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Executives encouraged to put their fingerprints on social media outreach efforts

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More businesses are exploring the social media space, a self-described social media addict told a crowd of more than 100 at Tuesday night's Hispanic Business Expo, but it's far too common for this critical area to be delegated to an intern or lower-level employee.

Instead, business owners and executives should involve themselves directly, said Ted Rubin, who uses his social media expertise to lead the marketing efforts of companies such as ELF Cosmetics.

"Get on Twitter. Try out the platforms you've heard about," Rubin said at the expo, in Edison, which was hosted by the Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce. "You've got to get it."

Rubin said social media platforms can be a great forum to test out new ideas and assuage disgruntled customers. Twitter and Facebook provide direct contact with consumers, so they can be used to address complaints directly, he said, as well as to gauge response to new promotions or concepts.

Rubin also suggested business owners not limit their social media following, contrary to conventional wisdom, which says such limits help boost their online reputation and influence.

Instead, follow everyone who follows you, Rubin told the crowd.

"If they're interested in you, show that you're interested in them," he said.

That message resonated with several business owners in the crowd.

"You cannot build a brand or a business without social media right now," said Claudia Krusch, the owner of a foreign language school based in Wenonah. "It's like you have your clients in front of you."

Over the past year, Krusch said, she doubled the number of students enrolled in her school, Easy Learn Languages, solely by using social media to promote the school's work.

"That's how we engage," Krusch said. "It's like you have your clients in front of you."

Aida Ingram, founder of a marketing and career coaching company called An Inspired You, agreed.

"For small-business owners, it's an equalizer," Ingram said.

Large companies may have big advertising budgets to throw around, but they often are hindered in their social media reach because of legal concerns or branding issues, she said. Smaller competitors, however, can use social media to experiment and build direct connections with customers and clients, she said.

"It's incredibly important and underutilized," she said.

Reporter Mary Johnson is @mjohns422 on Twitter.

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