Business use of social media keeps evolving

Shaking HandsWhen the horse was replaced by the horseless carriage, there undoubtedly was hand wringing over whether or not the world would ever be the same. Would people no longer walk, ride bicycles or even ride horses? The world certainly changed. But in 2011, people still walk, ride bikes — and, yes, they even ride horses.

Many of the same questions have arisen in the explosion of technology during the first decade of the 21st century. In the world of business networking, simple handshakes and face-to-face conversations have been augmented by smart phones, iPads and various forms of social media. Your son’s MySpace page has been replaced by your grandson’s Facebook page, a social media site that also might be used by your wife and mother. The Facebook acceleration hasn’t shown any signs of slowing, either. By the end of last year, an estimated 400 million people were using Facebook to communicate with a network of “friends.”

Some people have both personal and business Facebook pages. Social media experts offer conflicting advice about whether to establish both kinds of pages.

Jennifer Kettlewell, owner of Kettlewell Enterprises in Grand Junction, advises those who sell products to set up both business and personal pages. Those who sell services, though, probably need only one page. Whether using a combination of business and personal pages or just a personal page, it’s important to use a soft-sell approach and converse with acquaintances rather than pitch products, says Kettlewell, who leads seminars on social media. “You’re not really there to sell. You’re more there to build relationships.”

Even as more people establish Facebook pages every day, Kettlewell says she’s observed a shift for business purposes. “I’ve seen a decrease in who’s using it. They’re using it for interaction with colleagues and family, but less with business.”

While a decline in use could cause the user to lose contact with friends, less could be more on a business page, Kettlewell says. “Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not active on a business page.”

Time presents a constant issue when juggling time on a social networking page along with business duties and personal life. “I do it during business hours,” Kettlewell says. “Some people put some of their personal time into this.”

While there’s no pat answer for when to use social networking, Kettlewell advises that success comes through becoming comfortable with the process.         “When you find fun and joy on it more than actual work, that’s when you’ll achieve success,” she says.

By the way, MySpace, a precursor to Facebook, hasn’t disappeared. In fact, it’s popular among younger people, who tend to look for ways to communicate without including the older crowd.

But all age groups are catching on to the Twitter phenomenon. And many business people find LinkedIn is good for sending messages appropriate for work-related relationships.

Such interaction will never replace face-to-face interaction, says Kettlewell, who also heads the local BNI leads group. But social networking online can develop relationships that couldn’t happen outside the Internet.

“I’ve formed bonds online with some people out of town, including Iceland, Canada and California,” she says.