(Editori's note: The Business Journal this week welcomes a new monthly column on social media by Kerry Rego.)

Today’s business climate looks drastically different than it did five years ago. Whole industries have disappeared and some skill sets are now obsolete. The world itself has changed. Would you be shocked if I told you many things have stayed the same? Relationships are still paramount; face-to-face communication is still the most effective; and excellent service never goes out of style.  

I am a Santa Rosa born and bred social media trainer, consultant, keynote speaker, and author. I attended Santa Rosa City Schools, Santa Rosa Junior College, and Heald College. This is my town. But the world I inhabit on a daily basis isn’t moored in geography or physical space. I live much of the time on the Internet. Social media is a field of practice and theories must be tested every single day.

The importance of social media in business is just starting to be understood on Main Street as well as Wall Street. Recognizing that 75 percent of women use social networking sites, the largest growing age group to adopt social networking is 65 and over with a 38 percent market penetration, and the exploding use of mobile social networking in the minority markets will alter the way you look at reaching your audience (Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project). Social media is most often seen as a place to convert viewers into paying customers in a business to consumer model but that’s a myopic view of its capabilities.  It is a place to connect to and communicate with your audience whether they are consumers or businesses. We are all part of the same global society and the Internet doesn’t understand lines between B2B and B2C models.

My most important job is to educate people. Without understanding, we can get nowhere in this world. It doesn’t matter to me if you are 8 or 80; my goal is to help you comprehend a foreign concept. I take a complex idea and must break it down into its simplest form so that I might explain it to people of all types. I’ve worked with children in elementary schools, executives at corporate headquarters, and seniors in retirement communities. What I know is that age isn’t the issue when it comes to adoption, its finding familiar vocabulary to convey an idea. The best moment is when I can see the light bulb go off over someone’s head.

My next directive is to empower. Working with individuals requires one set of skills but business owners and decision makers are another more complex story with differing needs. Financial uncertainty, a shaky business climate, and trepidation about the future are a part of the landscape of commerce today. In the face of that, how does one become empowered? I believe it’s having information that will allow you to solve your problems and knowing deep down that you are capable. No one knows everything but understanding that you have the ability adapt and grow when faced with new scenarios is crucial to believing in yourself.

The final step is to excite. Beneath the entrepreneur exterior, I am a tech geek. Spend five minutes in a room with me and it’s obvious. Actor/writer/producer Simon Pegg said about being a geek, "it's basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating."

I never tire of innovation in technology. I find it fascinating and limitless. Rather than stifle my wide-eyed excitement, I decided long ago to fully commit to what it brings out in me and I look to infect others with my passion. I want to banish the fear I see every day and show people what is possible. We all need a fire lit beneath us.

I’m aware that for the typical business, there simply aren’t enough reliable resources of information regarding digital and social media. There is a glut of blogs, webinars, slideshows, and boot camps but I find very little depth among them. Decision makers need facts that are useful, strategies that are realistic, and resources they can depend on. The longer I provide services to my clients, the more I recognize the importance of practicality.

The goal of this column is to provide you the opportunity to learn what you need to know about social media, how it affects your personal life, business reputation, future, and the bottom line. The subject matter will range from the adaptive moves you will need to make, social media marketing trends, conversion strategies, how to calculate return on investment, legal concerns, generational differences in the technological workplace, upcoming innovations, and my answers to your questions.  This column is for you and your business to gain the knowledge and strategies you need to confidently conquer the digital realm.…

Kerry Rego is a social media trainer, technology consultant and keynote speaker in Santa Rosa. She is the author of “What You Don’t Know About Social Media CAN Hurt You: Take Control of Your Online Reputation” (707-520-4572, kerry@kerryregoconsulting.com, kerryregoconsulting.com).