Last week I looked at social media and the advantages of using it to connect with family, friends, professionally, and with those sharing your interests. There are a few networks or platforms most widely used that are well worth investigating:
Even the Luddites among us have heard of this social media network. If you don’t already have a Facebook page, your children and grandchildren do. If you want to keep up with what’s happening in the lives of your family and friends, this is likely where they will be posting photos and news of what’s going on. In addition, it’s where you can find ‘Groups’ such as your high school, university, college, church or employment alumni, and special interests (veterans, boomers, etc.). Users can also create a Page if you have, say a small business selling hand carved ducks, homemade jewellry, or a blog; this page functions as a place for people interested in your products to learn how to contact you and where you can post photos of your work. Facebook is a great way to be, and stay, connected.
Caveat: It’s up to you to determine how much and with whom you want to share, and Facebook has settings for privacy and sharing. Use them. One thing you should know is your real life will run up against how Facebook uses data it has gathered about you online. For instance, if you give a company your email address to enter a contest, register a warranty etc., and this is your Facebook email address, expect to see advertising on your Facebook page related to similar products. Have a Facebook unique email address, use settings to ensure privacy, and limit who you ‘friend’ to people you know well.
Make a comment in 140 characters or less. Share links and images. Have public and private conversations. Imagine having a sticky notepad, writing a comment or observation and posting it on a wall that can be seen by everyone. Well, not everyone. Tweets (your 140 character blurt) are seen by your followers, but may be more widely viewed if you have what’s called a hash tag (#), as in #blogging, which serves as a topic indicator. The smartphones and tablets also have Twitter apps available if you’re ready to go. You can sign up and get your own Twitter handle and get tweeting pretty quickly.
Caveat: Personally I haven’t tweeted a lot. I’m not interested in sharing what I had for breakfast on Twitter, and generally can’t condense what’s on my mind into 140 characters anyway. If you need to post a link, you’ll become well versed in URL shortening; Twitter automatically shortens a URL if you tweet a webpage. Take the time to learn Twitter etiquette and tips.
This network is well suited to connecting professionally and is the most popular of social media sites for people 35-65. You’re familiar with six degrees of separation? Well, LinkedIn shows you not only direct connections, but those going out to three degrees, so to speak—it’s astonishing how many people with whom you’re connected. It’s a powerful network if you’re looking for a career, a candidate, or to tap knowledge among your connections.
Caveat: While not necessary, to benefit most from LinkedIn, a paid update may be worth considering, particularly if you’re actively working and building your career.
This site is a great way to assemble your hobbies and interests visually in a scrapbook format. A user creates a virtual bulletin Board and ‘pins’ items to the board. You are curating content; which is to say finding great stuff. For instance, one might have boards called Garden, Parties, Recipes, Crafts, Decorating Ideas, etc. … you can label the boards anything you like, and have as many boards as you wish. You can upload your own photos, Repin existing Pinterest pins, or Pin items you come across on a website—you’ve probably seen the ‘P’ in a circle beside a photo or on a blog post. If you have a Pinterest account and want to save the item, Pin it! Pinterest is also ideal for those selling their crafts or sharing their blog.
Caveat: You can share your boards with friends, and follow other pinner’s boards. Pinterest is a time-suck if you get carried away. If you are of an entrepreneurial spirit, Pinterest has the capacity to be linked for marketing purposes, and if that interests you, Google “marketing Pinterest” and prepare to be amazed.
Google Plus is both the same and different from the other social media networks. In a world where content is where it’s at, with its search engine algorithms and ranking of authorship (who is responsible for the content), G+ is not only a way to connect with those you know and love, but more easily with those with whom you have shared interests; companies; people you have a business relationship.
Once you have a Gmail address and create a Profile, take a tour and you’ll see there are two main ways to use Google+: Communities (search for those with whom you have a shared interest—or, you can create your own Community) and Circles (think of it as your address book sectioned into people by connection; for instance Friends, Family, Church, Employer, Clients, Golf Buddies, etc. There’s a default ‘Following’ for people you’re interested in). You can post within a Community you join, as well as within your own Circles—as an example in Circles, you would post jokes, pics, and tee times in your Golf Buddy Circle; or, photos of a family picnic in a Family Circle.
For businesses, Google+ is a powerful tool; creating a business profile, using Google Maps, utilizing the Hangouts feature, as well as Communities and Circles. A business that takes advantage of all Google+ has to offer will stand out because of the integration of search with Google+.
Caveat: There’s a lot to learn about Google+ because it’s a new network and you may not know many who belong. You can (1) search Communities for whatever interests you, and you can (2) search for people you know to add to your Circles. Remember that whoever is in one of your Circles can see whatever you post to that circle; so, if you don’t want your boss to see a pic of you frolicking in a hot tub, add him or her to the Employer Circle and not your Friend Circle. I’d recommend joining a Community called Google+ Discuss, reading through some posts, and if you have any questions, this is the place. For more seasoned social media geeks, join The Google+ Resource.
These are just a few of the most widely used networks; there are others like MySpace, Tumblr, Reddit and many, many more. Generally, one goes where your family, friends and other contacts are, so ask around and see what they use.