Why My Mother Loves the Internet

A few years back I did something that had serious ramifications for my family. There were unexpected consequences, some serendipitous, others just scary. It started as simple fun but then became increasingly intense. There were moments I thought we would lose control. But then things plateaued and leveled out. But for a minute there…

What did I do? I opened a Facebook account for my mother.

My Mother and Facebook

You’d think a woman over 70 would just befriend a few people here and there, track news from the grandkids, look at pictures, etc. But in this case, it became much more than just a medium for family updates. My mother, like so many before her, was sucked into Facebook like a star into a black hole. When she came for visits (and keep in mind that this is a once-a-year event as we live on different continents), she would spend many an hour online reading updates, and in the beginning, replying freely. Just like my daughter.

So why would Facebook, or other social media, be so attractive to grandmas and grandkids alike? Sociologists have been examining this for years. Universities and research centres have reams of data, studies and papers on the subject. From all that data many conclusions can be derived. Among other things, people use Facebook for communication, to keep in touch and to be involved: “I want to see you.” On the other hand, they use it as a means of public display and recognition: “I want to be seen.”

What’s important to understand here while you’re getting online and creating your web presence is what a powerful tool this is. When millions of people get Facebook accounts to see or be seen, they are in dire need of other subjects and objects. Your web presence is crucial to their virtual survival. The digital generation, a generation of activists, consumers, students and what-have-you, is looking for what you are offering, and many of them are looking within the social media world.

Therefore, you must understand the holistic approach to creating your web presence. Today, IMHO, too much emphasis is put on Search Engine Optimization. Yes, it is an important step in getting people to your website by chance (because if they are looking for you, you’ll be found as long as the site is built half right), but SEO is just one of many stages in a successful web presence. SEO may help get people to your site, but it won’t get them there if the people you need aren’t using search engines. (And don’t get me started on how so many people ignore what happens once they get there — see previous blog entries.)

If your clientele is 70-year-old stay-at-home grandmothers, you should know that they are using social media and that you can reach them by building a Facebook identity, updating your LinkedIn profile, Tweeting intelligently, blogging and building the right website.

My mother loves the Internet because it keeps her connected, involved and empowered, just like it does for her 15-year-old granddaughter. Your organization’s web identity must include social media to engage your clients.

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