Neal Schaffer gets it. He knows what it’s like to be a newcomer to social media, wondering how to derive the most value from it. The difference is, he not only figured how to maximize its use as a business tool, but became a leading social media strategist … and now he’s going to share his knowledge with pool and spa professionals at the 2012 Expo in New Orleans, so they can up their game.

He wasn’t always a social media expert, though.

His path first wound through other countries and industries. A graduate of Amherst College, Schaffer is fluent in Japanese and Chinese, and lived in Japan for 15 years, working at tech companies specializing in components for consumer electronics as well as software. When he returned to the USA in 2008, he needed to find a job, but where to start? He turned to LinkedIn, making it his primary networking tool. He became so effective that he subsequently wrote two critically acclaimed books on how businesspeople can use LinkedIn to their advantage. Currently he’s working on a book about Twitter for B-to-B and B-to-C companies.

Not surprisingly, Schaffer also became adept at using other social media such as Facebook,  Google+ and Pinterest. In 2010, he started Windmills Marketing in Irvine, Calif., and now spends his time criss-crossing the nation (and the globe) on speaking engagements; leading seminars; and consulting with companies about social media marketing/strategies, and sales and business development. This year, he was named a Forbes Top 30 Social Media Power Influencer.

He’ll bring all that expertise to two seminars at the International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo on Nov. 7. In the morning, he will focus on common social media marketing mistakes. Later, he joins forces with Chris Treadaway, founder/CEO of Polygraph Media, for interactive Q&A on ways to improve participants’ social media marketing.

“What I really want to get across in these seminars is [an understanding] of how people can use social media to represent a brand. … I want to help business owners and marketing people take their social media efforts to the next level,” Schaffer said. He noted that a recent study showed more than 50 percent of respondents spend more time online than watching TV. “It’s a no-brainer,” Schaffer said. “It’s not if we should use social media, but what should we do next? At least, that’s what seminar participants should be asking!”

Social media levels the playing field, he added, and much can be accomplished for minimal money and time. Schaffer’s final word: “Social media is relevant for everybody.”