There’s no doubt that people who intend to be a vital part of the workplace need to embrace social media. But there are a few groups still holding out — and they risk being quickly being left behind.
With the market taking a downturn, older adults may need to keep working a little longer than they had planned. One of the ways they can boost their perception and knowledge in the workplace is to not only participate in things like LinkedIn and other professional networking sites, but also Twitter, blog reading, Facebook and other new platforms that are rapidly emerging as useful, even necessary, workplace skills.
Social media may have started out as a way for young people to stay connected with each other, but it is rapidly becoming a necessary part of collaboration in the office. In fact, a recent New York Times article explains a large MacArthur Foundation study that finds young people are using emerging media to learn important tech skills, increase their literacy and learn how to manage their public identity. I think everyone can learn a lot from that research. Adults who don’t know how to integrate the latest communication technologies into their workday — or worse, you resist them altogether — are going to lose out.
Here’s a list the four most important technologies that every individual needs to be using:
Blogs Become a voracious consumer of blogs. Read them. Comment on them. Bookmark them. Share them with others. And if you think you have the talent for it, write one. But make it interesting and smart. Pull in web links, photos and video clips. Even just being able to talk about the things you’ve read on blogs can help build your professional profile and shape you as a thought leader, create previously unforeseen business opportunities and help you learn about things you may not otherwise.
Twitter Running a good Twitter feed isn’t easy and we’ll post some tips on how to use it more effectively in the future. But if you think it’s just about people posting what they had for breakfast you’re already way behind. In fact you can access a lot of unexpected people on Twitter. This morning I found not only the White House, but also the United States Senate, the House and more. You’ll find for-profit companies like Del Webb and not-for-profits like United Way. And with new technologies like the iPhone and Blackberry Storm, Twitter stands to overtake text messaging because it’s free and easier to manage. The point is that Twitter has already become a messaging platform to issue news, mini PR releases, and updates for everyone.
Texting Chances are some of you already use text messaging to keep in touch with your kids or co-workers. The technology isn’t new, it’s actually based on packet radio which was developed by Ham Radio operators in the 1970’s. It’s a good idea to learn how to do it if you don’t have a more advanced phone, but I believe it’s on its way out. When you do send a text, just make sure you adhere to the unspoken rule of business texting: keep it brief, factual and important.
Facebook/MySpace We would recommend using Facebook over MySpace, but it depends on your target market. If you’re running a clothing boutique or recording studio, MySpace would be the better place. As for everyone else, you’re probably better off on Facebook. Social networking platforms are increasingly becoming hardcore business tools. And not using them is a lot like not having a fax machine ten years ago. As in your offline life, the most important rules are the ones you learned from your mother: be honest and be yourself. Remember that this is your public image that you are sharing with the world.
Will mastering these technologies make you better at your job? Of course not. But it may help. And you might as well get used to them because this stuff isn’t going away — that is, until something even more baffling comes along.