I resisted Facebook for a very, very long time.
My sister-in-law kept telling me that I needed to get on it and reconnect, but all I could think of was, "Reconnect with who?" In my opinion, Facebook and MySpace were strictly the domain of teen-agers and perverts, specifically the ones you'd find on Dateline's "To Catch a Predator."
I don't know what spurred me to do it, but I finally created a profile on Facebook. In about a week's time, I'd managed to reconnect with about 80 of my former classmates, going all the way back to elementary school. Pretty soon I became one of those nerds that updates their profile from their phone, posting videos of such earth-shattering importance as two toddlers dancing with Elmo.
While Facebook is certainly a lot of fun and it makes it easy to keep up with far-flung friends and family, the jury is still out on its usefulness to business. I know every company seems to have a Facebook page these days, but, honestly, do I really need to become a Facebook "fan" of my credit union?
I feel the same way about Twitter. I just can't see how this would be useful or practical in any way in my life — or anyone else's, for that matter. I do not need to get a blow-by-blow account of Proctor and Gamble's latest product launch. Twitter seems appropriate only for D-list celebrities desperate for attention. Heidi and Spencer and the rest of the cast of The Hills, I'm looking at you.
A far better online social networking tool for business is LinkedIn.com. You create a profile, which is really an online resume, and you create links to colleagues that also have LinkedIn profiles. It's pretty useful because LinkedIn can introduce you to new contacts via your colleagues' contact lists, which helps facilitate the networking process. I've gained a lot of connections through LinkedIn.
LinkedIn also has a feature whereby you can write recommendations for people – or have them write them for you. This is a great tool if you're in the job market, or if you're just down in the dumps and need an ego boost. It's one-stop shopping for your references.
So, yes, Virginia, social media can be a valuable tool, and not just for wasting time while trying to look busy.