Social media allows people to connect and network in ways we never had before. LinkedIn is a great example of business networking – in our company’s experience, we have been able to connect with people and generate leads we would not have been able to using traditional marketing methods.
Sometimes it’s difficult for people to jump in and network online – maybe you’re a shy, more reserved person, or you’re not fully comfortable participating in social media forums. If you’re feeling unsure about how or when to network online, just watch a teenager for some tips.
Teenagers have grown up in social media; they have embraced it and incorporated it into their lives seamlessly, while us adults are growing along with it. They have a comfort level with social media that we, as adults, can learn from.
My oldest daughter is starting high school this Fall. While she is very excited, she has expressed her concerns about starting at a new school, one that is much larger than she’s ever been to. She has spent the last nine years at a very small school, with the same 30 classmates since Kindergarten. Only half of them will be attending her high school, and their freshman class is just over 800 students. You can imagine how that would make any teenager nervous, even the most confident ones.
More panic came when the schedules were released, and her biggest fear came to be – she has lunch with no one she knows. What’s a teen to do?
Back in our day, we’d hope to see a friendly face or meet someone who shared a lunch period with us in our morning classes. If we had no luck, we’d have to face that moment of walking into the cafeteria for the first time, hoping to see someone looking as scared as we were and joining them.
Social media has definitely changed that. In talking through my daughter’s fears with her, I reminded her that while she may not share a lunch with someone she graduated with, she does know other people who will be freshman as well from her years playing sports in the community. That got her thinking, and I watched her next steps with admiration and intrigue.
She turned to Facebook and started networking. She reviewed her friend list and starting thinking of which of her connections would also be freshman at her high school and reached out to them. She also looked at students from her grade school that she was connected with who graduated a year or two ahead of her, and reached out to them as well. For this latter group, she asked for advice – what was the first week of school like, was it hard to find your way around the school, etc. By starting the conversation out in a general sense, she was able to not only get great advice, but started nurturing potential relationships for high school. One girl, who is a sophomore, suggested that she post her lunch period on Facebook to see if there was someone else with that lunch period. Within a couple of hours, one of her friends messaged her saying that her best friend has the same lunch period, and she’d be willing to introduce them before school started so they could get to know each other.
When she told me about her Facebook adventures, I have to say I was impressed. Instead of wallowing in panic and making the situation worse in her own mind, she took initiative and networked within her social community.
Teenagers are great at building up their connections – once they meet new people, they are not shy about friending them on Facebook or connecting with them on Tumblr….unlike many of us adults who are more shy when connecting with people on LinkedIn, for example. I’ve watched more than once as she’s joined a new team, or participated in a youth group activity, where they are all asking, “Are you on Facebook?” Once they get to know each other better, they are also more open to introducing new friends to current friends, thus expanding their “networks.”
It has been so interesting to watch my daughter as she uses social media to network in her own world – while she will still be a ball of nerves that first day of school, some of her worries have been alleviated through her social media networking. Us adults can take a lesson or two from teens to be more comfortable in our networking activities.