A young ambassador’s view of social media

“Social media is the buzz of the generation and if businesses don’t keep up, then the consequences will follow. Make social media platforms suit you and your needs.” These wise words are from entrepreneurial Jack Watson, a 15-year-old who runs a successful web design and online retail business in his spare time, when not at school.

He tweets at @futurepilot97 and I asked him to share his thoughts, particularly on social media, with readers of Diary of an internal communicator. I’m pleased to say that in between juggling his schoolwork , website and business interests, he took some time out to answer my questions. I thought it would be good to hear directly from the new generation where social media is part of business – or school – as usual.

About InspirEngage
Jack was recently named as an InspirEngage young ambassador alongside 14 other 13-26 year olds, from 200 applicants. The 18 month opportunity means he will learn first hand what it’s like within a global social enterprise. InspirEngage International is one of the world’s leading organisations in skills training and youth engagement and aims to support students to develop life skills to feel more confident, work-ready, and enterprising.

It was established by ex-The Apprentice candidate Melody Hossaini in 2009 and has reached over 1 million people in less than three years, in over 100 countries. Find out more via Facebook and Twitter @InspirEngage. You can watch Jack introducing himself at the foot of this page via YouTube.

I think this is a great idea. I participated in Young Enterprise when I was at school and found it an incredibly valuable experience. I  think this is a great initiative which looks set to go from strength to strength and having 15 young ambassadors on board is a smart move.

Jack is from Cheshire, UK, he’s in Year 10 and is an avid social media fan. The InspirEngage Young Programme will allow him to attend primary and secondary schools, colleges, and Universities helping to deliver boot camps alongside Melody which will develop the life skills and ‘enterprise potential’ of young people.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on a future series of The Apprentice, I’ve been impressed with his work ethic and his communications skills; he’s certainly one to watch – Lord Sugar take note!

So Jack, tell us about you
I love networking through social media and want to become involved in exciting, challenging, and rewarding opportunities. I’m creative, motivated and have a hardworking attitude with a strong ambition to be successful in life.

One of the most important things I know is that I don’t know hardly anything yet. However, with time, opportunities and a willingness to learn, my knowledge will grow.

At what age did you start learning about technology and what form did it take?
My first computer was a Christmas present when I was six and I spent hours using MS Paint. I enjoyed creating PowerPoint on every subject imaginable and even created one for our student teacher as a leaving gift.

How did you learn about social media?
I created a Facebook account on my 13th birthday. It was so exciting to be able to chat, look at pictures and even play games to earn points! The internet may connect you with the world, but until then I could only see what was happening in my local area, or school, and couldn’t connect with real people I knew. The amount of people I said ‘Hi’ to using chat was amazing. I’d hardly spoken to them, but because it had suddenly become easy, I was daring.

I then ventured on to Twitter and followed the suggestions e.g. Piers Morgan and Simon Cowell. When I clicked follow, I wasn’t even sure what ‘following’ meant! I still have that first account on my phone but I locked it after hearing personal safety advice at school and reading things in the press.

I was so careful on Facebook and locked it up properly so when the thought of ‘tweeting’ to strangers came about, I thought it was crazy. I had no followers, didn’t tweet and the only people I followed were Piers Morgan and Simon Cowell! I wasn’t impressed, and I think it was my lack of understanding and the fact hardly anyone from school was on Twitter, meant my first time on it was the last.

I left it for a year or two and I’m not sure how I got back into it. However, I now use it extensively for my web design business and so far my three clients have all been via Twitter.

It may seem like 1000+ businesses are trying to get recognition on every social media platform ever, but I find it surprising how few businesses are using Twitter. You quickly memorise people that you are always hearing about and it is through retweets and mentions and #FF tweets that you start to get a picture for yourself.

It is through networking that people started to approach my business with their needs and I doubt they even looked elsewhere. I suppose it just seemed logical to send a tweet to a web designer you have spoken to before. Even if they are on the other side of the country and have never met you in person.

What social media do you use and why?
I started using Facebook mainly because everyone at school used it. I like the way you can connect with people you know and follow brands. But with the commercialisation of the business, we are seeing more and more adverts to pay for this free service although the unique selling point of social platforms is that they are free.

We are even seeing the option to promote posts and pay so your friends can see them at the top of the news feed; a little sad! Adverts are everywhere and my news feed is full of pictures saying ‘tag this or someone will get you at 12am tonight!’. I think this is because Facebook is failing to come up with new features that keep the users enticed (I’m intrigued by this midnight status – Rachel).

Twitter is the best website of all time! I love Twitter and I can’t even imagine how many hours I’ve been on it. I even have TweetDeck on my TV screen, which is connected to my computer so I can have a screen just full of tweets. I recommend TweetDeck because I can have my timeline from my business and personal account setup and I see mentions of both at the same time so I can reply instantly and watch out for important tweets while I am working in my room.

I have recently tried to start using Google+ but it only works if other people you know use it, and so far I am yet to find more than three people I know who use it.

How do you explain social media to people who haven’t used it before?
Social media is a way to connect with other people worldwide to create solutions, deals and contacts. Social media is the buzz of the generation, and if businesses don’t keep up then the consequences will shortly follow.

Social media can be the way you want it to be, so if you are a photographer then go and connect and talk to fellow photographers to build contacts. Post some photos of your work and join in with hashtags you are knowledgeable about. Make social media platforms suit you and your needs!

Do you have any rules e.g. when it comes to networking, what works best?
Be personal but don’t use it to tweet your mates. When tweeting to gain new clients it is important to tweet using trends. For example I would tweet about #XFactor with my opinion so all those talking about X-Factor could see my brand name and you never know, someone may want to hire you.

An important thing to remember when using social media is that it may be easier to talk to people online rather than in person, but it is also easy to make mistakes.

In the very early days of business networking on Twitter, I compared my price to a competitor and it didn’t go down well! Business networking on Twitter can be done by everyone, but as I mentioned earlier, all businesses will have seen other businesses and will be able to recognise them by the avatar (pic). You are quickly told off if you take a step in the wrong direction but always delete any tweets that have caused problems and remain professional and always apologise.

Thank you again for sharing your insights into how social media works with me and my blog readers. What do you think of how Jack views communicating via social media? Do please encourage him by sharing your thoughts in the comments below or tweet him @futurepilot97. If you have an idea for a guest article, do please read my guidelines and get in touch, Rachel

Post author: Jack Watson

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