08/28/2011 09:16 pm ET | Updated Oct 28, 2011

Why You Cannot Afford To Ignore Social Media

It is easy to dismiss the things we don't understand as irrelevant and of no use to us, such as Social Media for instance.

• Twitter - it's just a load of pointless chatter about nothing
• Facebook - just a load of people collecting online friends because they have none offline
• YouTube - a load of silly banal videos
• Blogging - wannabe journalists and writers writing their diaries online.

Although some of that is true of all of the social media platforms in part, these criticisms are a tad blinkered, and defensive. In fact,

• Twitter is an amazing platform for businesses to network, build real connections with customers, push innovation and be ahead of the market

• Facebook is a great touch point where customers can easily interact with brands on their terms

• YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world

• Blogging can be a great way of creating relevant sticky content, becoming experts in a field and increasing SEO (search engine optimisation) ranking.

But most important of all, the decision to 'do' or not to 'do' social media today is not about what is happening now, or will happen in the next three months, or next year. It is about what will be happening in five years time.

Ask yourself, in five years time:

1. Where will digital be?

2. Where will your company be in relationship to digital?

3. Where will your customers be in relation to digital?

4. Will social media be part of your customers' lives?

The answer, which should appear in your mind like a large flashing Piccadilly Circus neon sign, is - How can I afford not to get into social media?

How can I afford not to get into social media?

Below, for those who like a good list, we give you a list of reasons why you cannot afford not to get into social media:

1. It is a logical extension of business networking allowing your employees and your business to learn, express, share and interact

2. Gives your brand narrative

3. Creates sticky content and therefore reasons for your customers to return to your site

4. Is a critically important touch point (and the easiest and fastest)

5. Creates brand ambassadors

6. Drives innovation in your business

7. Improves staff morale and internal brand value

8. Adds dynamism to static brands

9. Is the best feedback loop ever invented

10. Is now expected by your customers and your future customers are growing up with it.

Start now (measure later, much later)

Starting using social media isn't hard or a big deal. What is hard is keeping it going, staying consistent and being responsive. Social media is not just another broadcast channel -- it is a two-way touch point -- so make sure you can sustain your activity. And then once you are confident enough, start adding metrics to measure by -- but take no notice of the numbers until your social media footprint is mature enough. You can then look back to see where you have got to, and make more ambitious plans for the future.

Click here to see Justin speaking about social media at the Social Media Leadership Forum.