I recently read a New York Times article that essentially said that social influencers will dominate the world in the next few years (if they don’t already) and will take the lead in major societal functions including government and business. Even allowing for some exaggeration, the prospect left me somewhat shaken. Moreover, among the other questions it presented were some that are difficult to answer: “Will this brave new world allow middle-aged and older adults to have an impact? If we’re still interested in starting businesses, effectuating change or just having a more secure financial future, are we doomed to failure?
I recognize that many of us are perfectly happy with our lives, have no interest in social media, and think that a lot of it is just nonsense or noise. But there are some, and I’m one, who still yearn for a different future or want to become active in new arenas and are flummoxed by the plethora of available platforms, new media and the seeming need for a glossary to understand what’s going on (what the heck is “TikTok”—I’m still stuck figuring out how to upload YouTube videos and wondering why people post the same photos on Facebook and Instagram).
So, what can we do? I hardly think there’s room for more than one Instagrammer known as “Greenwich Granny” and a video channel devoted to my makeup tips would consist of me trying various anti-aging products and concluding that nothing short of surgery will truly help my wrinkles. Do I have to resign myself to the fact that any ventures I try will have to be done “old school”—sending emails, contacting people I know and asking for intros. Or can I, and those of us who want a jumpstart, use even more modern techniques to help us?
Well, I’m not an expert—if I were, my Twitter account would have more than 25 followers—but I have become active in a number of new areas over the past few years, and I have a few ideas about this subject.
Figure Out Your Goals.
Do you need a job? Do you want investors for an intriguing project? Are you looking for friendship, financial security, or just want to use your skills in a different way? Many of us, and I’m one, have several goals and feel that there isn’t enough time left to achieve them. Forget about time, because who knows how long any of us, including young people, have. Focus on what you want or need most and make it a priority.
Use Traditional Sources.
Don’t assume that the old ways are useless. If you need a job, contact friends first because they are the most likely to be willing to help. Investigate job sites such as Indeed.com. If you’re desperate for an income, walk around your neighborhood and see if anyone is hiring. For example, there’s a Target store opening in my NYC neighborhood that is looking for workers. It might not be your dream job, but it could tide you over until something better comes along. And if you’ve moved and want to meet people, check out the Y or similar organizations for classes, concerts, programs, and activities.
Fully Utilize Online Sources You Are Familiar With.
For years, I’ve had my profile up on LinkedIn, occasionally adding new contacts and updating it. However, I’ve never congratulated anyone on a new job or a job anniversary or anything like that. But I recently read an article that said that rather than using the “canned” congratulations offered by the site, you should think about writing a personal congratulations that means something—for example, if someone writes an article, read it and then tell the person how you enjoyed it, found it stimulating etc. Be personal and real with your LinkedIn contacts and you might be able to tap into them if you go into new ventures. The same is true for Facebook. Most of us use it to update friends on our lives and check out what’s going on in theirs, but if you need a job or are interested in a particular opportunity, say something about it. And if you have a company or venture, don’t forget to set up a website. The lack of one can indicate a lack of professionalism or resources.
If You Want to Do Something New, Investigate All Sources, Including Online Resources You’ve Never Tried.
After I got divorced, I moved into the city and decided I wanted to get re-involved in theater and music. I joined the board of a small theater company and have spent a few years trying to get involved in any way I can. I subscribed to mailing lists and began to be invited to workshop productions, went to see experimental theater, took a theatrical investing course, and ultimately began investing in plays (in a relatively limited fashion—if I had dynastic wealth, I probably wouldn’t be writing this article). And, I’ve become involved in a few Kickstarter and social media campaigns as well as online auctions, which have given me both a knowledge base and have freed me up from some of the fear I used to feel when confronting modern social media. So set up an Indiegogo or Kickstarter campaign if you need financial assistance, get on Instagram or Snapchat and maybe even take a look at creating a video channel for your interests or ventures. Ask family members, both young and old, for advice about what platforms they look at and which are no longer in vogue. Create a plan for what you want and then decide which modern tools would be most effective to help you implement it.
I’m not saying that you need to keep up with all the most recent tools, and I seriously doubt whether many/any of us will become “influencers”(although I just want to let Olay know that I’m willing and eager to promote its Regenerist line), but I for one am not ready to let those youngsters grab all the glory, money, customers and ideas.