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Everything You Always Hoped a Teen Would Tell You About Social Networking

High school senior Katie Miller heads up social networking for integrative health care company InNetwork based in St. Charles.

Before Katie Miller came along to take over handling the social various media accounts for InNetwork—a St. Charles-based company that matches consumers with alternative healthcare providers—InNetwork co-founder Laurie Walsh was feeling a bit in over her head.

"It's so time consuming," Walsh said of managing social networking for the company.

So, Walsh decided to hire a teen to manage her company's social media sites, and since then, she said she's had more time for her other work and the site has seen its online network grow exponentially.

[Miller] is very responsible," Walsh said. "She follows through and has made a really big impact. We've seen our reach increase significantly since Katie has been on board."

For many business owners, social media is still a no-man’s-land of sites with funny names, their own language and where something called "poking" and "liking" occurs. For teens that have grown up with social networks, it's second nature.

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Katie Miller is a senior this year at Lyons Township High School. She got her first Facebook account four years ago, but also has other accounts for herself like Pinterest—think of it like an online bulletin board of things people find interesting.

She now has a job with InNetwork doing something many teens would love to get paid for: Facebooking! She regularly updates the company’s social media pages and has even expanded the networks that InNetwork are on.

"I see a lot of people that go on social networks and just promote themselves," Miller said. "That's good to do, but people sometimes forget the social part—and that's the biggest part."

Miller said that certain sites work better for certain posts. For instance, she shares information to InNetwork's Facebook followers by posting articles they might find interesting or educational.

Pinterest, on the other hand, is more photo-based, Miller said.

"It's good for some businesses and harder for others," she explained. "I started it as an experiment and I've had to be creative with it."

Miller said she pins articles on fitness or nutrition, empowering quotes, and keeps a board about healthy recipes.

As advice for business owners unsure of the new social landscape, Miller said simply that, "You have to be open minded. It might be hard at first, but it's a skill you can grow."

The most important tip Miller had for anyone interested in social networking: be social. That means following other people in your industry, and to comment on and share their posts too.

"You want to know there's a person behind the screen," Miller said. "You have to be a participant. It's a social network!"

Social Media 101 (From a Teenager)

La Grange Patch: What are the essential social networks for a business to be on and why?

Katie Miller: I think the essential social media networks for a business are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. They're the most widely used and have the biggest potential for making new connections and spreading your message. However, I also think newer sites like Tumblr and Pinterest have a lot to offer in terms of building a follower base.

Patch: What do you tell people who feel uncomfortable or unfamiliar with social networking for their business? Any tips for someone who's new to it?

Miller: My advice for anyone new to social media is to have an open mind. Try your best to be personable and interact with your followers. One of the huge things I think people skip over when it comes to social media is the actual "social" part. No one wants to read posts or tweets that are all self-promotion all the time.

Patch: How do you develop a following?

Miller: I think you develop a following by reaching out and interacting with people, whether it is a tweet, message, or post. Also, variety is huge. Try to mix up what you post so that people stay interested. Also, like I said before, I think being personable is very important.

Patch: What are common questions adults ask about social networking that make your eyes roll?

Miller: That's a tough one! I think overall people are generally warming up to the idea of social media, but some questions I have gotten: What's the point of Twitter? What's a blog? Why would a business want to use social media? Why do you waste so much time with those social media sites? 

Patch: How often and about what should you post? Is there a "tone" you take with your posts?

Miller: I think posting everyday is important. Especially with Twitter, it can be very tempting to tweet too much—there's a balance that you need to find. No one wants to be flooded with messages, but you also have to post often enough that you're getting your message out there. For me, I try to vary what I post between news about alternative/complementary medicine, InNetwork promotion, and inspirational messages or quotes relating to holistic medicine/overall health. I always try to keep an upbeat, friendly tone, just because I know that that's what I, personally, would prefer to read. 

Patch: Anything else our readers should know about running social networking for a business?

Miller: For anyone who doesn't see the point of social media for their business, I would urge them to give it a try. These networks can truly change the scope of any business, simply because they enable you to spread your message to thousands of people with just a few clicks.

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