Lately, more and more people within my organization are joining Twitter and Facebook. Some are joining because they know that is where the people. And, some want to know what the hype is about. Certainly, joining is part of being the ball.
One of the early challenges to being new to these technologies is understanding how to use them. For instance, one should know what a profile is, what private updates mean, how to upload a profile photo, and how to find others in networks.
Ohio Farm Bureau offers "Discover Your Social Web: An Ohio Farm Bureau Guide to Social Media" (pdf) to begin using social networks. In the first 2 pages, the guide offers reasons that farmers should have an online presence and participate in social networks.
Starting on page 3, the guide offers great instructions for opening accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
Here are some other beginning guides and instructions:
Beginners Guide to Social Media in Extension
The Beginner’s Guide to Twitter
A Non-fanatical Beginner's Guide to Twitter
Though the Ohio Farm Bureau guide mentions other social media and RSS feeds, it does not cover the opportunities that are available beyond the three big and easy tools (Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
Once comfortable with these networks, one should be wondering "What's next?" and "How can I manage all of the new information from new networks". This is referred to "Drinking from a fire hose".
Once you learn to use the tools and applications, like uberTwitter, Tweetie, Twhril, and Tweetdeck, one should be asking What's next? and How can I drink from this fire hose? There is definitely a need to manage and filter a barrage of information.
Part of managing the flow of information is to use the tools that enable one to do so. Managing the flow of information also means learning, and constantly adjusting tools and methods to efficiently and exponentially access more information.
Also, one should learn how to manage and become more efficient in delivering one's own information, thoughts, and resources and to become better at engagement, by adopting some integration tools like Friendfeed.
One of the possible downfalls of using social networks, like Facebook, is that the information is closed within the application. And with Twitter, you may talk only to those who think like you.
Don't get me wrong--these tools are great from learning from others like you--but to really learn, engage, advocate, and make a difference--we must also learn to listen to those outside of our circle of friends.
This means using tools like Google Alerts, Feed readers (Netvibes, Google Reader, and Friendfeed,), wikis (to contribute), discussion forums, and to follow others who can teach you, who think like you, and who disagree with you. Kevin Gamble offers some suggestions for in his post, Freeranging tools.
One final point: As my friends and colleagues are adopting these tools, trying them, and in some cases becoming immersed, I remind them that these tools are different than tools of the past that provide the flow from one to many. The power of these tools is engagement and to learn to make the most of the engagement.
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