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I'm 2 Degrees From Kevin Bacon and Other Social Media Perks

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I know that might not seem like a big deal to Hollywood folks, but to us northern California laymen, it kind of is. And since the world is becoming smaller and smaller with the growth and proliferation of social media, you need to embrace -- and be careful of -- how you're using social media for your business.

Facebook ran a study which showed that any two individuals in the world are connected, on average, by just 4.74 acquaintances. But that only takes Facebook into account. What about Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+?

This all makes the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game become more and more consolidated. Ironically, I found that I am two degrees away from both Kevin Bacon and our president!

So what does it all mean for you? Here are a few ways our ever-shrinking world could affect your small business.

Finding Competent Employees Just Got Easier...

Invariably you can go to LinkedIn and find out if you know the job candidate you're about to interview, which is pretty cool. You can see what organizations they may belong to and -- even better -- who they may be connected to. However, if it's a salesperson you're hiring and you see she's got a professional network of four people, you might want to kibosh your enthusiasm.

Also, when you look at who they're linked to, it might just be that a connection of yours is connected to them. And even if your connection doesn't know the applicant, remember we're four apart now, and it wouldn't be that tough to find a friend of a friend who does. This is great for "back door" references.

... And So Has Pre-qualifying Prospects

You're about to get on a sales call and you'd love to strike up a conversation before you get into the "sale" to establish a connection with your prospect. What do you do? You can Google him and find out if you can get access to a Facebook page (many times you can't). Or you can look him up on LinkedIn to see his background. Most professionals keep their LinkedIn profiles public. You can see who else he's connected to and see if you know anyone in common. You might find out that the person you're about to pitch is connected to your brother-in-law through a past company they worked at together. What an "in"!

Word-of-mouth Is More Important Than Ever (for Better or Worse)

If people like where they work and who they work with, they'll generally be happy and tell their friends, which is a bonus for you. Good word of mouth is essential to growing your business.

Conversely, if they're unhappy and jaded, the same thing will happen -- and they have a platform to do it easily. Imagine someone on Facebook has a list of 200 friends, and each of them has a list of 200 friends. The total reach that one person has is 40,000. One day he blasts your business to his Facebook friends because he had a bad day, and that post gets 20 comments from his friends. Now you've got that negative message in front of 4,000 people who could take that message and proliferate it more. Not too good for your brand, is it?

You Have More Ways to Widen Your Customer Base

When people "like" your business Page on Facebook, they're basically raising their hands to all of their friends and saying, "Hey, this company is so cool. I want to hear what they're talking about." This simply means that they'll start to see your posts in their Facebook feeds. But even better is that when they "like" your Page, that message will show up in all of their friends' feeds. If you publish really great posts, photos or offers on your Facebook Page, they may "like" each piece of content too, which is another way of getting into their friends' feeds. So make it a point to connect with your social media fans and be relevant.

Even though the world is getting smaller, your network is at an all-time high! Use it to your advantage, because the tools that can make this easy are right at your fingertips.

Janine Popick is the CEO and founder of VerticalResponse, which provides a full suite of self-service online marketing solutions for small businesses and non-profits including email marketing, event marketing, online surveys, social media and direct mail. She's also the CEB (Chief Executive Blogger) of the VerticalResponse Marketing Blog for Small Businesses.