A beginner’s guide to social media

woman computerRaise your hand if you know you should be doing all this social networking stuff but have no idea how to start. Yeah, I thought so. It’s so easy, even a kid can do it, and boy, are they ever. But plenty of adults are befuddled by all this friending and linking and tweeting.

Take consolation in the widely held opinion that social media is moving so fast, even the experts won’t claim they’ve got a firm hold on their expertise. Some say we’ll all be in one giant network eventually. It might be Twitter or it might not. Facebook could come out ahead or become a distant memory. Who knows? (My money is on Google, actually. They have so much cool stuff going on and are already a beloved brand.)

Regardless, it’s time for you to get a grip on this thing. And the first step is not to bite off more than you can chew. You don’t have to figure it out all at once.

I’m going to walk you through some baby steps here. First of all, let’s limit this project to no more than three social networks. At this writing, the three basics are Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. I recommend using each one for different sorts of information.

 

FACEBOOK: Great for family and friends, particularly old friends and far-flung ones. But you don’t have complete control over what shows up on FB, so you might want to avoid friending business contacts. Unless you don’t care if those business contacts run across that old photo of you with the beer bong that your college roommate is bound to post.

LINKEDIN: This network is for professional contacts. It’s sort of like a combined resume and Rolodex online. You can set up your profile in an hour or so, and if any of it intimidates you, just leave that section blank. Then cruise through your address book and use the standard LinkedIn invite email to ask as many people as you think are appropriate. The more the better. Then you can pretty much sit back and let this network operate on autopilot. You’ll begin getting invitations from other people, and when you meet someone new, you can invite them. (For more on how LinkedIn can actually be useful, see my blog about LinkedIn.)

TWITTER: Use this one to demonstrate you’ve got your finger on the pulse of your industry. If you see a blog with some great information for people in your field, tweet a link to it. If you’re sitting in the keynote address at a conference, you can tweet about that. And if you happen to be the keynote speaker, you definitely want to tweet about that. Of course, you need to keep your tweets to 140 characters or less, but that’s easy if you think of your post as more of a headline.

Get yourself set up on these three accounts, and just sit back and watch for awhile until you get the gist of what sort of things people post. And when you’re ready, join the conversation.

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