Social media continues to divide people: some love it, some hate it and some simply don't 'get' it.

If you're in business today, you really can't afford not to be involved. I know from my own point of view, Twitter and Facebook have helped me no end, widening the readership of my blogs and attracting new clients. Plus, social media is a great information bank with people ready and willing to offer advice on any issues you have.

Of course, only dabbling in social media and never actually going and meeting people is a bit sad. I am the first to admit that I'm not a natural networker (hence my liking of social media), but using Twitter and Facebook should be a lot like networking. More on that in a moment, but first let's look at whether you're social media phobic.

Do you have social media phobia?

If you've ever hear yourself utter or think the following, you're most probably phobic:

I can't see the point of it.

I don't want to read about what people had for lunch.

No one really uses it anyway, my customers certainly don't.

Sound familiar?

Social media isn't alien, it's not about lunchtime habits and yes, your customers are using it.

Think of it as being another channel for conversation - it's called social media because it's supposed to be, well, 'social'. It's a way of chatting with people you would never normally meet, building relationships and finding like-minded people.

Hmm, that sounds familiar, a bit like networking.

To enage with people, pretend that rather than being on Twitter (for example), you're at a networking event. Naturally, you would greet people, chat and make small talk, ask them what they do, show interest etc. Well, social media is exactly the same, although some people still don't see the connection.

Lots of people tweet or offer status updates that promote their business and that's all they do. If you think about it, that's the same as that annoying guy that keeps turning up at your networking events who isn't interested in you or anything you have to say and just gives you his business card and then walks away.

Not good.

If you want to be effective on social media you have to ask questions, listen (i.e. read) other people's tweets and updates and comment on them so starting a conversation. You want to be seen as that person who offers advice, injects some personality into their comments and is open and approachable.

If that sounds like you at a networking event, just do more of the same when online. It will take time, but it will be worth it in the long run and you never know what doors it will open for you.