Two “Old Birds” Took Over KRAFT’s Social Media

Written By: Kim Hong - May• 02•12

KRAFT hired two octogenarians to manager social media for two days in honor of KRAFT's 75th anniversary!

To celebrate KRAFT’s 75th anniversary, they handed over their social media duties to “Frankie and Dottie,” two octogenarians who’ve been eating mac & cheese for 75 years. Frankie, 87, and Dottie, 86, were in charge of managing KRAFT’s Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for two days.

And here are a few things Frankie and Dottie did during those two days:

What is planking? (YouTube)


Sample tweets (Twitter: @kraftmacncheese)


Facebook updates (


It looks like this macaroni-loving duo had a blast with KRAFT’s social media channels. By the end of the social media reign, Frankie described the experience as mind blowing and heartwarming. She especially liked having all those nice young ad agency people hanging around her California home. [Source: Today's THV]

How do you feel about social media? Could you do what Frankie and Dottie did for KRAFT? Do you think they did a good job?

How to Find Your Friends on Facebook

Written By: Kim Hong - Apr• 17•12

Facebook has changed the lives of so many people around the world. There are over 845 million active Facebook users and it’s no surprise that senior citizens are the fastest growing segment in the U.S., according to Pew Internet and American Life Project.

I’m sure you’ve heard all the wonderful stories about people reuniting with grade school friends, rekindling a relationship with a long lost love, or reconnecting with their kids or grandchildren on Facebook.

If you’d like to learn how you can find your long lost friends on Facebook, here are a few ways to help you do this:

Email Contact List

1. After you log in to Facebook, visit and a long list of email providers and communication/chat networks (e.g. AOL, Hotmail, Comcast, Gmail, Yahoo, Skype) will appear.


2. Select the email accounts you would like to import contacts from and enter your email/username and/or password.

3. Click “Find Friends” and your contacts will be imported. A list of friends from your contacts who have an existing Facebook will appear

4. Select the friends you wish to “Add” to your Facebook account.

5. Last, but not least, for the email contacts that do not have an existing Facebook account, you will be asked if you would like to invite them to join you on Facebook.


Search Feature

1. After logging on to Facebook, you can type in the name of the person you are looking for in the “Search” bar located at the top of the page.

2. Your search result will include People, Facebook Pages, Places, Groups, etc., so you will need to filter so that only “People” appear in your search results.  To do this, click on the “People” tab located in the left navigation bar. Your search result will now include only People with the name you entered previously in the search bar.

3. If the person you are looking for does not appear on the first page of results, you can narrow your results by entering where they live, where they went to school, or the name of the company they work for. To do this, at the top of the page you will see listed under “Search Tools” the following filters, Location, Education, and Workplace. Select the filter you wish to apply and enter their location, school or workplace.


People You May Know (Facebook Suggestions)

The first two methods listed above should help you get started. However, another popular feature that has helped me reconnect with friends is the “People You May Know” feature. I suggest looking at this after you have added a handful of friends because Facebook will suggest friends based on the people you are already connected with on Facebook.

People You May Know looks at, among other things, your current friend list and their friends, your education info and your work info. If you are already friends on Facebook with some people from your last job, for example, you may find some more of your former coworkers (assuming they are visible to you in search) among the “People You May Know’ suggestions.

This feature appears to the right of your Home Page.

I hope you find who you’re looking for. Feel free to post questions or comments below!


Social Media Provides “Sunshine”

Written By: Guest Contributor - Apr• 10•12

Social media provides much needed sunshine for seniors

My grandmother was born in 1898 and passed away in 1979 – at the age of 82 – long before the Internet became the cultural phenomena it is, today.

One of my fondest memories of Grandma Pearl was watching her amazement as Neil Armstrong took “one small step” on the surface of the moon back in the summer of ’69. More than forty years later, I realize that the “giant leap” he took, when he first set foot onto the lunar surface – late that summer evening – was actually a bridge between my grandmother’s generation and my own.

Grandma and her contemporaries were born to the sound of rushing horses and buggies at the turn of the last century. Due to some great strides in medicine during the twentieth century, she and many others were fortunate to live long enough to witness the live television broadcast of the Space Shuttle Enterprise’s inaugural test flight on August 12, 1977. Simply amazing for them and – perhaps – much more culturally stimulating than anything my generation will have ever experienced in our complete lifetimes.

“Grandma” in the Twenty-first Century

What would Grandma think about the Internet? Well, her daughter – my mother – is now 87. The world was a little bit more “modern” when she came into it in 1923. Her pre-teen years were filled with radio broadcasts, cars and early airplane travel. So, there has been much less cultural and technology shock in her life as compared to her parents. In fact, mom adapted early and quickly to using ATMs, cell phone and, yes, digital casino slot machines. She is quite aware of the Internet and many of its capabilities. While she doesn’t own her own computer and probably never will, she is – at least – aware of what can be done on the Web and can do some basic things on community equipment or that of family and friends.

According to comScore, a digital measurement company, 27.4 million people age 55 and over engaged in social networking in July of 2010, up from 16 million one year prior. These numbers continue to grow as more and more senior citizens learn to embrace the Net. There are so many new seniors signing on to Social Media that there will be a definite need for devices with bigger buttons, bigger screens and bigger keys, just like cell phones and digital clock radios already offer.

“Oldies” are Becoming “Goodies” on the Web.

What is mostly driving senior citizens online is their ability to communicate with others at greater distances more frequently and often in real-time. They are easily able to share photos, videos, links, contacts and status updates with grandchildren and other family members living apart. Social Media has the impressive ability to strengthen family ties across generation and eliminates some of the loneliness that many senior citizens and shut-ins very often experience.

According to AARP the top four Social Media sites for people over 60 are Google, Facebook, Yahoo and YouTube. A quarter of the organization’s members are using Facebook, and the number is rapidly growing. Twitter use has also grown. Ten per cent of Internet users over 50 are using Twitter or other status update services like TweetDeck and Hootsuite, according to Pew.

Among the more popular niche social media sites for seniors is This site offers senior-relevant information and allows for sharing with others. . Other popular senior-oriented sites include, which features articles, interviews, photos, blogs and suggested links to other helpful websites. focuses on the 50+ Boomer market and features videos, videocasts, podcasts, sharing forums and expert blogs. All of these senior-oriented niche sites seem to understand what this 50+ market is looking for and continually strives to maintain their interest. Retailers and their advertisers are well aware of all this and that senior citizens represent: a large market share of retail dollars and are a constant resource. All the more reason that all seniors, going online, must be properly educated in the safe use of Social Media.

Seeking Greater Knowledge, Understanding and Online Entertainment

Outside of family and friends, seniors use Social Media tools to learn more about topics that interest them. Senior can watch old television shows and movies on YouTube and Hulu and see videos from “their time.” There is much to offer them through the availability of free or low cost E-books, expert articles and interesting blog posts. They can also play games, either by themselves or with family and friends. According to a recent study of social gaming sponsored by PopCap, 22 per cent of social game players are ages 50 through 59 — the largest age bracket — and 16 percent are ages 60 and older. Educationally, many seniors are now taking online courses to keep their minds active and even to establish online businesses to help defray the higher cost of living in retirement.

A Pew Institute study determined that people suffering with a chronic disease are more likely to reach out for support online. So, the Web is also playing an increasingly important role in helping seniors manage their health issues. Many actually Blog and regularly contribute to online health forums or online support groups that are popular with people coping with major illnesses such as Cancer, Diabetes and Alzheimer’s/Dementia. There are also special groups for bereavement and elder companionship.

Despite the rise in social networking activities, Pew Institute research found that seniors over 65 are among those least likely to have high-speed Internet access at home. In fact, less than one-third of them have broadband. This is probably due to the recurring cost of yet another service and their lack of technical understanding. This is rather unfortunate as many in the senior population are less likely to see the lack of broadband as a real disadvantage – and it is. Fortunately, there are a growing number of social community websites focusing on the specific needs and online concerns of senior citizens.

Project GOAL (the Project to Get Older Adults Online) works with aging organizations like AARP to communicate the importance of getting our older community online – safely and productively. Celery is a New York based company that is dedicated to helping those who don’t use computers, including seniors, remain up-to-date on sites like Twitter and also by E-mail.

Grandma Would Have Had a Brand New Bag

My grandmother would have been amazed by all of this and her world would have been brought much closer to her in terms of staying in touch with her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren! Reconnecting with old friends still living in New York and those that move to warmer climates would have been great therapy for an older woman with mobility issues and greatly reduced income. It sure would have been better than the alternatives available in 1979 – watching soaps, game shows and cheesy commercials for things she couldn’t get to the store to buy, anyway. Imagine what E-commerce would have meant to her; though she would have welcomed it with extreme caution.

Thankfully, some things never change. Wisdom is a universally desirable trait that senior citizens have been respected for possessing for centuries. In the twenty-first century it is a pre-requisite for going on-line, first and foremost. Yes, Grandma Pearl would have done fine in the Internet Age. She probably could have taught some youngsters a thing or two about cautionary practices.

About the Author:

Marc LeVine is Vice President of Community Outreach for The Center, a therapeutic program affiliated with Advanced Behavioral Care Services, serving the needs of Monmouth, Ocean and Middlesex County residents suffering from mental illness or substance abuse Licensed by New Jersey Division of Mental Health Services & Division of Addiction Services and with two regional locations in Neptune and Lakewood, The Center is recognized for advocating a focus on goal setting and attainment, commitment and structure. The program urges and challenges its members to take their places in the community as healthy, productive, contributing and vital individuals.

Facebook Timeline is Mandatory for All Pages

Written By: Kim Hong - Mar• 28•12

Starting March 30th, Facebook will automatically switch company and branded Pages to Facebook’s new Timeline format. To help minimize confusion or frustration for Facebook users, we created a simple guide to walk you through some of the Facebook Timeline changes.

The most visible change to the Facebook Timeline format is the big, front-and-center cover photo, which is displayed as the main image. All cover photos are public, which means anyone visiting the Page will see it.

Another visible change is the new format. The page is no longer a linear representation of activities, but rather, updates are displayed more like a scrapbook with options to “highlight” or feature specific content or photos. It may seem a little overwhelming at first, but just give it some time and you will eventually get the swing of things.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes is the ability for fans to send Private Messages (if this feature is enabled by the Page Admin). In the past, fans were only able to post on the Page’s Wall, but now they can contact the Page Admin by clicking on the “Message” button if they don’t wish to post a public message.

Please “like” SeniorNet on Facebook and tell us what you think about the New Timeline! We’d love to hear from you.

For a LARGER view of the guide, click on the image below.

Complete Guide for SeniorNet Facebook Timeline Page


Social Media Guidelines for Seniors

Written By: Guest Contributor - Mar• 23•12

via Senior Care Corner

Here are some guidelines we feel are important for seniors to consider when using social media. “Consider” is the key word here, as we realize individual situations are often different. Those familiar with social networks and the web may be safe with fewer guidelines while newcomers, especially those of a very trusting nature, may initially need to take a more structured approach in their social media activities.

Senior Social Media Guidelines
1. Use tighter privacy settings on your initial setup than you might think are needed. These can be loosened over time if desired, but once a post or a picture is put out to a broad circulation it may be out there permanently.

2. Before “friending” teen family members (your social network probably doesn’t allow preteens), make sure your approach is welcome. Yes, improving communications with grandchildren and other young family members is a big benefit of social media for seniors, but only if they choose to communicate with you. Some have expressed they feel uncomfortable when older family members can see all of their posts. Yes, they can refuse to accept your request to link up, but you can avoid an uncomfortable situation all around if you check on their willingness up front – or wait for them to send the request to you.

3. Wait a while before clicking on links or attachments included on posts from friends. Even a trusted family member (of any age) may unwittingly trigger a virus or other malicious program that sends out posts in their name that include links which can be damaging to your computer or even result in identity theft. Give a little time for others to click first rather than being the family guinea pig.

4. Exercise caution when naming family members in stories or tagging them in pictures you post on social media. Those cute family stories or pictures that give everyone a good laugh during family gatherings may not be viewed the same way by an employer making hiring or retention decisions. Also, there are signs other businesses, such as insurance companies, are using online information in making decisions.

5. Never (one of the few times we think this word applies!) send personal or financial information (account numbers, social security numbers, etc) to businesses using social media. Many scammers masquerade as legitimate companies to get seniors’ information online, just as on the phone, with identity theft often the objective. Companies with a legitimate need for the information know social networks are not safe for sharing such data and will use other methods.

6. Avoid posting that you will be away from home or out of town on your social media accounts unless you are absolutely certain only those you want will be able to see it. Crooks use social networks, too, and have already started targeting the homes of those who say they are away.

7. Think before “checking in” at a location on your social networks. Will that check in tell a criminal that you will be away from home all day at an event or even for a few hours at a movie or ball game. If you like checking into locations, consider doing so when leaving (and say so) instead of arriving.

8. Don’t mention in a public social media post that you are home alone. This is especially important for the elderly or those who are bedridden or otherwise vulnerable. That is almost as attractive to criminals as nobody home, and sometimes more because there is someone who can tell them where to find the valuables or even give them ATM PINs, etc.

We hope these guidelines don’t scare off your senior loved ones, or even you, from using social networks as the benefits of social media to senior loved ones can be tremendous as long as it is used safely.

Did we leave out any guidelines you feel would be helpful? If so, please let us know by leaving a comment below.

About Senior Care Center

Senior Care Corner offers insight and tips about caring for senior adults, whether you are caring for them at home, in a nursing home, or remotely. Senior Care Corner encourages family members to urge their older loved ones to get onto social media and assist them in doing so. For their sake, and for the benefit of their loved ones, let’s help them do it safely

[Source: Senior Care Corner]

The “New” Social Gamer

Written By: Guest Contributor - Mar• 16•12

When you hear the word “social gamer,” do you immediately picture a pimply-faced teenager shouting into a tiny microphone attached to his headset, while staring intensely at a computer screen? Well, you might want to think again after you hear the results from recent studies on social gaming and Internet use.

Photo Credit:

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project revealed that social networking sites nearly doubled in usage among people ages 50 and older since last year, and has grown 100% among people ages 65 and older. Surprisingly, usage among these older groups is growing at a faster pace than younger generations.

Even more surprising is that 46 percent of social gamers are at least 50 years old and dominated by women, according to the 2010 Popcap Social Gaming Research.

“This study establishes social games as a fast-growing and quickly maturing pastime for an enormous portion of the population,” said Robin Boyar of Thinktank Research. “With more than 80 percent of social gamers stating that playing social games strengthens their relationship with friends, family and colleagues, social gaming reinforces the core appeal of social networks.”

Older adults are paving the way for the next generation social gaming sites. They enjoy playing multi-player games in real-time, making new friends and winning prizes on sites like

Social media sites have been a long time favorite among the younger generations, but now older adults are taking a deep interest and companies are starting to take notice on the demand and coming up with niche sites specifically to address their social needs.

“I’m in a wheelchair and pretty much homebound,” said Gail Davis, a 55-year-old from Chattanooga, Tennessee. “I used to be so depressed and lonely until I discovered online game sites that let me play with real people at the same time. Social game sites have been a lifesaver for me, so many friends and so much fun!”

During chemotherapy, 59-year-old Dennis Ah Yo played online games for social interaction - his connection to the real world..

When Dennis Ah Yo, a 59-year-old San Jose resident, began fighting colon cancer, the emotional isolation of being homebound was as tough as the physical hardships of chemotherapy. Ah Yo found an emotional “lifesaver” through social gaming because it was his only connection to the outside world.

“I could find somebody online and just talk while we were playing games, and simply not be lonely anymore,” Ah Yo said. “I found that filling a void for me.”

Many older adults have discovered a new way to form rewarding relationships online.

Popularity of social games among the fifty-plus population has taken off for a variety of reasons:

  • Connecting with old and new friends
  • Offers face-to-face simulation of social activity for people with limited mobility
  • Games provide mental stimulation that improves health
  • Social games offer real-time interaction for those seeking companionship
  • Collaborative games promote positive interaction that induce feelings of happiness
  • Social Networking sites are designed so that EVERYONE can easily create a profile and start connecting with others immediately
  • Bridges generational gap by providing a unique platform where parents, teenagers, grandparents, friends and neighbors regularly communicate
  • People with chronic disease are more likely to seek support online

For these reasons and more, social gaming sites will continue to gain rampant popularity among the fifty-plus population. Baby boomers and seniors are wired and embracing technology at full speed now more than ever.

About the Author:

Michelle Kaplan, co-founder of, a social gaming site geared toward older adults who enjoy playing online games, developing meaningful friendships and winning real prizes. Winster games strengthen social networks and mental stimulation while promoting positive social interaction within a safe and friendly environment.

11 Reasons Why Seniors Should Care About Social Media

Written By: Guest Contributor - Mar• 05•12

Senior citizens are the fastest growing demographic on Facebook, and this doesn’t surprise me. Though I’m not a senior, I personally use social media tools for business, but also to keep up with past and present friends as well as my family. For seniors, using Facebook, has enabled them to get in touch with long lost friends and relatives, see pictures of grandchildren, and learn more about the brands and causes that mean something to them. But there’s more to social media than Facebook and more to senior citizen use than a few family pictures.

I think there’s this myth that anyone over 50 is technically inept, but I don’t believe this is true. Perhaps many seniors might not be as technically savvy as the younger generation but I don’t think all of them are clueless when it comes to laptops and gadgets. Indeed, my own mother who retired at 70 ,designed online courses for accountants and telecommuted for several years. She certainly had her geeky moments, or she wouldn’t have been able to compete with the younger co-workers. When my large family began keeping in touch via a private online family forum, my mother embraced the social network immediately. She also uses Skype to keep in touch with her kids and is thinking about looking into Facebook.

Behold some of the benefits of social media for senior citizens:

1. Keep in touch

Social media is a remarkable tool for keeping in touch, especially for seniors who keep in touch with kids, grandkids, and sometimes even great grandkids, but it’s more than just family. Seniors are finding their college roommates, best friends from “the block” and elementary school crushes. The social networks enable us to view videos, read blog posts, share pictures and have conversations with people who we thought we’d never see again. Grandparents are friends with college-aged grandkids and keeping up with their accomplishments. To say social media has revolutionized the way families connect is an understatement.

2. Research

Seniors use social media tools to learn more about topics that interest them. In some cases it can lead them to cultivate hobbies and business ideas, and in other cases, such as with all the inaccurate health information available, it can be a confusing mix of resources. However, the Internet is enabling the over 50 crowd to learn more about new products, work on their genecology, and learn something new.

3. Ask questions

I don’t know about you, but I get frustrated navigating the phone menu to nowhere, so do so many others. By using the online tools available, many senior citizens can reach out via Twitter, Facebook, videos, blogs and live chats. Being able to talk to representatives and have all their questions answered, without being intimidated by voices, attitudes and a phone menu that doesn’t seem to lead anywhere, gives folks more confidence in a product.

4. Entertainment

Senior citizens can watch old television shows and movies, as well as find videos from “back in the day.” They can read ebooks, articles and blog posts, find song lyrics and find out what their favorite entertainers are up to. They can play games, either by themselves or with family and friends. Shut ins or those who can’t get out and around as well as they used to no longer have to feel lonely when they’re home alone.

5. Start a new business

Being online allows folks of all ages to start a new business. Perhaps they can sell crafts or give coaching advice. Or maybe they want to get into freelance writing or some sort of consulting. Many senior citizens would love to work but companies don’t want to hire them as they feel they’re “too old.” With social media and so many online productivity and networking tools, senior citizens no longer have to be forced into retirement.

6. Grow an existing business

Seniors who are still in business need to keep up with new programs and technologies. Social media enables them to stay in the game and compete with younger businesses. Use social media tools to connect and share. Answer questions, promote events and sales and more.

7. Learn

Just because one is retired or out of school doesn’t necessarily mean one wants to stop learning. Seniors are now taking courses online and reading online books, posts, articles and more to keep their minds active. Because seniors are now better able to keep up with emerging technologies, they don’t have to be considered “old and out of touch” and can hold their own in a conversation.

8. Share

Senior citizens aren’t merely people who are older than us. They’re also people who have been in the trenches. They have amazing stories and brilliant ideas. Through social media they can share all that good stuff with others. Seniors can blog about how life was when they were growing up or how things have changed during their lifetime. They network online and offer advices and mentoring to younger people and students and they can start Facebook pages to talk to others their age.

9. Meet others

The social networks allow us to meet others, for both business and pleasure. (No, not that kind of pleasure, I’m not talking Craigslist.) From online meetings seniors can plan offline meetups and networking events with like minded people and people their age.

10. Find work

65 is no longer the age of retirement for active seniors. Many would like to continue working, if not full time with an established business, they can also consult and freelance. Various networks enable them to find opportunities, post online resumes and view and apply for job listings.

11. Take advantage of sales and online opportunities

By following their favorite businesses and brands, seniors can save money by taking advantage of promotional opportunities. Many times freebies and discounts are only available via a FAcebook page or for Twitter followers.

What are some of the ways you see seniors using social media? Also, if you’re a senior, please share your reasons and successes using social media and its many tools.

[Source: Kommein]

About the Author:

Deb Ng is the founder and former owner of the Freelance Writing Jobs network of blogs (sold to SplashPress Media in 2010), and Director of Community for the BlogWorld And New Media Expo. She has spoken at conferences and webinars such as BlogWorld, South by Southwest, Type A-Parent and others, and also the author of “Online Community Management for Dummies” and co-author of upcoming second edition “Social Media Marketing All in One for Dummies.” (Summer 2012)


Elderly Couple Become Viral Video Sensations – Webcam 101 for Seniors

Written By: Kim Hong - Mar• 02•12

An elderly couple from Oregon became viral video sensations after their granddaughter posted footage of the two struggling to learn how to use a webcam. The sweet, loving couple, Bruce and Esther Huffman, had no idea the webcam was on and recording. So for three minutes, they made silly faces at the camera while trying to navigate their new laptop, and luckily for us, it was all captured on video! Once the video was posted on YouTube, it spread like wildfire across the Internet, social media channels and news outlets, such as Good Morning America, The Early Show and Today Show.

11 Tips for Social Networking Safety

Written By: Guest Contributor - Feb• 24•12

Photo Credit: thanunkorn

Via Microsoft

Social networking websites like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and Windows Live Spaces are services people can use to connect with others to share information like photos, videos, and personal messages.

As the popularity of these social sites grows, so do the risks of using them. Hackers, spammers, virus writers, identity thieves, and other criminals follow the traffic.

Read these tips to help protect yourself when you use social networks.

  1. Use caution when you click links that you receive in messages from your friends on your social website. Treat links in messages on these sites as you would links in e-mail messages.
  2. Know what you’ve posted about yourself. A common way that hackers break into financial or other accounts is by clicking the “Forgot your password?” link on the account login page. To break into your account, they search for the answers to your security questions, such as your birthday, hometown, high school class, father’s middle name, on your social networking site. If the site allows, make up your own password questions, and don’t draw them from material anyone could find with a quick search.
  3. Don’t trust that a message really is from whom it says it’s from. Hackers can break into accounts and send messages that look like they’re from your friends, but aren’t. If you suspect that a message is fraudulent, use an alternate method to contact your friend to find out. This includes invitations to join new social networks.
  4. To avoid giving away e-mail addresses of your friends, do not allow social networking services to scan your e-mail address book. When you join a new social network, you might receive an offer to enter your e-mail address and password to find out if your contacts are on the network. The site might use this information to send e-mail messages to everyone in your contact list or even everyone you’ve ever sent an e-mail message to with that e-mail address. Social networking sites should explain that they’re going to do this, but some do not.
  5. Type the address of your social networking site directly into your browser or use your personal bookmarks. If you click a link to your site through e-mail or another website, you might be entering your account name and password into a fake site where your personal information could be stolen.
  6. Be selective about who you accept as a friend on a social network. Identity thieves might create fake profiles in order to get information from you.
  7. Choose your social network carefully. Evaluate the site that you plan to use and make sure you understand the privacy policy. Find out if the site monitors content that people post. You will be providing personal information to this website, so use the same criteria that you would to select a site where you enter your credit card.
  8. Assume that everything you put on a social networking site is permanent. Even if you can delete your account, anyone on the Internet can easily print photos or text or save images and videos to a computer.
  9. Be careful about installing extras on your site. Many social networking sites allow you to download third-party applications that let you do more with your personal page. Criminals sometimes use these applications to steal your personal information. To download and use third-party applications safely, take the same safety precautions that you take with any other program or file you download from the Web.
  10. Think twice before you use social networking sites at work.
  11. Talk to your kids about social networking.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

What is Social Media?

Written By: Kim Hong - Jan• 31•12

You hear about social media just about everywhere you go – there’s no escaping it! And, believe it or not, it’s not just for kids anymore. Golden Girl Betty White re-launched her career using Facebook, Jerry Mathers, aka “The Beaver,” is tweeting about how to live a longer and healthier life (even with diabetes), and an elderly couple’s “Webcam 101″ video goes viral on YouTube, making them instant Internet sensations.

The numbers don’t lie. According to Pew Internet & American Life Project, social media use among Internet users ages 50 and older has nearly doubled — from 22% to 42% over the past year. Half (47%) of Internet users ages 50-64 and 26% users age 65 and older now use social media.

That’s all nice and dandy, but what exactly is social media?

Social media consists of online tools and websites that encourage people to interact with companies, brands, and people (including celebrities and journalists) and form communities by creating, publishing, and sharing content. Social media is a two-way communication stream, whereas with traditional media, messaging is published through a one-way communication stream to the masses, e.g. radio, television and newspaper.

Social media is fast changing and take on many different forms, including social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, MySpace), blogs and microblogs (e.g. Twitter), content communities (e.g. YouTube, Flickr), virtual worlds (e.g. Second Life), social gaming, podcasts, and wikis, to name a few.

To give you a general idea of the social media landscape, here are some basic terms to help you get started.

Blog: an online journal that is usually (but not always) written by one person about a particular topic. It is updated on a regular basis with entries that appear in reverse chronological order. Blogs typically contain comments by other readers and links to other sites. Twitter is a popular form of “microblogging,” which is a short form of a blog, limiting each message to 140 characters.

Podcast: a form of audio broadcasting that is available as a digital file (usually audio but sometimes video) that can be downloaded to a computer or portable device, such as an MP3 player or iPod. Podcasts usually contain talk back radio style content.

Social Networking Site: an online community that allows you to create a profile, add friends, share ideas and events, and communicate with other members. The most popular social networking site (and the most-visited website in the world), Facebook, allows you to reconnect and stay in touch with friends, family, classmates and colleagues. Eons is a social network designed for aging baby boomers and seniors. 

Social Gaming: online games that are played with other people and include interactive elements or content that can be shared online. Social games are played on social networking sites, game portals and websites. Players create profiles, chat, and share information with other players. Winster is a social gaming site that appeals mostly to older adults. The games are designed to encourage a positive social interaction and provide a sense of community with like-minded individuals who enjoy playing collaborative games, not competitive ones.

Virtual World: an online computer-simulated space that includes aspects of real life with fantasy elements. Typically, you can create a representation of yourself (an avatar) and socialize with other “residents” of this online world. A popular virtual world is Second Life, which is being used by non-profits and businesses to run discussions, virtual events and fundraising.

Video/Photo Sharing sites: a website that hosts user-generated videos or photos that is shared on the Web. YouTube is the most popular video-sharing site on the Web, and also the second most visited website in the world.

Wiki: a website developed collaboratively by a community of users, allowing any user to add and edit content. The most popular wiki is Wikipedia, a publicly-written, collaborative encyclopedia available online.

"Don't get overwhelmed. It's daunting, but not impossible - just ask for help if you need it," says Jerry Mathers.

This may all seem a little overwhelming at first, but don’t be discouraged. The best way to dip your toes into social media is by joining a community that best suits you or sounds the most interesting to you.

Since Internet users over the age of 50 are driving the growth of social media, companies and web designers are developing better computer technologies and websites that accommodate the specific needs of older Internet users.

Social media is not just a way to connect with grandkids, look at photos, and reconnect with old friends, but it’s also a way to exercise the mind, lift spirits and boost morale.

“Don’t get overwhelmed. It’s daunting, but not impossible – just ask for help if you need it. Just like you helped your kids ride a bike, they can help you learn how to communicate with the world,” advises Jerry Mathers, best known as the loveable Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver in the television sitcom series, Leave It to Beaver.

If your kids aren’t around to help, there are plenty of organizations, like SeniorNet, and communities dedicated to providing older adults with computer education and social media classes. It’s just a hop, skip and click away!