Jeff  Carter

There has been an explosion in social media networks over the past ten years. The younger set gets it, and aggressively uses them. The older set may or may not. I know quite a few people over the age of 50 that pooh pooh social media and it’s uses. They might acknowledge that there is something there, but they refuse to believe it will change opinion, or create a wave. They also see it as a superficial way to connect to people.

Hey, I wouldn’t disagree that it’s superficial. To really get to know someone, you have to press the flesh. That’s why the book, “A Million Cups of Coffee” might be one of the great all time titles! Once you establish your network, even if you are in contact on social media, it pays to meet once in awhile. The good news is if you are both avid users of social media, the small talk is shorter and the real productive action happens sooner in the conversation.

What I found especially interesting about the LinkedIn IPO ($LNKD) is that a lot of people joined post IPO that hadn’t joined already. I suppose the same will happen with Facebook ($FB).

For you the older set that hasn’t gotten into the social media thing, here is a primer. Be forewarned, as soon as I type this it might be obsolete! There is continual innovation in this sort of thing that will escalate with the Facebook IPO. But if you just got an iPad and are looking for ways to populate it with aps, this will help you.

Instead of getting intimidated by the many networks out there, segment them and view them as tools. When you decide what you want to use them for, it makes the decision of whether to join or not to join a lot easier.

First there are the big four social networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+.

Facebook is a place to post stuff about you. You can reconnect with friends here, and connect with existing friends. Unless you are trying to develop yourself as a brand, it’s not a place that you will actively meet new unknown people to you unless there is a common bridge between you. It’s really your personal page. People can get to know you better here. In social media, Facebook is “flat”. Facebook is free, but you will get targeted ads. Facebook is a platform that a lot of smaller boutique social networks use to launch their networks. For example, the gaming company Zynga ($ZNGA) wouldn’t be what it is without Facebook. If you don’t know what Zynga is, think Farmville and Words With Friends.

Jeff Carter

Jeffrey Carter is an independent speculator. He has been trading since 1988. His blog site, Points and Figures was named by Minyanville as one of The 20 Most Influential Blogs in Financial Media.