Ask any self-proclaimed Web 2.0 guru, and he'll advise you to use social networking to better your business. How? In whatever way you can! While social networking carries the reputation of allowing you to reach the youth audience, it has quickly grown to become much more than that, attracting members of every age group. So while reaching the up and coming young 'ens is definitely an advantage, don't rule out being able to reach others that way as well.
Take Barack Obama, for example, the President-elect of the United States of America. A major part of his campaign strategy involved utilizing Websites like Facebook.com to reach potential voters. I don't think anyone will argue that his influence with the youth crowd was and is stronger than with any other recent U.S. President. Retailer Future Shop is using the same social networking Website to promote upcoming events, show off photos and videos, and engage shoppers. Plenty of musical artists use social networking site MySpace to expose their music and gain feedback that becomes helpful in starting their careers. Even video-centric sites play a significant role. Major issues have arisen, or even been discussed, through widely popular video sharing Website YouTube. If you think your business doesn't apply, think again. Even book seller Chapters Indigo has an enticing online community where readers can share book reviews, make suggestions on new titles, and even join virtual book clubs. Come on! If a company who's primary focus is selling you printed, paperback books can join the "web revolution", so can you!
Given all of this, I find it odd when people shrug off social networking as just being a fun thing for kids or people with too much time on their hands. The Web and online social communities have the potential to foster relationships, promote brands, and keep you connected with what's going on in a specific area of interest or interests. You might even find that a fan has beaten you to the punch: type any popular company name into a social networking site, and you're bound to find that a happy (or perhaps even unhappy) person has already created a group centred around your products.
Remember: there is no age requirement for social networking. You don't need to be a teeny-bopper, or even just in your 20s or 30s. I know people in their 40s, 50s, and yes, even 60s that are members of social networking Websites. Some people use them for business, on sites like LinkedIn or Facebook, to connect with colleagues and business groups. Others use them for personal reasons, to stay in touch with out of town family members. Many use the sites for both purposes.
The bottom line: if the next President of the United States of America realizes, and in many ways, has proven, the powerful influence that the Web and social networking can have on important decisions that people make, you shouldn't be afraid to do so as well.