A boomer CEO’s journey through social media, part 1: social networks

I’ll admit it. I’m not a digital native. While I had a hand in the PC revolution and am fairly technically savvy, the explosion of social media options outstripped my capacity to understand them all. Fortunately, I’m surrounded by many digital natives and social media experts who have coached me through the fog. This is the first in a series of posts that retraces my journey from having limited “social skills” to becoming a socially adept executive.

My journey started with LinkedIn in the spring of 2007. I had been getting requests to update my contacts on Plaxo for a while, but I never saw a big reason to do so. After reading the book Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time, by Keith Ferrazzi, I realized how negligent I was at staying connected with and expanding my network of business associates. So when I saw the potential of LinkedIn to help me improve in this area, I signed up. Over the past two years, LinkedIn’s functionality has increased significantly as has my use of it. Here are some of the things I use it for:

  • Researching the background of someone I will be meeting soon (this was hard to do before)
  • Following up and connecting with someone I had just met for the first time (my follow-up discipline had been marginal at best)
  • Reconnecting with former associates (I was even worse at this)
  • Sending brief updates about things that I’m working on (I never did this before)
  • Querying my expanded network for insights and opinions (my posts on Attributes of an Effective Marketing Leader came from this process)
  • Planning outreach activities with people in cities to which I’ll be traveling (Tripit reminds me who else is in the neighborhood)
  • Sharing my perspective with others who have posed a question (a good way to make new business introductions in a highly relevant way)
  • Asking for candidate referrals for positions we are trying to fill (many of our best candidates are those sent to us by our friends and colleagues)
  • Reminding me that it has been a while since I connected with someone (it is amazing how time passes so quickly)

As you can tell, all of these activities are business related. LinkedIn is my social networking platform for my professional side. About a year ago I decided to jump into Facebook to share my personal side. While many of my Facebook friends are family members, former colleagues or college buddies, some are clients or past clients with whom I have a close personal connection. We exchange photos of our kids, share the excitement of a big event or commiserate about qualifying for an AARP card. I can stay connected with their lives in ways I never did before.

Facebook has also become a place to share the personal side of nFusion (www.facebook.com/nfusion). Part of what makes our organization such a wonderful place to work is the people on our team. We  share things that are offbeat, quirky and fun with our friends who follow us. We hope that other talented individuals and potential clients might want to get to know us better after they get to know us a little differently.

While there are other social networking venues (MySpace, Ning, Orkut to name a few), I’ve found LinkedIn and Facebook to be a great one-two combination for keeping me more connected. I imagine they are or will be for you, too.