its purpose.

But, what do we REALLY get out of social media?

If you're not aiming for a career in this industry, or if you're not particularly keen with all things web and techy, or if you're not really in to all that community stuff... What's in it for you?

Are the freebies and discounts that may be available through Foursquare specials enough? What about the enticement of being able to stay in touch with family, friends and other contacts through Facebook? Or, making sure you can stay professionally networked through LinkedIn?

What are the real benefits of investing time and other resources in social media?

I think about this on a regular basis, as this is something that I get asked a lot by different people. And, I continue to ponder the best response as I know that each person who asks this question is waiting to hear a different answer.

There's no one answer that would suit every single person or organisation who wants to know. And, gauging what they want to hear isn't always so simple.

It all depends on what would fit their soft spot at any given time - be it the promise of free beers for check-ins or the fulfillment of an innate need to connect with other like-minded individuals and groups.

But, there is one word that seems to let a lot of people sit up and take notice. One word that makes folks think twice about the role of social media in everyday life and society in general.

The word: Influence.

The Strength of Influence

Imagine being able to encourage someone to read the same books, watch the same movies, listen to the same music, or to use the same apps... What about leading to shape another's activities... Or, to change someone's way of thinking...

While I don't believe that Klout scores are the 'end all and be all' of influence measurement on social media (particularly, Twitter), it led me to think about the real pull of this industry:

People who are able to use social media effectively have more ability to influence other individuals, groups, organisations, and businesses.

You see, unless we're rich or in a position of power (or better yet, both), most of us won't have a real say on how we can change the way things work in our society or the world around us. Yet, social media opens up the power of influence to all of us.

After all, how many times have you had a craving for something after one of your contacts posted a photo of their meal or a kitchen creation? How often have you decided to purchase an item, visit a restaurant, downloaded a program, or felt compelled to do something about an issue that someone else has Tweeted/blogged/FBd about?

Yes, people can now initiate revolutions, affect elections, and make real contributions to society around the world - even just 140 characters at a time.

So, if you're not using social media, what are you doing to make sure that your voice is heard? How can you make your thoughts and opinions matter in a much bigger way? How do you extend your reach beyond your immediate friends and networks?

As individuals and organisations, we can become voices of influence and agents of change through social media.

That may not be enough of a reason to encourage folks to get on board - or to improve their use of the platform. But, it's definitely a good enough reason for me to keep on doing what I do, and to find ways to do it better.

About the Author Shai Coggins (MTeach, MSoc Sci App Psych)

Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.

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