How Facebook Can Help Your Business
Sarah Place, the president and CEO of Raleigh, N.C.–based Place Trade Financial, “thought it was for kids—people in college.” Jerry McLaughlin, the CEO of San Mateo–based Branders.com, “hated the idea” of the site because he thought it would take up too much time, and he’s “not a chitchatty person.” And Denise McVey, the president of Boonton, N.J.–based S3, an advertising, marketing and public relations firm, “mocked other adult friends” who used the site.
Ah, how the resistant come around. “I really had no idea how powerful it was, and not just for kids,” says McVey. Though each one of these Facebook holdouts finally joined for a different reason—Place did it to keep her spot as the “cool aunt” to her nieces, McVey wanted to check up on her stepdaughter’s profile, and McLaughlin’s best friend from grade school threatened (in a friendly way) to impersonate him online if he didn’t sign up—they’ve each found their place on the social-networking site.
They’re definitely not alone. Facebook, which turns six in February, claimed to have more than 300 million active users by the fourth quarter of 2009. The fastest-growing demographic? Adults age 35 and older.
McLaughlin, whose wife “is a big Facebook gal,” was living in China when his friend finally convinced him to start a profile. He says the site has been best for catching up with people he doesn’t talk to regularly, especially extended family. “It’s like the family-and-friends newspaper. I pick it up and read it, but if I don’t write a letter to the editor that day, nobody is put off,” he says. Now, when he sees his second cousins, they don’t have to spend all of their time replaying a highlights reel of the last few years. “I’m up on things, and it’s a little easier to talk.”
Place was “shocked” how quickly she became a regular on the site. Since signing up, she’s reconnected with friends from as far back as fifth grade. The self-described former “Army brat” says Facebook has “allowed [her] to revisit things from the past that [she] had completely forgotten about.” She recently got back in touch with a close friend who had been “lost” for 20 years. “You slip back into time with those people.”
Though McVey also enjoys the time-travel component of Facebook, she leaves the site open in a browser window all day in order to “reach out” to friends instead of using text messages or email. “I’ll pop on to see if a friend wants to grab dinner,” she says, “and I use it to connect in real time with others, like when the Yankees were winning the World Series. It was great to go through it together with my fellow Yankee fans.
Still wary? Follow these tips to keep Facebook from feeling like kids’ stuff.
1. Set privacy settings so that only the people you “friend” (and not “friends of friends”) can view your information. You can even limit viewing to certain friends.
2. Reserve Facebook for friends outside work. A brief explanation to work friends won’t result in hurt feelings.
3. Block those apps. It’s inevitable that people will invite you to play games or send you quizzes on the site. But if you block each application when you’re invited, you’ll never have to see them again.
4. Unfriend the obnoxious. Hide the boring. No guilt necessary.
After years of working at home solo, freelance writer JENNA SCHNUER has found the water cooler-ness of Facebook to be quite refreshing. And useful.