I am one of the 78 million baby boomers living and working in the US.  It is interesting to chat with other baby boomers.  Many have stuck their little toes in the water.  They may have started by creating a Facebook account to share posts with grown children and look at pictures of grandchildren.   Some have discovered the joys of posting recipes or a bucket list on Pinterest.   However there seems to be a desire to use this next phase of our lives to make a positive impact on the world.

Baby Boomers (born in 1946 to 1964) are known as the country’s greatest generation for leading change.  The baby boomer generation makes up almost 26 percent of the population in the United States.  This generation started reinventing the way American lived right out of the gates we changed everything from the way we dressed, wore our hair the music we listened to, the people we voted for, the way we traveled, and how we felt about supporting other countries.

Every step of the way we have redefined the way we age and most of us feel much younger in spirit than our actual age.  We are not interested in going quietly into retirement.  We want to embrace this next phase of their life, make a difference in our communities, our country and the world.  We want to find joy in our lives and leave a positive mark on the world.

So how do we continue to redefine our lives using social media?  First lets’ start with the basics. Social Media is the use of telecommunications to interact with others online through the sharing of words, pictures, video and audio.

Social Media begins with a virtual representation of each user (a profile), his/her social links, and a variety of additional personal/professional information.

Social media networks become richer with more personal connections and more diverse ways to spread and gather information.

Plus many special interest groups have their own social networking groups.  For instance, pet owners have their own social network called Petcentric.

Both of those groups allow members to post and reply to comments, share videos and photos, and play games.

To begin you should have  a plan.  You need to understand what you want to accomplish with social media.  Do you want to stay in touch with the grandkids?  Build a new business?  Reconnect with old high school buddies?  Change the world?

Some people start with Facebook or Twitter and others with Linked-In.  Each platform gives you many of the same opportunities to socialize but I use the different platforms to build upon my message.  For example, I might tweet about a topic and then expand on that topic via Facebook and Linked-In Groups.  I like to pin some pictures,  and include a description and web link to continue to expand on the discussion.

Decide what you want to accomplish.  It is okay to start small and build upon your successes.

Here are some suggestions for starting your plan.

Make a Commitment

Before you start to create a plan, decide how much time that you want to invest in the effort.  Make a commitment and promise to yourself that you will get on social media daily, every other day or at least once a week.  Social Media like everything else requires you to stick to it to have results. You will get out of social media what you put into it.  Establishing a solid following can be a slow, methodical process.  There are apps that can help drive followers.  It is best to grow your follower’s organically one follower at a time.

So remember you need to create a time each day, every other day or at least once a week to observe, like, comment, tweet, post, chatter and pin to build your expertise and followers.  Less than once a week will probably not give you good results.  It is critical that you be active, engaged and committed even when starting out.

Find the best fit for your goals

You can start by doing some searching.  Lots of people are posting on social media applications.  What are your friends and family using?  Are your kids, parents, friends on Facebook?  Join Facebook and add a photo and profile and search for family members and friends.

It is okay to start slow.  Follow your favorite brands.  Search within Facebook for interesting conversation and Follow, Like, and Comment on the conversations.  The more you are engaged the more others will follow you and engage with you. It is a great venue for sharing family photos.

Or start with Twitter, you have 140 characters so decide what do you want to talk about.  Try testing a few tweets.  Remember to use your hashtags.

Example-I believe people with disabilities add value to the workforce. #disabilities #workforce

Then post it on twitter.  Anyone following the hashtag #disabilities or #workforce will see your post.

If you know of a firm, non-profit or association that is engaged in the topic try to include them.

Example-People with Disabilities want to join workforce, become employed & pay taxes. #inclusion #employment #taxes #disability

The good news is it is hard to mess up.  If you misspell a word or mix up your message, just retweet it.  Also remember to ask people to retweet your message.

Example-Excited about job fair for veterans with disabilities on 12-12 at noon in DC  www.RuhGlobal.com #veteran’s #disabilities #jobfair   Please retweet.

Quality over Quantity

There are no hard and fast rules for the quantity of posts.  A good rule of thumb is to put yourself in the shoes of your audience.  Do you want to see a post every five minutes from them?  Even if you have loads of posts with high quality resources, there’s only so much anyone can read.  So be smart about how often you post to your social media accounts.  More importantly, keep your posted content of the highest quality.

What is high quality? Posts should include resources that are useful–not junk or entry-level.  Try to keep your posts free of grammar and spelling errors. Avoid the temptation to using text language with shortened words.

Keep it Relevant

Relevance is critical.  Followers want consistent information. They want to be able to read our posts and know what to expect.

Relevance also pertains to posts that are meaningful   to your followers, not just to you.   It is okay to mix some personal posts but chatter about your passion.

When a storm is bearing down on the East Coast I chatter about it.   Followers appreciate personal touches as long as most of your posts are relevant to the topics that caused them to follow you in the first place.

Keep it Short

Twitter limits posts to 140 characters, including spaces. This is a good length to aim for with posts, even when the social media site allows for longer posts. Facebook and Google+, for example, allow very lengthy posts.  If you can get your point across in 140 characters or less do it.  That is why the media uses sound bites because it is easier to remember.

Keep posts short.  If you need long content, write a blog on your site and use social media sites to direct readers to the long content.  Most Social Media isn’t designed for long content, keep posts short and link to longer content.

Tailor for Each Social Media Account

Each social media site has a set of tools.  Members have different expectations for each site. Facebook allows lots of commenting, images, and other media.  Twitter is more straightforward with short texts, although support for links to images has recently been implemented.

Tailor your messages for each account.  It is best to start with a short tweet on Twitter.  Then expand on the message using Facebook or Linked-In.   Or create a visual for Pinterest.  A little tailoring can go a long way toward posting content that engages, creates conversations, and builds relationships.

Remember to share information by retweeting, Liking and commenting.  The more you engage the more people will follow you and engage with you.

Followers engage with me because they are interested in topics that I chatter about over various social media mediums.  One of favorite social media apps is Pinterest.  My favorite topics are disabilities, universal design, inclusion, sustainability, food, travel, tourism and family.  So I started by creating a board on all of these topics.  One of my most followed boards is called Disability never Doubt our Abilities.

Next I searched on disability and repin photos of amazing people with disabilities and other resources.  I started following people that had pinned photos that I liked.

Then people started following me.  I created more boards and others started following that board.  Then someone invited me to pin on their board.  Now I have lots of followers and boards.  I try to pin often at least every other day but sometimes it is longer depending on my schedule.

My journey with Followers certainly became that type of walk.  I have more Linked-In followers than all other accounts combined.  As of this writing, I have over 35,000+ followers on all my social media channels.  I have often wondered how people got millions of followers.

Of course, I understand that celebrities get millions, but how does someone that wants to change the world get more followers?

I decided to do some research.  I read many posts on this topic including advice and warnings.

There are services that will sell you followers.  Most experts feel this is cheating.  Some people noted that if they found that people were buying followers they would unfollow that person.  Some people felt it was fine to do it.  I decided to try out one of the services.

There was a free service so I decided to try it out.  I figured the more people that followed my work to include people with disabilities in all aspects of society the better, right?  What could go wrong?  Oh so much.

Let me tell you about this ridiculous exercise.  I did not want to pay for followers when I can get them for free.  So I found a site that promises free users and signed up.  I looked at Twitter right after I had signed up and my twitter followers started jumping.  3036, 3037, 3038, 3039, 3040, 3041, 3040, 3039, 3038 wait a minute what is happening here the numbers are going backwards?

As these “followers” were being added the sophisticated Twitter engine quickly realized that some of these followers were fakes.  So as soon as these fake followers were added Twitter took them off.

The real users were followers that I did NOT want to follow me because I did not want their tweets to appear in my twitter feed.

There was a man in a pornographic position and he was … well let’s just say it was not the kind of posts or followers that will help me change the world.

I got a note from a legitimate follower saying, “Debra, I think your account has been spammed.  Your twitter feeds have some awful tweets.”

OH NO – as predicted – I am about to lose a real followers.  I explained to her that I was doing a test, apologized and quickly removed myself from that site.

It took me several days to clean off (BLOCK) the new FREE followers.   It was pretty funny to watch me scrambling to undo the mess that I created.

I have found that the only way to grow your influence is by having good content and grow your followers organically.   I did find a cool game called Empire Avenue www.empireavenue.com that was recommended to help grow your followers legitimately.  I joined and started playing in my space time.  It reminds me of Monopoly.   I started playing and people started following me.  They were real people that also wanted to make a difference in the world.  Let me warn you – it is a little addictive but super fun.

Exerted from my new book: “Find Your Voice using Social Media by Debra Ruh”  http://ow.ly/kxglR

For additional information please contact me at www.RuhGlobal.com