mom on cell phone “What happens if I ‘befriend’ someone who doesn’t want to ‘befriend’ me back?” asks my Mom.

“It’s just ‘friend’ Ma,” I respond. “Ditch the ‘be-friend.’ You sound like Hamlet.”

“No, that’s wron g,” she tells me. “'Friend' isn’t a verb.”

My Mom is in her late 50s and recently got a Facebook account. An admitted skeptic, she previously didn’t see the value or purpose of  “doing Facebook.”  She thought it was a kid thing -- something too technically complicated and too socially intrusive for moms in their late 50s.

That was until this past Christmas, when my Mom’s inbox saw more holiday greetings than her mailbox.  Many of the expected annual family letters and pictures from her childhood and college friends came in the form of emails, with links to blogs and Flickr accounts, and “Happy New Year” signatures ending with lines like, “check out my Facebook page for pictures of my son’s wedding.”

It was a bittersweet change for my Mom to have the good news of the past year living in her laptop rather than hanging on her door frame on familiar holiday stationary for all to see.  Yet, she now saw the value in having her very own Facebook account. (It's only the beginning; other social media accounts are soon to follow!) I got her set up and gave her the following words of wisdom -- words that can be helpful to any Facebook first-timer:

1. Your Profile is Your Canvas

You’re not required to share everything. Make your profile truly your own, and express yourself as you please.  Whether you want to emphasize your career and education, your family life, or both , or just your name -- your Facebook profile is whatever you want it to be.  Take some time to figure out what that is.

2. Take a Deep Tech Breath

News Feed? Group Invitations? Farmville? Okay, so there’s a lot to take in if this is your first social media platform, and a lot of it won’t make sense at first. Play around (You can’t break anything!), and don’t feel stupid about asking your kids or coworkers what to do. They will be psyched to pass on their knowledge. Keep in mind, too: Social media technology is changing all the time, so we are all constantly learning.

3. Don’t Throw Away Your Stamps

... or address book, business cards or photo albums. Sure, a lot of what you need to keep in touch is accessible through Facebook and other social media outlets , but that doesn’t mean you have to part with all of your old ways. Take baby steps. Make note of those with who you can keep in touch sans paper, and see how this list grows over time.

4. Don’t Friend Fret

The concept of asking someone to be your friend may seem a little 1st grade-like, but don’t revert to thinking that way. If you find someone you want to connect or reconnect with -- friend them! Don’t worry about whether they will friend you back, or how they will react to your friend request. This is the Facebook way of saying, “Hi, how are you?”

5. Expand Your Reach

So maybe you initially signed up to see pictures of your friend’s new grandchildren. Still, don't hesitate to explore everything Facebook has to offer.  Search for groups that relate to your personal and career interests, check out Marketplace, see who Facebook suggests you reconnect with.  Are you a small business owner or marketer?  Explore how other businesses are taking advantage of Facebook and consider the option and benefit of creating a Facebook business page . You’ll be surprised to see how easy it is to navigate Facebook to build a network beyond those with whom you initially signed up to keep in touch during the holidays!

FB wall post

“Did you see I Facebook messaged you for Valentine’s Day?” she asked me today, proudly.

“I did. Great job, Ma!”

“Okay, good!” she replied. “Oh, and your card is in the mail too.”

This article was written by Julie Devaney, a member of our consultant team at HubSpot.  Check out Julie's Bio .

Photo by Kevin Dooley

 

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Originally published Mar 15, 2010 8:30:00 AM, updated October 01 2013

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