I will quickly acknowledge my skepticism regarding the usefulness and reach of social media when it came to businesses.

About five or six years ago, I discovered MySpace and customizable sites such as YouTube, which allowed almost anyone to post videos or music that they were interested in or found funny.

I realized YouTube’s ability to quickly disseminate information through videos, especially if they were well produced. But at the time, many of those posted seemed like little more than rejects from “America’s Funniest Home Videos” that even Bob Saget would have a hard time making a joke about.

And while MySpace seemed like an interesting way to connect with old friends and showcase your interests, I found many of its do-it-yourself web pages busy to the point of being distracting and hard to read. This included the handful of HVAC businesses that used the site at the time to connect with customers. I couldn’t imagine them working very well, and it seemed few businesses did much more than post links to their customers’ MySpace pages.

A few years later, MySpace was supplanted by Facebook, a superior platform for social networking, and I started to see more HVAC and sheet metal companies venturing into social media. Some even made a real effort to interact with customers and advertised deals and other offers just for their Facebook “followers.”

The power of a ‘tweet'

For the last couple years, Twitter has been perhaps the most buzzed-about social media website. But initially, I found this site, with its short, 140-character updates, to be the least useful for business. I couldn’t figure out how any businesses could reach customers through all that noise.

But I was wrong. Social media, especially when all of its components - video, blogs, networking sites - are used, can be very, very effective.

With a Twitter account, YouTube “channel” or Facebook page, you can quickly spread your company’s message. And by linking the accounts to each other and prominently including a phone number, e-mail, instant message or other way for potential customers to contact you, you instantly increase your company’s reach.

Through Snips’ Twitter page,www.twitter.com.Snipsmag, I’ve connected with a lot of sheet metal companies that seem to understand the medium’s power. They post regularly about everything from job openings to interesting industry articles. I also see posts from a number of companies that aren’t doing much of anything or have barely checked their page since it was created. And some companies tweet the same message several times a day. That’s not using the medium very effectively, and borders on annoying spam.

How are you using social media? Having any success with it? I’d like to hear about it. E-mail me at mcconnellm@bnpmedia.com. Include your name, business and a way to contact you. We might contact you for an upcoming story.

Snipsmag.com March poll results

More sheet metal contractors are finding opportunities in energy auditing. Is your company performing energy audits?

• Yes. – 14 percent

• No. – 43 percent

• We are looking into it. – 21 percent.

• What is energy auditing? – 21 percent