This is a guest blog entry from Karin Gerber.

You have to admit with billions of users, social media clearly became the major spot to gossip and share information. This can be especially helpful if you\’re a business looking to attract new customers or keep informed of the ones you currently have. One would assume this is the way to go, and while social media is good to use for your business, you don\’t want to make it the only source of news for your current and potential future customers.

Remember, social media is favorable to use as a tool in your business, not as a replacement. For those companies that exclusively depend on social media as a means of communicating with their customers might end up with a not-so-welcoming surprise one day should the socializing website have \”technical difficulties\” and lose your business page. How do you communicate now? What happens to your followers?

Or let\’s say an online entity decides to change its terms of service and suddenly you find yourself in an unfavorable situation. For example, take a look at what happened with the photo sharing social website, Instagram. Instagram recently made a change to its Terms of Use which enraged the social networking cosmos.  According to the update, Instagram would have been allowed to use your uploaded photographs to advertise and make money without you seeing a dime. Also, your account profile would have been used in online advertisements without your knowledge. Those new rules would have applied to adults as well as teenagers with Instagram accounts, and it seemed the only way to opt-out of its new Terms of Use was to delete your account. Pleased to say, due to the overwhelming Internet outcry, Instagram changed their tune and will modify its ruling on what it can do with your data, saying that your photos will still belong to you (see, it\’s admirable to use social media to complain simply because it works… look at my previous Windows Observer article, \”Got a Complaint? Use Social Media\”). But what if this reversion didn\’t happen and you\’re a professional photographer only using Instagram to display your photographing talent? What would you do then? Talk about a social media scare.

To avoid these issues, businesses should always have their own website and mailing lists outside of social media that they can control. This is vital to owning your own business, both sensibly and socially.

\”Your Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and any other fans/followers should have frequent opportunities to come back to your [web]site for content they can only find there, and to subscribe to your email list for even more premium content. Think of social sites as trade show booths. They’re excellent places to spark conversations, find new leads, and spread the word about what you do. But you still have an office where the main work gets done.\” (Copyblogger)

You want to be the one to master the online-world of your business\’ existence. You don\’t want your business to only depend on social media in order to communicate and survive, no matter how popular the networking site is. Just because a social site is popular now doesn\’t mean it will last forever. All it needs is a good competitor or a change in business practice. Look at what happened to MySpace and what could have happened to Instagram.

In other words, don\’t put all of your eggs in one basket when it comes to your business and social media.