When it comes to Facebook and Twitter, small businesses – the 10,500 members of SBAM — actually have an advantage over large corporations when communicating with their customers.

A former editor of Computerworld and a highly knowledgeable social media specialist (author of Secrets of Social Media Marketing and The New Influencers,”Paul Gillin blogged for ShopTab “Social Media: The Small Business Owner’s Unfair Advantage”), he cited five reasons why small businesses should engage in social media.

1. The cheap and often free cost of social media and their ease of use. “To get started, all you need is your computer and an Internet connection. If you’re passionate about your work, it costs nothing to start telling people about what you do,” Gillin said. Anyone can own and operate a Facebook or Twitter account. However, big corporations shy away from using social media for legal reasons, even though it is currently more valuable than traditional media sources.

2. Search engines are the “great equalizer” for companies. “Google doesn’t care if you’re The New York Times or Joe’s Hardware Store as long as you have the best content…A small business with great content on its website can compete with a company many times its size.” Gillin also said blogs that are routinely updated and attract links appear often in Google search engines.

3. Small businesses are personal. “Big corporations don’t have personality; they have brand,” whereas people who work for a small company are the brand, and customers know them personally. This is a huge advantage because “customers relate better to people than they do brands,” Gillin said.

4. They’re the fastest way to expand your geographic reach. After creating your blog, install a free analysis tool like Google Analytics to see where your visitors come from. Gillin said the majority of visitors will come from outside your geographic area because “the Internet is global and hyperlinks know no geographic bounds. What a great way to expand your market.”

5. They’re fun. “Social media is a great way to expand your network of relationships, and relationships lead to business,” Gillin said. “In addition to hearing that your business and expertise are important to others out there, engaging in conversations “will broaden your perspective, give you new ideas and make new friends.”

-Dana Prainito