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Social Media: What is holding some folks back?

It’s amazing when I see Facebook and Twitter gaining in popularity, seemingly by the day that I continue to run into people that are reluctant to engage in social channels. When I ask what is holding them back, I get the typical response like “that’s for teenagers”, “I hear too many horror stories”, or as my mom would say “that’s like Webkinz for adults”! Ultimately it is up to the individual to find reasons to join a social channel or not, let me take a shot at some useful reasons people should consider.

Let’s Stay Connected

I notice in my inner circle that some folks I would least expect to show up on Facebook are all of a sudden looking to connect. Many of them have apparently joined to stay in touch with grandchildren that have gone away to college or are in search of former classmates or business associates. I actually believe that my Mom will eventually join Facebook when grandson number one goes off to college. Once these new users learn the landscape, they find other value within these channels like joining groups or fan pages to get opinions and feedback from like minded peers. Social Media also provides us with the chance to engage and connect without the need for mutually agreed upon times and/or venues. In many cases, information and people that we may be looking for actually end up finding us. 

It seems that many from the Baby Boomer age have assumed that the Net Genners have owned this space and it is primarily for them. Fact is that the largest growing demographic is made up of these older users and that is what could lead to more reasonable behavior by the younger users. I feel that allowing teens, as well as pre-teens, to roam these circles unmonitored is the equivalent of giving them a microphone in the middle of Yankee Stadium uncensored. Users, both young and old, should recognize that this level of communication is really not much different than face to face discussions other than they actually aren’t face to face. We are still held accountable for our words and actions regardless of where and how we choose to communicate.

What’s in it for me?

Social Media has provided me the chance to engage and connect with so many people, those that I have known for quite a while as well as some that I have never met personally. Take for instance an exchange I was able to be a part of with former GE CEO Jack Welch. Mr. Welch and his wife Suzi had been writing a weekly article for Business Week at the time. In preparation for an interview with US Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, Jack asked his Twitter following for suggestions on questions for the Fed Chairman. This resulted in many responses that in short time had Mr. Welch tweeting he was blown away by the replies and many of the topics were items he wouldn’t have thought of. His follow up tweet was along the lines of “thanks for the suggestions, twitter does make us smarter.”

There are so many similar exchanges I have witnessed in the time I have been active in these channels and I have been introduced (both in person and virtually) to so many thought leaders of this medium. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t learn something new about a topic I have great interest in.

I strongly believe that the good far outweighs the risks in these channels and that should improve with more responsible usage and users. I’d be interested to hear what you think may be holding some folks back and what your experience has been when discussing this topic with those that have stayed away to this point.

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