If you’re not on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, you need to get on for your business’ sake, Gary Vaynerchuk told business owners at America’s Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C.

Vaynerchuk illustrated the necessity of this message when he asked the nearly full ballroom of attendees, “How many of you think Twitter is stupid?” and half of them raised their hands. Then similar numbers raised their hands to say they once thought cellphones and the Internet itself were stupid, but all admitted they use both today.

The arguments people are having about social media today are the same ones they had about those now-ubiquitous developments just 10 to 15 years ago, Vaynerchuk said. And arguing instead of getting on board is just a waste of time, he said. “Innovation doesn’t care about anyone,” it just flows on and will run you over if you don’t jump on and ride the wave. (read more…)

I attended — and tweeted from — the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry’s Technical Conference in Nashville, Tenn. On the final day, Rob Krebs from the American Chemistry Council led a session on online and social media with a simple premise: influencing the online discussion of topics and keywords that are crucial to your company.

It sounds trite and condescending to say that companies still fear e-mail, much less the Web, or that they feel any online communication is a legal minefield. Yet that was the mood among some participants in CPI’s social media session I attended. Professionals can’t influence the online conversation if they can’t even get company approval to join it.

Another false assumption is that online discussion about companies and industries and their products is always negative. But it’s not, said Krebs, who presented one study showing that most conversations about relevant keywords are “neutral.” What does “neutral” mean? (read more…)

You’re convinced there’s a case for using a particular social tool as part of your job. But you look around you and it seems like you’re the only one. Your boss thinks it’s too risky. The department head thinks its a fad. Your contemporaries are all stressed out enough as it is without adopting some new tools. How will you ever build organizational support for this?

The answer lies in being able to look outside your own little work group and find allies in unusual places. The good news is, you’re far from the first person to have to do this. There are well-worn paths for building a coalition of support for social tools within an organization.

Here are the six people who are most likely to help you get a social media effort off the ground: (read more…)

Social networks have always had an uneasy relationship with customization. The earliest social networks gave you few customization options, if any. Then Myspace taught us all that unlimited profile customization can be a scary, animated-GIF-filled nightmare. Facebook gives you the options it wants you to have. And Twitter’s first-party user experience has been thoroughly surpassed by third-party clients in a dizzying array of flavors.

So what about Google+? The newest entry to the social network major leagues is taking a page from Twitter’s handbook, letting third-party application developers do all of the heavy lifting. But instead of letting these new feature coalesce into full-blown clients that render the first-party experience obsolete, these improvements are being channeled into extensions for Google’s Chrome browser.

The result (ideally) is a robust, evolving feature set that’s easy to customize, doesn’t overwhelm the user and doesn’t make the core experience completely irrelevant.

The downside to this approach is that Google hasn’t done a great job of letting users know they can improve their experience with plug-ins — and it hasn’t made it easy to identify the most useful tools on the market. (read more…)

Donna Farrugia is executive director of The Creative Group, a specialized staffing firm that places a comprehensive range of design and marketing professionals with organizations. She has more than 25 years of experience in marketing, business development and management. I interviewed Farrugia on the trend of using social-networking websites for business and how executives can create and maintain an effective online presence. An edited version of her answers follows.

What are the best ways to use social networking for business?

In addition to networking, these sites allow professionals to engage with others and highlight their skills and expertise. But it’s important to always be careful about what you post and with whom you’re sharing the information. Sharing links to news articles relevant to your industry or commenting on others’ posts, for example, are great ways to demonstrate your knowledge of and passion for a certain topic. Providing updates on recent career accomplishments, such as a project you completed, also gives existing and prospective business contacts an idea of where you are in your career. (read more…)