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October 19, 2010

Can Social Networking Improve Your Business and Your Life?

If you can’t fathom jumping into the online world of social media for your business, start with your personal life.

You’ve probably heard that any business committed to long-term growth has added social media to their marketing plan matrix. You’ve also probably heard your friends, colleagues, competitors, and, of course, your kids bragging about how social networking has solidified deals, increased business, or kick-started a creative campaign. But, alas, this Internet thing is not for you, right?

If it’s hard to imagine why you need to jump into this alternative universe if your business is already running smoothly, consider starting with the light version of social networking by setting up a personal account on Facebook. Joining the world of Facebook can be a real turning point in your relationships, family management, social life, and self-improvement; the likes of which could never have happened before. Here are just a few examples of the life-changing purposes a personal Facebook account can serve:

Long-Lost Friend Database

Whatever became of the friend you played Battleship with who moved to another state in fourth grade? Type in his name and voila! It is very likely he will appear on the search results list, the magical effect of critical mass attraction to this online universe. Not sure if it’s him? One of
Facebook’s handiest features is that you can send private messages to users, even if you haven’t officially connected through a “friend request” yet. Chances are it will be him, and you may be surprised that not only can you pick up right where you left off, as is the nature of “running into people,” but you will probably discover you have several unlikely friends in common! The automatic posting of who you and any person whose profile you are viewing have in common is yet another super-cool Facebook feature, and a great conversation starter to boot!

Playing Field Leveler

In social networking culture, every participant is treated equally. If you’ve felt too intimidated to talk to someone, you’ll be pleased to discover that everyone is approachable in this virtual world. This is for two reasons: 1) they are on social networking sites such as Facebook to network, the purpose of which would be defeated if they snubbed people, and, 2) you are now more confident because you have the
luxury of putting your thoughts together before expressing them with the keyboard. Your new-found confidence is sure to bring you new friendships and other opportunities you otherwise would have let pass by.

Mutual Admiration Society

Another fun aspect of social networking is that people want to tell you they are happy for you, you’ve done a good job, and that they love the outfit you were wearing in the recently posted picture from your boss’s retirement party. It’s a funny thing; Facebook users genuinely enjoy the opportunity to say something nice and supportive. It’s their way of saying hello each time they log in. (By the way, when your birthday comes around, you’ll feel like a kid again when you discover 50 happy-birthday messages waiting for you–no more forgotten birthdays for you!)

Crisis Support Network

While it’s nice to have so many people say nice things to you, it’s that much more wonderful when they are there for you when things aren’t so great. In the real world, when we experience a tragedy or heartbreak, it can be awkward to pick up the phone and announce it one friend at a time. However, when you update your status with information about what’s going on in your life that’s hurting, comments and offers of support are posted in droves. What may otherwise have been an isolating time for you has become an illustration of the true sympathies and empathies your friends and acquaintance are willing to give to you.

Socially Acceptable Bragging Arena

Did your kid get a B on his math test after three grueling months of tutoring? Shout it from the rooftops! Did your basketball team slaughter your rivals on the court last weekend? What about you? Were you just honored for your volunteer efforts at a major fundraiser? Go ahead! Post it on your Facebook status. Again, what may seem awkward in the world outside is just another sunny day in online conversation. Not only should you be proud, you’ll get the applause you crave and deserve.

Travel and Activity Forum

Getting practical is definitely something to rely on in an online conversation. If you’re looking for advice or recommendations for travel, a hotel, a good podiatrist, or a kid’s pirate-themed birthday party, don’t spend weeks asking around. Post the question on your profile! People are happy to give their opinion, and in an online forum you are wasting no time gathering varied information. You’ll also find you accumulate quite a treasure trove of info just by being in on conversations, browsing photos, and checking out event postings.

A-List Event Invites

No one likes to feel as if they’ve been left off the guest list. Those days are a thing of the past with Facebook and other online networks. You’ll feel like a VIP when you are receiving invitations to all kinds of events via postings. Not only will you be remembered for the surprise 45th
birthday of your spouse’s co-worker, you’ll be invited to high-level benefits, restaurant openings, exclusive sales, book signings, and spontaneous excuses to just get out. Events that have been posted online also provide a little thrill when you are finally meeting some online friends in real life for the first time.

It won’t take long for you to appreciate that Facebook is a party that you can join whenever you log in. And the longer you stay, the more connections you will make and the more sense of community you will feel. Just be warned: once you’ve had a taste of what social networks have to offer, you won’t be able to disconnect. But don’t worry, that’s a good thing! Your next step is to introduce your business to the online conversation.

Mary Petto has spent the last 20 years working as an editor, writer, communications specialist, account executive, and consultant. In each position, her goal has been to deliver a brand message efficiently and in a lasting way. Businesses she’s served range from national financial services companies to image consultants. She’s a certified social media strategist and virtual assistant, helping businesses leverage the power of social networking. For more info visit