4.12.2010

Social Media Basics

When I talk about social media, I tend to assume everyone has a basic understanding of what social media entails. However, as I have learned throughout the past week, many people do not have a basic understanding of social media, and some people are shy to speak up and ask questions.

I’m sure by now we’ve all heard professionals calling themselves “social media experts,” “social media gurus,” and perhaps even “social networking masters.” With such a rapid increase in social networking sites and the potential for profitability, it seems only natural that some people would explore these sites in-depth and hone their skills to create a marketable characteristic for themselves or their companies. While it is possible to “practice” social media, through engaging in social networking sites and staying up-to-date with the latest trends, professionals generally question the idea that one can become an “expert” in the field. Regardless of if you plan to be extremely experienced with social media, or just want to take advantage of a few of the many sites available, it’s important to immerse yourself in social media. No matter who you are, or what you do, social media can benefit you. What better way to immerse yourself in social media, then by beginning with a basic understanding of the tools available to you. After all, if you plan on becoming a “social media guru,” you need to at least know the basics. These basics are easy to set-up and free to all Web users.

The word blog, is actually short for “web log.” Blogs are used for a variety of things these days – a blog can be a diary, a company newsletter, a place for you to voice your opinion, a political soapbox, or a site for information about breaking news. A blog can be anything you want it to be, there aren’t really any rules. However, most successful blogs are well organized and updated frequently. In its most basic form, a blog is a website where you write stuff or post updates on a regular basis. Two of the most popular blog hosting sites are Blogger and Wordpress. Blogger is a free blogging service supported by Google. It offers a variety of blog templates and designs, an easy way to upload photos and embed videos, and makes it easy to search for other blogs. Wordpress is also a free blogging service. Wordpress has more variety in terms of templates and theme designs, it allows you to track stats on your blog (who is visiting, how often) right on the blog dashboard, and provides the option of upgrading your blog for more storage space or additional plug-ins. Individuals benefit from creating blogs for personal branding and marketing. Businesses benefit from creating blogs in a variety of ways. Whole Foods, for example, has a very successful blog. They post information related not only to their brand, but to all things food related as well

Facebook is a social networking site that acts as a real community of sharing. When it was first launched, Facebook was used mainly to connect with friends and family by sharing photos, commenting on each others profile pages, and creating event invitations. Now, Facebook has become utilized more by businesses, through creating Facebook fan pages. For individuals on Facebook, you create a Facebook profile page. Your profile contains your photo, a little information about yourself – where you are from, what you interests and activities are, where you work, and a wall, where your friends can post comments or links directly to your profile page. For business on Facebook, you can create a Facebook fan page. The fan page allows Facebook users to join your fan page community, post comments and links to your wall, and be kept up-to-date with business news, events, and leaders.

The basic premise of Twitter is answering the question, “what are you doing?” After taking just a few minutes to set up an account, Twitter users can easily answer this question by posting a status update to their profile, known as a “tweet.” As Twitter has grown, people now tweet all sorts of things, beyond the “Just woke up, about to head to the grocery store.” People tweet links to interesting articles they are reading online and people tweet their innovative thoughts and ideas. Businesses are even becoming involved with Twitter, tweeting new research, specials and coupons on products, and announcing new service launches. Twitter also makes it easy for users to search for information by entering keywords in the search bar, Twitter pulls up all tweet mentioning the keyword or linking to relevant articles. Most interaction on Twitter occurs directly on your profile page. In the bar where you post your status updates, you can use the “@” before a user name to indicate a response to that user. You can also use the “#” before a keyword to make it appear when people search that particular word. Following users is just as important as posting updates to your profile. By following people in your field of interest, you can stay up-to-date on industry news, leaders, and events in your area.

These basic tools are a great way for you to start exploring social media. Create accounts; engage with your friends and followers; provide valuable content – you’ll be on your way in no time. Once you feel comfortable with the basic tools, consider expanding your knowledge and experimenting with some of the more intermediate tools, like RSS feeds and Social Bookmarking. We’ll talk about these soon.

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