Social networking Web sites can work for business, speaker says

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"Making New Technology Work For You, Not Against You" was the topic of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce's Women in Business luncheon Tuesday.

The guest speaker was Sarah Johnston, the director of career development for Northwestern Mutual Financial Network in Augusta.

Q: Why should you join a social networking site?

A: "Opportunity doesn't knock anymore. It chirps, beeps, buzzes and vibrates. It's important to be on the cusp of it. You don't want to get left behind," Ms. Johnston said.

Human resources directors and managers are using these sites for recruiting purposes. They're also a great way to network and find employment, she said.

Q: What are examples of social networking sites?

A: LinkedIn, Facebook, Ning, Twitter, MySpace, Yahoo! Groups, AIM, Flicker and Second Life.

MySpace is the most popular site, and Facebook is close behind. LinkedIn is becoming increasingly popular among professionals, she said.

Q: How do you decide which site to join?

A: "It's important when you're picking a site to consider its source and the purpose that you're using it for," Ms. Johnston said.

At LinkedIn, every Fortune 500 company is represented. Twenty percent of the international site's members are outside the U.S.

The average person on LinkedIn is 41 years old, has an income of $109,000, and 95 percent have attended college, according to LinkedIn.com statistics.

The site helps users find customers and clients, understand the market and make connections in a new city, company or industry, she said.

On Facebook, 34 percent of users are professionals in the workplace. The fastest growing demographic is people 25 and older, she said.

Q: How do you make the most of social networking sites?

A: "It's really important to stay active," Ms. Johnston said.

She recommends that people in sales add the client to their LinkedIn contacts before attending a business meeting. They should look up the client's connections, bring the list to the meeting and ask for referrals.

When looking for a job or clients, she suggests locating contacts who "will add value, help you reach your goals and are committed to networking."

Ms. Johnston said that users should ask trusted friends to refer them to their contacts. They should also have separate accounts for social and professional use.

Businesses can start a Facebook page to advertise to their target audience, Ms. Johnston said.

Reach LaTina Emerson at (706) 823-3227 or latina.emerson@augustachronicle.com.


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