March 16, 2012
Social Media Engagement for Older Professionals
Many older professionals are hesitant about taking on social media. “Older” meaning those not born into an Internet wired home with a laptop and iPad in hand. We talked with a few workforce veterans who have successfully moved from reticence to social media champions. They all agreed: those who don’t engage are missing out.
Steve Langerud (@SteveLangerud), the director of professional opportunities at DePauw University, often finds that non-users are missing out on opportunities to connect with clients, potential customers, and markets. He shares, “Many report feeling out of place when their colleagues talk about how they are using social media.”
So why are older professionals more hesitant to embrace social media? For many, the answer is fear.
50-year-old John Matthews (@Graycatent), president and CEO of Gray Cat Enterprises, Inc., used to prospect the “old fashioned way” and now 95% of his income comes from social media and other online activities.
In his experience, older professionals fear the speed of change versus change itself, “Fear of the abyss from a speed standpoint. The speed in which the early adapters accept new technologies continues to accelerate. Older professionals are not as adept to the speed of the change.”
The following tips will help older professionals successfully engage and harness the power of social media:
Change Your Mindset
For many younger professionals, communicating via social media is like breathing, it’s just second nature!
Bill Caskey (@caskeyone), author of Same Game New Rules and host of The Advanced Selling Podcast, suggests the difference is linear versus circular thinking, “Older professionals tend to think in a linear manner. If I do’ this,’ then this happens. Then my intended results happen. In other words, if I make 50 calls, then 10 will turn into appointments.” Again this refers to the traditional model for prospecting and sales.
Caskey further explains how circular thinking requires an understanding of “Network Circles”, where those circles are interconnected and rotate on their own. Information flows freely within and between those circles, which is a very powerful concept.
Get out there, get introduced, and get to know the different social media sites by trying them out first hand, like 74-year-old Dr. Gayle Carson (@gaylecarson), author of How to Be an S.O.B–A Spunky Old Broad Who Kicks Butt.
Dr. Carson shares that she uses social media hesitantly- only posting sporadically to sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. While she admits to not knowing what to do or if her efforts will result in more business, she further explains, “It’s all about relationships and that’s what I’m interested in building.”
Most social media sites are free or have a free version. You can create an account at no cost. So sign up and then take some time to explore what others are talking about and sharing.
Sara Tetreault (@GoGingham), creator of Go Gingham | Stylishly Frugal Living, a lifestyle blog about frugal living with style, considers herself a part of this late-adopter demographic. She advises, “Just get started doing it and using it. The only way to see how it all really works is to experience it yourself.”
Tetreault, initially hesitant about social media, admitted that she didn’t understand the value until she started using it and seeing the benefits.
Use the Buddy System
Don’t go it alone. Consult with a marketing professional about how they are utilizing social media successfully for their clients. Ask a professional to coach you along your new technology exploration.
A marketing professional can help you create a social media plan and begin utilizing tools like TweetDeck or HooteSuite to better manage your accounts from a dashboard view. This will save precious time and provide useful metrics at-a-glance.
Connect with existing contacts online. These offline “buddies” should become a part of your virtual social network as well.
Tetreault agrees, “If you have a networking group or you’re part of a professional organization that’s active on Twitter already, jump into their conversations. Connect with people you know personally first and build your confidence.”
Balance Your Time
It is also important to find the right balance of time spent on on social media channels. Many people find social media addictive and spend hours upon hours reading, posting, and connecting. As with any business activity, you have to schedule social media time appropriately based on how you are using it.
For example, initially you may use social media to make new contacts or learn about the latest innovations in your industry, but later you may use it to connect with clients, uncover customer service issues, launch a new product or respond to requests for services. All of these activities have a place in your business today with the appropriate allocation of time and resources. Consider that social media simply adds a new channel to manage some of these same activities.
So just how long will it take you to get comfortable using social media? The answer of course will vary for everyone. Many experts agree that 20 minutes a day in total is a good way to get started.
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