Friday, September 12, 2008

Being Social in Today's Media

There has been a great increase in the popularity of social media websites in the past few years. Social media networking has taken off throughout the world. It helps people to share ideas, take a stand on a subject, or just get something off of their chest.

What is Social Media?
The first thing you need to know is a definition of what social media actually is. A very basic definition of social media is “a group of tools and sites that let you easily create and share content online.” The key word in this definition is share. Too often, people will focus on publishing or distributing something new, and miss the whole point in the sharing of social media. Social media is about conversations. Which conversation you want to take part in is up to you. But no matter what - join the conversation.

By nature we are a social communicating society. From the time of cavemen drawing on walls to communicate, up to today. Using social media can frame you as an expert in your field of interest. People can ask you questions, you can answer them and hopefully teach them something new. Nearly every social media site makes it possible to connect with other people (that’s why they call it social media). If you are not connecting to people, then no one is finding you. Social media is also about making and sustaining connections. The only way you can grow your influence is long term. If you do not like the fact that it takes time, don’t do it at all.

People use social media sites to share useful content. If you go into social media hoping to roll out something new, something that isn’t useful and interesting to people visiting your site, you are not tapping into what social media was created to do. Publishing and distributing involve one-way channels - pushing things out to the public. Social media was not designed to push things out to users, but to make it easier for them to communicate and share things. Whenever you use social media for something it was not intended to do, you not only miss the boat, you also take the chance of “angering the natives.” People do not like when they feel pushed into something, and that is exactly what you are doing when you start trying to push something using social media.

The best way to use social media is to give more than you receive. If you provide something that is both useful and informative to a social media site, those who use it will praise it. This is how you make friends and expand your reach in social media. When users find something they like, they share it with others. The more they share the useful thing that you have provided, the more people that you bring to your site (, Blackburn).

In today’s highly connected and Internet wired world, people that ignore social media do so at their peril. "Five of the top 10 web sites are social media. You need to go where the people are," said Rob Key, CEO of Converseon, a social media marketing agency (

Take Baby Steps
People should start out small in social media. Be patient with your progress. This is an emerging media. Put your energies into one area rather than spread yourself too thin among many web sites. "Unless you are a social media specialist that spends eight hours tweeting and blogging for your job, then social media is not something you are going to do as one of 10 things for the day," said Todd Beane, Marketing Specialist and Douglass Institute resident social media guru. "But you need to be involved. If you don't have that much time, pick one online social community that entertains you and makes you happy in the process of participating."

A good way to start out in the social media world is to start a personal blog about your interests. Once the blog is operational, you will learn first hand what it feels like to develop content, manage comments, and seek promotion. Branch out your social media reach by starting a community group on Facebook, MySpace, or LinkedIn around the topics where your target audience will congregate. Remember that the people on social networks are all people, have likely been there a while, might know each other, and know that you’re new. Tread gently into new territories. Don’t NOT go. Just go gently. Don’t be afraid to fail. Be ready to apologize. Admit when you’ve made a mistake (, Brogan).

For some FREE expert advice, find a bunch of bloggers and podcasters whose work you admire, and ask them for opinions on your social media projects. Just remember people power social media. Believe in the value of people. They are real human beings or had to start in social media sometime too.

1 comment:

trickyrichard said...

Nice article, and from a fellow West Virginian at that. I'll tweet it.

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