Expert: 'when ... you are creating buzz, you are where you need to be'

NORTH BAY -- Most companies today feel like they just have to have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn group and any other of the latest social networking sites out there.

Networks like Ning, which allow the user to create his or her own social network, and Active Rain, dedicated to the real estate industry, are becoming more prevalent. There are more than 180,000 members on Active Rain today.

So, as one social media expert recently pointed out, it is not necessarily just the "big three" that make up social media today.

Brian Solis, the Silicon Valley-based social media guru, notes that all social media is rooted in the idea of conversation.

He said that for a business, there is the unique opportunity to find and determine how its engagement with consumers is playing out.

“If we are absent from the decision-making process, then we are absent from the decision,” he said.

“It seems like a chore to describe a product or a service, but ... if it can be searched, it can be optimized.”

He said every company is a media company and should treat itself as such.

There is the issue of "findability."

“Tags are not just what we know the product is but what people are searching,” he said.

In addition to some of the lesser known networking sites, there are some search engines like Collecta.com that do real-time searches of a term.

One thing companies are looking to do is keep tabs on what people are saying about their companies.

Christine Mason McCaull and Chip Roberson are the founders of ClickMarkets and Wired Sonoma in Sonoma.

ClickMarkets is a service set up to help businesses use the social web to gain market insights, increase customer loyalty and increase revenue.

Wired Sonoma is a networking site dedicated to the tech world in the Sonoma Valley.

They say social networks are like real networks, and business owners have to ask themselves the same questions they always did, who are you talking to, what are you saying, how are you saying it and why?

“When you can get to a point where everything you do is creating content, you are creating buzz, you are where you need to be,” said Ms. McCaull.