The name of the game is social media. A couple years ago, back in the 90s, marketing was all about who sent more newsletters or who made the most cold calls. But today the playing field has changed, and it's changed a lot. Ask any internet marketer or small business owner, and he or she will tell you the only way to stay competitive in the market without paying a fortune is to engage in social media. Period.

Most of us joined social media back in the day because it was cute. I know I did. All of my non-businessmen friends had Facebook accounts and were passing back and forth virtual plants and babies. I also had a LinkedIn account because some of my friends had one, but I didn't really know what to do with it.

One day I got an email from a prospect saying she needed my services. A lead. She got my information from LinkedIn. After that I got another email. Also the phone started to ring more often.

I believe that's how the idea had hit most current internet marketers in the head. Social media is real, and it is here. Social media is the future of marketing, and all of us could become revolutionaries if we chose to be it.

Social media is cost-efficient and it is effective. For instance, everybody knows SEO takes the cake when it comes to generating leads. SEO makes visitors come to your website. But SEO doesn't establish relationships, social media does, and any entrepreneur will tell you building personal relationships with clients go a long way into making a successful business. With social media, if you're an internet marketer in, let's say, Calgary, you could communicate with prospects living in Calgary no problem. That's the beauty of social media and the reason why social media is what it is right now.

If you're new to this social media scene and want to check things out, you might want to look at these popular websites first.

1. Twitter

They call it "The king of social media", and why not? Twitter is easily the most convenient way for businesses to communicate with fans, and for fans to keep tabs on their favorite brands/companies. Name a famous brand/company, and 90% of the time you'll find that company actually has a Twitter account.

2. Facebook

Facebook is the popular social networking site in which almost everyone has an account. For small businesses, you might want to create a Facebook Fan Page profile, which was designed specifically for businesses, instead of a normal account.

3. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is like MySpace for businesses. It isn't as popular as Facebook, but LinkedIn is a must-have for small business owners and service professionals such as internet marketing specialists.

4. MySpace

MySpace is probably the second largest social networking site right now next to Facebook. It's a great way to promote your brand or services, especially if your market niche consists of young teens and adults.

For small business owners and service professionals out there, social media is the key to all your problems, if you use it right. If you want it to work for you, you need to understand how it works and how to best apply it to your business. And if you're still feeling unsure what to do, you could always hire a social media expert to teach you how to figure out the basic mechanics before you move out on your own.