Do you have a blog or a Facebook profile?
Have you edited a wiki or commented online to a news article?
If you said "yes" to any of these questions, congratulations. According to the 2008 Cone Business in Social Media Study, you''re one of 60 percent of Americans who are actively using Web 2.0 or social media marketing tools to learn more about their industry, get news and information or even find a job.
The web is so much more than just static websites and online shopping.
Sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter enable you to share your thoughts, ideas and personal data through free, interactive web tools.
If you think, "That''s just for young people," check out an article Time magazine recently published called, "Why Facebook is for Old Fogies."
Despite many misnomers about social networking and other Web 2.0 vehicles, these interactive tools are quickly changing traditional ways of doing business.
By familiarizing yourself with the most popular Web 2.0 resources, you can maximize their potential to grow your business.
Old Way: Rolodexes And Resumes
New Way: LinkedIn
LinkedIn is an online networking site that currently links more than 30 million experienced professionals from around the world, representing 150 industries.
The site allows members to connect with other professionals with similar interests to share information and resources.
It also helps you to keep in touch with old colleagues, sales representatives or employees.
LinkedIn is also a great place to post and search for jobs.
If you don''t have a LinkedIn profile, Cara Rybarik, an executive search consultant at the M. Wood Company in Chicago, strongly recommends setting one up.
"LinkedIn is special because it does not put you in a compromising position to post your profile," says Rybarik. "All professionals should have a LinkedIn profile, regardless of whether or not they are actively seeking employment. In fact, it has almost been seen as being unprofessional not to have a profile on LinkedIn."
To maximize the site''s potential, be sure to complete your profile in its entirety by listing previous positions, qualifications, affiliations and educational background.
This will increase the amount of times your profile appears in searches.
"The world of executive recruiting is changing," notes Rybarik. "More of the online focus rests on social networking sites. Job boards are saturated with outdated resumes, so LinkedIn allows you to stay connected so companies can locate qualified candidates."
Members can join specific groups on LinkedIn that are designed for professionals with similar interests.
These groups are useful forums for asking and answering questions.
A search using the keyword "cleaning" on LinkedIn''s groups'' page reveals several different cleaning-related groups, such as "Janitorial Management," which is a group for owners of janitorial companies and managers of janitorial staff.
Another example is "Cleaning and Restoration Experts," a group that encourages participation by carpet, upholstery and tile/grout cleaners or water, fire and mold restoration experts.
Another LinkedIn feature is the ability to "recommend" contacts.
In the past, departing employees might have asked for a letter of recommendation for future job interviews.
Now, employers, colleagues or other contacts can simply post an online recommendation of the individual.
This is a great way for building service contractors or cleaning companies to obtain testimonials from satisfied customers.
With the customer''s permission, these testimonials can be used for other promotional material and marketing collateral.
Old Way: Class Reunions
New Way: Facebook
Initially designed for college students, Facebook has opened its doors to users of any age and is great for reconnecting with old classmates and lost friends.
When you create an account, you can include such information as the schools you''ve attended, your employers and more.
Facebook does its magic and connects you with people sharing the same profile information.
Facebook is primarily considered more of a personal rather than a business tool, but that is changing with new Facebook sites from H&R Block, BMW and The Economist.
Even software vendors like SalesForce recognize this value and equip their applications to incorporate Facebook for functions like viral marketing and employee recruitment.
It''s easy to set up a Facebook profile because of its step-by-step format.
But, before setting up a Facebook profile, you should ask yourself the following questions: Why do I want to create this profile? Who do I want to find me? How accessible should I make my profile?
Be sure to utilize the friends feature in Facebook so you can segment your friends into work or personal groups.
Then, as you upload photos and post comments, you can select which group may view them.
This way, customers and colleagues will not see pictures of you in a swimsuit with a piña colada in hand, unless you want them to.
Old Way: The Telephone
New Way: Twitter
Twitter asks one question, "What are you doing?"
In 140 characters, Twitter users update their status with "tweets," advising friends and contacts what they are looking at online, doing at work, reading, etc.
While you might initially ask, "Why would anyone care what I''m doing?," Twitter is a great tool that is being increasingly used by business professionals to share information, establish thought leadership and distinguish themselves from their peers.
Like Facebook, joining Twitter is easy.
If you set up a profile for your business, use the name of your business as your username to build brand identity.
Even if you do not plan on using Twitter for your business right away, it is highly recommended that you register your username immediately so you can control the "tweets" and prevent others from acting on your behalf.
Once you establish your username, fill out your contact information and a short bio; then, you are ready to go.
The next step is to look for other industry professionals to follow — they are referred to on Twitter as "tweeps."
These tweeps can be manufacturer representatives, distributors or other cleaning professionals.
You can use the search function within Twitter to search your existing address book for potential contacts or search by name.
In addition, you can use a third-party application, such as Tweep Search, to identify other contacts.
In addition to professional contacts, you can also follow tweeps who keep you updated on personal interests, such as sports teams, musicians, food, travel and news.
For instance, if you really like Dunkin'' Donuts coffee, you can follow @dunkindonuts to get immediate information about special promotions, new menu items or discounts in your area.
Keep in mind that the number of people you follow will continually evolve, so do not feel compelled to find everyone you want to follow right away.
Once you have established your profile and selected some of the individuals you wish to follow, you can then start using Twitter to send "tweets."
Angela Maiers, educator, author and blogger who now leads Maier Educational Services, advises Twitter users to employ the 70-20-10 rule when tweeting:
Share Resources (70 percent): Tweet links to interesting articles, websites or other online resources you come across
An example tweet would be, "Web 2.0 article in the April issue of CMM is a must-read!" + link. Tip: To shorten links, go to sites such as www.tinycc.com or www.budurl.com
Collaborations (20 percent): Engage your followers and those you follow by replying to their tweets asking questions and collaborating with them. Tip: Reply to someone by tweeting @username + your message
Chit-chat (10 percent): These tweets are meant to share details about your activities, preferences and observations. An example chit-chat tweet might be, "Just spent the afternoon in training with a great manufacturer sales rep."
Because Twitter enables users to receive specific tweets directly to their phone through a text message, you can also send and receive tweets when you''re away from your desk.
If you have a specific cleaning-related issue, send out a tweet.
Your followers can assist by providing a link to a page that details how to resolve the issue.
Think of social media tools like microfiber.
Fifteen years ago, few people had even heard about microfiber.
Now, there are few facilities that do not use microfiber.
While you might be hesitant to begin using the tools outlined in this article because you think they might be just for young people or a waste of time, think again.
These new resources can help build your personal and professional networks, solve problems and perform your jobs more efficiently and effectively.
And the best news is that they won''t cost you anything but your time.
See you online.
Kimberly Legocki is the marketing services manager at JohnsonDiversey in Sturtevant, WI. She has developed successful marketing programs for the aviation, software and chemical industries. Follow her at www.twitter.com/kimlegocki or read her blog at kimlegocki.blogspot.com.
Debbie Krupitzer is the eMarketing manager at JohnsonDiversey. She has created strategic internet marketing programs for Fortune 500 Companies.