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Visibility is incredibly scarce on the Internet today. The reasons for this are largely due to the advent of more centralized services and fewer distribution options for marketers and retailers. That said, the centralized services are being led by social media and its many innovations, and this presents entrepreneurs with a number of interesting opportunities and likely a variety of options they may not have considered.

Social media is very much like the game of chess. While it appears relatively simple, mastering it requires intense study and a willingness to be both flexible and unafraid of failure. Most things the average business tries on social media will fail. The remaining handful of ideas, however, will succeed and likely scale far beyond what most companies would consider a conventional success.

Visibility

Marketers call it brand awareness, but the key benefit of shareable media and zero-cost social connection is visibility, especially for those companies and products that have visual appeal. With the enormous amount of information available to the average person, attention and attention span have become the key measures of how successful anything is, even if it has no connection to business. Posting and distributing on social media provides marketers with visibility, which is the first step to a sale. Customers can’t buy it if they can’t find it.

Relationships

The key advantage of marketing on the Internet is the ability to form relationships with potential customers and fans. All of the most successful initiatives in business have taken advantage of this fact. Crowdfunding, for example, relies heavily on the relationship a visionary has with his or her market. Without that level of trust, few people would gift money to someone in order to fund their dream idea. Social media operates on the same principle. It allows companies to form relationships with potential customers, which turns them into fans.

Iteration

The less well known but no less important factor in social media is the immediacy of feedback. If something isn’t working, social media’s basic nature will expose the fact long before a traditional ad campaign could. This allows businesses to pivot on unsuccessful ideas and try something else without the long delays associated with ramp-up times, ad buys, and approvals from traditional media. Like the evolutionary speed of fruit flies, successful approaches rapidly become obvious and can be capitalized on much faster than the slower alternatives.

Social media isn’t the one true answer to marketing. Like everything else, it has its tradeoffs. But it does give business a chance to compete in a much more information-dense marketplace.