Creating your online soapbox
It's no shame to have kids who are miles ahead of you in Facebook proficiency. In fact, we might worry about you if you spent as much time on FB as a typical teenager does. But is your online soapbox supporting your career goals? If not, building your social networking chops could be one of your 2010 resolutions. Here are seven tips to get you started:
Launch a LinkedIn profile, if you don't have one already, and invite a dozen or two of your friends and business-mates to join your network. LinkedIn is the 800-lb. gorilla of business networking sites, with over 50 million users. It's too valuable a networking, research and introduction engine to overlook. Don't let the New Year catch you Linked-out!
Once you've got a LinkedIn profile, create a customized url for yourself (example: www.linkedin.com/in/lizryan) and add it to your email signature, your resume (if you're job-hunting) and your business card.
Get a free Twitter account, if only to follow other folks' tweets. A tweet is a 140-character micro-blog-post, and if you don't feel like writing and blasting out your own tweets, you can learn a ton just by reading what other people write.
Build your online networking confidence and your network by joining an online discussion community, like my Front Range Career Forum (http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/frontrangecareeforum) or the Rocky Mountain Internet Users Group (http://www.yahoogroups.com/group/rmiug-discuss).
Visit Meetup.com to find groups of like-minded whatevers (brushless-motor enthusiasts, bankers, bloggers, or opera-singing HR folks) and arrange face-to-face meetings with them.
If your email signature isn't already doing its share to support your online soapbox, now is a great time to beef it up. Apart from your customized LinkedIn profile url, other candidates for inclusion in your email signature are your Twitter handle, your blog url and your snappy tagline. Job-seekers: you can benefit from a tagline, too! Make sure it's specific and relevant to your audience (replace "Savvy Senior Marketer" with "Wireless Start-up Marketing Chief ISO New Challenge," e.g.)
Got all that? Now, start putting your online soapbox to use. For avid networkers, a new contact-of-substance per week is a reasonable goal; for newbies and introverts, one a month is do-able and satisfying.
My eighty-year-old dad sent me a LinkedIn invitation, proving that online networking is well into the nothing-like-early-adopter stage. What are you waiting for?