Are you a blogger? Ever posted a video to YouTube? What’s your Facebook status? Do you Tweet?If you answered “no” to any of these questions, what are you waiting for?



Are you a blogger? Ever posted a video to YouTube? What’s your Facebook status? Do you Tweet?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, what are you waiting for? If you haven’t noticed, the whole world has gone viral, and social networking is at the apex of that phenomenon. Open a magazine, turn on the TV, attend a trade show … Everywhere you go, conversation turns to all things multimedia. The aforementioned Web sites and activities are at the hub of that movement.

If you think Facebook is just for kids, college students or lazy employees who waste time Superpoking each other, playing Scrabble and “chatting” with friends, then you’re sorely mistaken. A self-described “social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them,” Facebook is pure genius. Whereas MySpace missed the usability mark, Facebook defines function. It’s an epicenter of interaction for all ages and demographics, from here to Denmark and beyond.

And for good reason. Facebook combines e-mail, instant messenger, Classmates.com, YouTube and Snapfish.com (and other online photo galleries) into one central location. It makes life easier … and more fun. (Where else can you “throw a sheep” at your brother or send your spouse a hilarious “piece of flair?”)

Why should this matter to you? For starters, Facebook is a vital part of modern pop culture, and in a business like ours, pop culture matters. Looking to do some consumer research? The people who frequent the site (even grandparents are joining up - don’t get any ideas, Mom) are the same ones who shop stores for confections and snacks; love icons and brands; and buy chocolate for Valentine’s Day, candy canes for Christmas, jelly beans for Easter and potato chips for the Super Bowl. You may not be on Facebook, but your customers are.

Manufacturers are catching onto social networking’s net worth. For example, Mars posts interactive ads to Facebook, through which you can access its M&M’S Brand Chocolate Candies page. There, users can watch videos, download M&M’S Premiums icons and connect to the M&M’S Racing with Kyle Busch page to “Test Your Rowdy IQ,” “Root the Rowdy Way” and order Chocolate Candies featuring Kyle himself. Meanwhile, The Jelly Belly Candy Company’s page features “homemade” commercials from YouTube, including a hilarious promo for Jelly Belly Sport Beans. Even Confection & Snack Retailing has a presence on Facebook.

Then there are the user-generated “fan pages” for everything from Oberto beef jerky to Stride gum. Others boast titles such as “I can’t live without gum” and, my personal fave, “Sixlets, the most underrated candy in America.”

Facebook applications such as Chocolate Addiction, Inc. allow you to “Send Chocolate” to friends, while “Favorite Candy” lets you to post a picture of a best-loved confection to your profile. Did I mention the quizzes? (“What chocolate are you?” I’m a Nestlé Crunch bar. In short, I “make a good friend and add a lil’ mmph and crunch into people’s lives so nobody dies of boredom.”)

Like ECRM and the All Candy Expo®, Facebook is an opportunity to “network,” whether you’re looking to reconnect with former classmates, speak with colleagues in real time, create a fundraising arm, or market a brand or product.

Just ask Jay Klein, the entrepreneurial president of Toronto-based Bonus Gum, who has more than 1,000 Facebook friends. While Klein does not update his status or profile pic on a regular basis (speak for yourself, Jay), he does use Facebook to connect with people in all aspects of his life, including work. I now count myself among Klein’s friends. Not that he’d notice. (Just kidding, Jay.)

Now that I’ve implored you to investigate the advantages of social networking, it’s time I log in myself. Since setting my Facebook language to “English (Pirate),” I should say it’s time I “abandon ship” and “speak with me mateys.” Please join my crew. “T’won’t cost a shillin’, and even the scurviest sea dog can come aboard.” CSR

'Broadcast Yourself'

While YouTube often is a source of funny e-mail forwards, it’s also a forum for free publicity. Case in point: The folks at Perfetti Van Melle told me about some consumer-produced online shorts that show what happens when you drop its Mentos “freshmakers” into a 2-liter of Diet Coke. (Hint: Unlike the urban legend surrounding Pop Rocks and soda pop, this experiment produces explosive results.) Think bottle rocket.


'What Are You Doing?'

Brevity is lacking lately, what with the ridiculous number of (lengthy) e-mails we receive each day. If you’ve ever wondered why people can’t say what they mean in fewer words, then Twitter is for you. Users are limited to 140 short but "Tweet" characters per message - just enough to spark interest from anyone who wants to read and reply, from Ashton Kutcher to Oprah to the staffers at CNN. Executives are Tweeting during meetings, journalists are Tweeting during trade shows … and I will be Tweeting very soon.