In some ways I really hate saying this, but to understand social media is to use it--be the ball.
Here are few tips to learn to use networks, like Facebook and Twitter, in meaningful ways:
1. Create an account. It is easy.
2. Follow friends and businesses you want to keep up with. Expand your knowledge and perspectives by seeing what others are reading and what they are thinking. There is value--and it is fun--to get a glimpse of what other people discuss and find important.
3. Don’t follow too few people. It is social. Develop a large enough network that sharing and engagement is meaningful.
4. In the beginning, don’t follow or “friend” too many people. You don’t want to overwhelmed yourself. Keep your “friend” list to people you really want to know and hear.
5. Discuss, participate, and respond—relax and let go a little. For some, because sharing online is a new mindset, learning to engage in an online environment seems to be a roadblock.
Social media conversations (Twitter) are like running into friends or colleagues at the grocery store or meeting new and old friends during a cocktail hour. The conversations at the micro-level may not seem meaningful, but the accumulation of discussions helps put events, issues, and thoughts in new perspectives or confirm old ones, and possibly, build credibility and trust.
If you are not responding and becoming part of the conversation, you are not being social in a social network.
With this in mind, your online behavior should take on the same values and actions that you live by. After all, there is only one you.
6. Don’t be afraid to be personal and tell a few stories on yourself and what is important to you. Sometimes, post updates that are funny, ironic, or personal to help people learn that you are real. Again, social is a key word.
7. Don’t only broadcast. If your only activity is publishing, your information must be very valuable for others to follow you. As you progress in your use, you may consider how others decide to follow or not follow people on Twitter.
8. Don’t only listen. There is value in lurking, However, participating at some level is helpful and useful, not only to you, but to others.
9. Use desktop and phone applications for accessing social networks and getting timely updates. The web versions of social networks tend to be clunky and inefficient. These technologies are timely, allow for responsiveness, and can be disruptive. However, you have the ability to control when you ignore, lurk, and respond. The brevity of updates allow you to take a quick glance while you are waiting in the grocery line, on the kids, or on a long elevator ride.
Additionally, learning to use these technologies in spurts of time will prepare you for when real-time is a necessity.
10. Integrate applications so you have only one or two places to get all or most of your streams. For instance, Tweetdeck is great for bringing Twitter search and updates and Facebook updates to one place. Before I started using Tweetdeck, I brought status feeds to my feed reader (Google Reader).
11. Choose social media that matches your interest and go where the people are. If you have lots of colleagues and friends in Facebook, you might start there. If you love taking pictures, you might start sharing on photo sharing site, like Flickr.
12. If you are confused with application options, terminology, and how to use the technology, find a friend or a colleague who can support you in the early learning process.
Some people who try these networks choose to quit using them. Though I don’t know of any research that reports why people quit using social networks, these are possible reasons for social network abandonment:
- The flow of information becomes overwhelming.
- The information obtained through the network is not useful.
- They don’t use applications and SMS technology (text messages). They depend only on the web pages of the networks, instead of using applications to mange the flow.
- They don’t follow enough interesting people.
- They don’t engage. They either only listen or only broadcast.
- Other networks becomes more useful
- Frankly, the social network may not be for them. Communicating online (not new way of communicating—we have always been social) is not for everyone--like some people don’t watch TV, read the newspaper, or talk on the phone.
To understand social media is to use it--be the ball. Social networks--Twitter and Facebook--are too easy not to try them.