Sorry fellow Gen Ys, but, from my experience, Baby Boomers are much more likely to use social media strategically for business, once taught how.

Baby Boomers understand relationship building and business etiquette.  Many just do not understand how to use social media- the technology.

Gen Y’s often lack understanding of relationship building and business etiquette.  However, they know how to use social networks and online technology.

The problem here is that knowing how to use the technology, without understanding the business implications, is like knowing how to shoot a gun, but not understanding what a gun does.  Can you say “damage control”?

For this reason, many Gen Ys and even Xs don’t know what they don’t know.  Since they know how to use social media, they believe that they are experts at using it for business.  However, I always ask the experts, “When were the last two times you obtained a client or job offer via social media?”  At this point, I almost always hear crickets.

The benefit to the Baby Boomer is that many have opted to sit on the bench, until they understand how to use social media for business or their career.  This is a much better option than wasting tons of hours on social media with random interactions or posting pictures of oneself dancing on tables with margaritas.  Now, I’m not saying this is the case with all Gen Ys, but I do believe that a large majority of us struggle with boundaries, even when we say we are using social media for business purposes.

According to Dr. Ken Dychtwald, the world’s expert on aging trends, Americans are living longer, seeing shrinking retirements and are totally throwing away the old life cycle of youth -> education-> career & family->retire-> die and are replacing it with additional education after retirement and a new career.  Baby Boomers, unlike Gen Ys and Xs who will have less time to invest in learning in 5-10 years as they focus on career and family, are (or will soon be) in a space of reeducation.  This means that Boomers will have the time (during their first, but brief retirement) to learn how to use social media more strategically for their businesses or to get hired into that second career.

The only thing holding back many Boomers now is lack of knowledge of social media and fear.  Fear?  Yes. I’ve heard many Baby Boomers pooh-pooh social media, stating that it is silly, a waste of time, etc.  Obviously if the world’s largest brands are spending millions on social media campaigns and even opting to use social media over Superbowl commercials, there is value.  It was not until I was in an audience listening to Scott Stratton,“the” Twitter expert, that I started to grasp the level of fear some Boomers are dealing with.  After listening to Scott explain how he using Twitter and what tangible results he has seen for himself and friends, there were still attendees who tried to minimize its importance, while they were obviously suffering from a lack of business themselves.  I understood that it was easier for them to give off the appearance of not caring and believing social media to be foolish than to admit that they are afraid of losing relevance…

For those Boomers who are not so much fearful as they are lacking knowledge of how to use social media professionally, I have three tips:

  • Social media is almost exactly like “real life”. The same etiquette that applies in person applies online.  You would not send someone a friend request without having a proper photo of yourself as your profile image just as you would not knock on someone’s door wearing a ski mask.  You would not start verbally advertising your business at a new friend’s party just as you would not immediately post advertisements on a new Facebook friend’s wall.  Please and thank you go a LONG way online and off.
  • Don’t try to learn everything at once. Dedicate ten minutes a day to search around on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn or read a good social media blog like Mashable.
  • Do not listen to your friends. Your friends will almost always lead you astray via social media.  If they are not seeing measureable business success using social media, they are just going to confuse you, encourage you to waste time, and have you sign up on a million different sites.

Additionally, if want to learn how to use social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook & Twitter for business via an all-day workshop (complete with easy-to-follow workbooks) with a funny Baby Boomer and a techie Gen Y, check out Socialtunities, a workshop that I teach with Generations Speaker Karen McCullough.  Our last workshop of the year is on September 10 and, if you sign up today, discounted tickets are still available.

If you’d like to register, please do so ASAP at 3/4 of our last workshops sold out!