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social networking for business

Q. I’m 64. Can I slide by without learning this social media stuff?

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A.  I answered this question from a local businessman who called yesterday with another question: how long do you plan to work? Since he replied, “Until they carry me out feet first,” I knew I didn’t have an almost-retiree on my hands.

The call was prompted by a colleague of his who suggested that his business could grow if only he would invest some time in social networking.

My advice is this: focus on social networking as a start. Begin with LinkedIn because, let’s face it, everyone has at least signed up for LinkedIn. Make sure your profile is at 100 percent complete and load all of your contacts. This is not difficult stuff to learn, it’s just moving your Rolodex online and connecting it to everyone else’s.

Depending on your type of business and the customer you’re hoping to attract, Facebook will probably be valuable – in this man’s case, and the kind of business he’s in, it would be.

For those who have not expanded beyond e-mail and visits to a small handful of Web sites, social networking is a manageable bite to chew, and one that the user can feel successful in using and if effort is put in to expanding, updating and interacting within social networks, business growth is bound to occur.

The caller said that all his business comes from word-of-mouth. As a solo practitioner he needs to use social networking tools to take word-of-mouth online and extend his reach far beyond what he can accomplish in person and on the phone.

How do you counsel members at the upper end of the Baby Boomer generation in taking the first steps into using social media for business?