Why My Mother and Your Boss Need Social Networks

July 23, 2012 Darcy Jacobsen

Last weekend I set my mother up with a LinkedIn account. She went kicking and screaming the whole way, and I’m pretty sure she hasn’t actually logged in, since. She’s a pretty high-ranking hiring manager in healthcare, and when I tried to explain to her that she should really be engaging in a larger dialogue with colleagues and prospective employees, she just wrinkled her nose at me and started in with the questions.

  • Why do I need to be on this? I don’t see the point.
  • Who can see this? What if I don’t want them knowing things about me?
  • Is this going to be a big waste of my time?

Turns out my mother’s concerns about social networking map directly to those outlined in this article on Harvard Business Review, and its antecedent article last fall. Specifically, my mother exhibits the reactions of “Flippancy,” “Fear” and “Folly” that 50% of organizations still bring to social networking.

Now, let me be clear. Mom is no dummy. She had a personal computer in 1986. (Yes, she once erased the K drive at work thinking it was on a floppy disk she had, but that was a long time ago.) She has an iPhone and three email addresses. She listens to all her books on her iPod. She’s not a latecomer to technology by any stretch. She’s also a brilliant woman and a fine manager. She writes a column for her professional organization that frankly, she could and should be putting on a blog. In short, she’s just the sort of person you’d expect to find on LinkedIn.

But like so many senior managers, she’s not comfortable with social networking. And like so many, she’s missing an important movement that could make her better and more successful at her job.

When you talk social media to my mother, she thinks Facebook. She thinks all she’s missing is Farmville and LolCats. She thinks she doesn’t want to be lumped in with colossal celebrity Twitter fails she’s read about. She thinks it would be a big waste of her time. And let’s face it, she’s not alone.

But social media transcends entertainment. It is a valuable professional tool. It is also, as HBR was pointing out, a valuable tool for organizations. It forges closer ties based on affinities and shared experience and knowledge. It also yields an abundance of information that is useful for managing employees and brands. Finally, it represents a real opportunity to frame thinking about the things that matter to you, whether that is in reinforcing company values and employee engagement through social employee recognition, defining your own professional profile via LinkedIn, or managing your brand via Twitter.

Are you like my mother? You’re reading this blog, so chances are you’re not. But you may have a few people in your organization that are. I encourage you then, to read the HBR article, which offers some  pointers on how to challenge and alter entrenched negative thinking about social networks, and bring executives up to date.

I’ll be forwarding it to my mom.

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