It created chaos for my entire family. As the news spread, their phones and BlackBerrys sounded like Vegas slot machines. Dad is on Facebook. For years, I resisted the urge to chat, tweet, link, or join any form of online community other than the odd hockey chat room. If I didn't talk to you 42 years ago, why should I talk to you now?
But I stopped fighting the inevitable. The face of business is young today. Generations X, Y, Z, and the Baby Busters are a lot more comfortable using tools such as social networking to communicate and collaborate. Increasingly, these are our customers and decision-makers.
To learn more, I signed up for two of the most popular sites around: Facebook and LinkedIn. Here's what this ultraconservative Baby Boomer discovered.
Registration is easy. All you need is an email address that you don't mind sharing (a free gmail account is a good idea). Once you're official, it's time to tell the world who you are by completing an online profile. This is a big step. Facebook, LinkedIn, and others use information in your profile to suggest connections with people who have similar interests.
Minutes after I asked her to be my very first Facebook friend, my 20-year-old daughter called me in a panic. Apparently, the boxes I initially checked on my profile page indicated I was bisexual and was interested in getting to “know” both men and women (in the “biblical” sense).
Facebook versus LinkedIn
Privacy is a big deal to me, especially on Facebook, where the default settings on what information you expose to the world seem to change from week to week. I have no interest in telling 600 million people that I'm away on vacation and here are photos from my trip. LinkedIn is a different story. It's mainly used for professional networking, and once I started connecting with people, I was amazed at how productive my network became.
Experience counts on LinkedIn
When you respond to a question in a forum or post something about how you solved a customer's problem, it's distributed and discussed across the network. Do this often enough and you can build up a loyal following. Prospects will notice and seek you out.
I was not prepared for the onslaught of interruptions that would accompany my foray into social networking. Every time one of my online pals changes his profile, feels like chatting, or meets someone new, I get an email. I also get hits from so-called friends I've never met. Most appear to be salespeople flogging their products or services to MSM. Decide early on what types of people you want to connect with. My rule of thumb is not to accept or send invitations unless I know the person. That may change, but I'm still trying to decide if I would do business with someone who won't pick up the phone to introduce themselves.
Today, there are more people in our industry sharing what they know about trucking — and having that conversation on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere. Social networking is no more a fad than television was in the 1950s.
As a business tool, we're just starting to figure out what to do with it. Personally, there's no doubt that my experience helped me be a more effective communicator. Nothing gets my kids' attention faster than a Facebook post from Dad.
Editor's note: Once you're on Facebook, don't foget to “Like” the Fleet Owner page.
Mike McCarron is managing partner at the MSM Group of Companies, which specializes in transportation and logistics service between Canada and the United States.