Social Media #1: The Basic Three

One of my many interests is social media. Having been to two recent events centered around the topic of social media, I have noticed that not everyone understands it much. This makes sense – it’s a fairly recent phenomenon, but, I truly believe, not one that should be lightly ignored. The future isn’t set, but I’m over 90% sure that the foundations social media is providing right now will be a major part of where things are going.

So, in an effort to help those who struggle with social media, its value, and how to approach it, I’ve decided to discuss some of the topics pertaining to social media. (Essentially, at the second event, I just wrote down the questions being posed that I’d already heard and will be covering each through a series of social media posts). This first post will cover the bare bone basics of social media.

I’m not covering clever ways to use these here. I’m not seeking to explain the power of each. I’m honestly just going for the simplest approach – how to get started and the proper way to think about each in the social media realm.

(Please note: as an industry, social media is extremely new and, consequently, is ever-changing. The trick is to keep up with what’s going on, who is using social media to achieve interesting results, and try to figure out other ways to leverage the powerful tools at hand to better your own situation – be it personal, professional, or pure curiosity.)

There are lots of places to access social media, and more tools than you can shake a stick at. But three major ones right now are LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter (MySpace still holds some sway, but seems to me to have lost its foothold recently). There are tons of other sources and tools for social media, though, and a great place to start is Overdrive Interactive Media Map: http://www.ovrdrv.com/social-media-map/). Keep in mind that a crucial part of social media is also blogging – there are tons of places and ways to blog, but make sure you blog repsonsibly (that is, provide valuable content worth reading and keeping up with).

LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a professional networking site. There are two major components: profiles and connections. To start, go to LinkedIn.com and there, you create a profile, including details of your education, work experience, and professional goals/development. The site will tell you what to fill out, where to fill it out, and how close you are to having a complete (100%) profile for others to see.

The second component, connections, are how you interact with other people’s profiles on LinkedIn. Essentially, you “connect” with (that is, link your profile to) other people you know through their profiles. This builds up your network as your connections’ connections then become visible to you (to a degree of 3 – that is, your connections’ connections’ connections’ profiles are visible to you). Adding even a few well-connected people will rapidly expand your network of visible profiles, and as you continue to link to people you know, it just keeps growing.

Example: you create a profile for yourself (we’ll call you A). You connect to B1 and B2. B1 is connected to C1, C2, and C3; B2 is connected to C4, C5, and C6. Each C is then connected to D1, 2, 3, etc. And you (A) are connected to all of these people through degrees (1 to B, two to C, and three to D). You can see how those connections quickly grow incorporate people you might have ever met normally.

Facebook
Facebook is also a networking site, like LinkedIn. Unlike LinkedIn, however, it is not primarily used for professional purposes (in fact, many people use it only for personal networking), and its structure is focused less on strict networking and more on sharing information and keeping in touch with others. This is a key difference, as everyone on Facebook can be searched for and found (unless you restrict who can find you in your settings).

To get started, visit Facebook.com and sign up. Like LinkedIn, Facebook breaks down into two parts: your profile (or the information about yourself you choose to share) and your “friends” (people with whom you’re directly connected via Facebook). You’ll create your profile, including as much or as little information as you’d like. Facebook is pretty open and can include everything from your work/employment history to pictures or videos of yourself or content you enjoy (and much, much more). A key part of Facebook is also the “feed” set up of the home page (not to be confused with your profile) – which keeps track of all the changes or content your Facebook friends choose to share.

There’s plenty more to Facebook, but it’s pretty straight-forward to get started. Sign up, fill in what you like, and start finding people you know. It’s a way to keep in touch and keep track people you know.

Twitter
Twitter is the final of the big three social media sources. Lie the others, go to Twitter.com and sign up. You can fill out as much or as little as you’d like to create your Twitter profile. Now onto more about its basic use. I’ll break it down into two part: Tweets and Following.

Tweets are what you do with Twitter. Essentially, they are content (limited to 140 characters) you choose to share with other Twitter-using people. This content could be thoughts (eg. “I’m thinking I should use examples in the blog I’m writing”), links (eg. “check out www.twitter.comto sign up for twitter”), responses to other users Tweets (called @replies and prefaced with an @ symbol and then person’s twitter account name so they know you’re responding to them – eg “@davidrsheehan – great post on social media basics! you really are awesome!), or forwarding along other users’ content you think it worth sharing (called a re-tweet and prefaced with a RT and then an @reply so the viewers know a) it’s not your content and b) whose it is – eg. someone could RT my @reply from before and it’d look like this: “RT @davidrsheehan – great post on social media basics! you really are awesome! <– yes he is”).

If Tweets are what you do with Twitter, Following is how you accomplish it. You “follow” people whose tweets interest you, and, conversely, people will follow you if they find your tweets interesting. You can viewing other people’s followers to find other followers, you can search for people, or you can search for tweet content and see who’s tweeting about topics that matter to you so, in turn, you can follow those people. Essentially, following people is your way of saying “I am interested in what you’re saying.” It follows that if you’re saying interesting things, others will want to follow you.

It’s worth noting that the people who only use Twitter for the sake of tweeting whatever inane detail of their life they’re doing… tend not to have lots of followers (unless they’re celebrities). The people who provide valuable content – tweets about things that are important to others and provide value enough for others to follow them – tend to attract more followers.

 

One final thought on these as far as basics go – none of them are a popularity contest. It’s not about having *more* (followers, Facebook friends, or LinkedIn connections), but rather it’s about connecting to the *right* people. Like true sharing of content (which is what media and networking are all about), it’s not quantity, but quality. Have interesting things to say, share, or show, and meet others who share similar interests – social media is all about connecting and meeting others at an unprecedented level and scope.

Enjoy! And feel free to tweet me at any time. I’m on twitter as davdirsheehan and check fairly regularly.

 (Incidentally, I’ll be continuing to post on social media in the upcoming weeks, so stay tuned for more information and topics, including ROI and marketing through social media, effective practices, interesting things people are doing with them, legitimacy, how social media is different and powerful, and many, many more.)

 

davidrsheehan is a social media enthusiast and a contributing writer for projectgroupthink.wordpress.com. Get instant updates for this blog via Twitter: PGTblog. You can also tweet directly with him: davidrsheehan.

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