Archive for January 1st, 2011

January 1, 2011

5 steps to get started in Social Media

Every week I get asked the question we’ve all asked ourselves when it comes to participating in an ever-growing number of social media networks: “How do you do it?” To many social media enthusiasts, this is often a very personal question, and one we have figured out on our own terms.

After trying to answer the question as it means to me, I’ve figured out that the people who are asking the question really couldn’t care less about how I use social media. What they are asking is how can they get started and use it well.

I’ve boiled down the typical conversation to this list of the first 5 things beginners should do to get started using social media.

1. Set goals: Figure out what you want out of the tool. Do you want to get the latest headlines? Connect with friends? Build your personal brand? Look for career opportunities? Discuss shared interests? Share photos or videos? What you want out of the social media experience will help determine how you approach the next steps.

2. Pick your poison: A common mistake of social media newcomers is they want to play in all of the sandboxes at once: a daunting task for any user. Once you have an idea of what you want to gain from the use of a social media network, then the choice of which one you should join becomes clearer. You don’t need to pick them all; start with one or two and really get to know them. Here’s a great infographic covering the strengths of some of the more popular tools.

3. Sign up and build your profile: Your profile is a great opportunity to share the essence of who you are and what you are contributing to the social media community.  If you fail to add a proper photo, background, biography, real (or believable) name, etc., you are limiting the ability of others to find you through the social media tools themselves or search engines. A full profile establishes a level of credibility and trust which encourages other other users to. For example, here’s my @David_Hall Twitter bio:

Communications & PR Pro – P/T Algonquin College Professor – Social media enthusiast.
Passionate about managing traditional & social media for @algonquincolleg

It doesn’t include everything about me, but it gives a good snapshot of my main personal and professional interests that I will be discussing on Twitter. Never underestimate the importance of a full profile.

4. Sit back and listen: Once “you are in” start poking around and experimenting with the tool; see what it does, see what it doesn’t do, and more importantly, observe how others are using it to share their information or content.You will quickly understand the “culture” of the tool which will help your transition to step 5 much easier. Many social media platforms are fantastic listening tools where you are able to crowd-source in real-time to get a good feel of the conversation taking place at any given moment.

5. Join the conversation by adding value: This is where you will sink or swim in social media – It’s all about content and conversations driven by the users. Be real, be relevant, be useful. Share a resource or expertise, ask a question, answer a question, report on breaking news, promote cool stuff, share your opinion on current events, and be sure before each posting to ask yourself “who cares?” If the honest answer is “nobody,” you may want to reconsider.

Final thoughts: Ultimately, social media is about sharing experiences. Pick a tool that best fits your interests. If you want to keep in contact with people you have met in your offline world, Facebook would be a good start. If you are looking for the latest information, breaking news, connections with thought leaders, and a place to share your experiences in a common conversation, Twitter is your first step. Start with LinkedIn to augment your professional presence online; and look to YouTube, Photobucket, or Flickr to share  and consume user-generated multimedia photos and videos.

Did I miss something social media newcomers should be aware of? Let me know, add your comments.

January 1, 2011

Do you really hate the “New” Facebook?

Recently, many Facebook users have upgraded their profile to the “New Facebook 2010”. The upgrade doesn’t offer a big change to functionality: it’s mainly a rearrangement of how the information is displayed and prioritized. Here’s a quick shakedown…

Photos: It was a smart move to focus the improvements on what brings users back to the site time, and time again – the photos. Last year alone there were over 2.5 billion photos uploaded each month.  It’s now faster and easier to browse your friends’ photos and quickly share yours. The focus on photos is reflected in Facebook’s introduction video that doesn’t show much else besides dynamic photos.

“New experiences”: This upgrade gives you the ability to list the projects you complete at work and the courses you complete at school.  This new feature is a curious addition that may be an  attempt to gain market share on LinkedIn and solicit more user information critical to the effectiveness of Facebook ads. It will be interesting to see how this is embraced (or not) by users.

“Featured friends”: This new feature allows users to sort and categorize friends based on how they are connected through real, in person, relationships – “colleagues”, “hometown friends”, “band-mates”, “soccer team”, etc.  The social value in this feature is unclear at this point and I’m not sure users would be inclined to sort though their hundreds, or thousands, of friends to segment them into specific groups with little benefit to their day-to-day activity on Facebook.

Privacy: The new profile maintained my custom settings (at least on my account), so that’s a victory for Facebook over previous upgrades.

The Downside: User backlash. Soon after people began to upgrade their profile they began to hate it. They hate it because it is different from what they are used to and they turned to their good friend Facebook to voice their displeasure. This page has over 16,000 “likes” (Dec. 15, 2010). Many users are asking for the old profile back, others are having issues finding where familiar features are located, while some aren’t impressed that old features have different behaviours.  My favourite posts are emotional/dramatic; the following post is a great example (particularly the first point):

Final thoughts: I understand that some people hate change, but it’s a great sign that Facebook continues to innovate and bring users more options. What users like will stay, what isn’t used will fall off the radar. My suggestion would be to use it for a month and get used to it. If you don’t like the new features, don’t worry about it: they will fade away in the next update. User backlash happens everytime….we all remember a similar outcry the last time we had an update in 2008.

January 1, 2011

Social Media in 2011: 4 trends to watch

The ThinkerSocial media made some great leaps in 2010: Facebook reached 500 million users, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga battled for most viewed videos on YouTube, and the Gulf oil Spill was the highest ranked trending topic on TwitterWe even saw a big-budget Hollywood Blockbuster bring home almost $100 million, telling the story about the controversial beginnings of Facebook.

As exciting as the past year has been, 2011 will undoubtedly continue to build on the social media movement as we connect with companies, colleagues, and friends. Here are my thoughts on what to look for in social media over the next 365.

Continued and rapid monetization: Especially with third-party apps and clients designed to help users interact with their social networks. Advertising, data mining, and promoted tweets are the current answer to the question “how do we make money out of this?” With continued “upgrades” and new features added, users are prompted for more personal information. At the same time, advertising and fee structures are being implemented for use of some social networks ot the tools we use to access them. The common user will not see much of a difference, but organizations can expect to begin to pay for previously free services.

Community buying boom: Expect more deals, not necessarily better deals in 2011. We’ve all heard of the community buying giant Groupon, mostly due to the recent interest Google has paid to it causing the estimated value of Groupon to reach over $4 Billion. Don’t expect the interest to calm down in 2011. Groupon will continue to be number one, but several other services have, and will, continue to sprout up to challenge for market share; a few to watch:

Geo-tagging networks popularity: This is a controversial one, but I believe 2011 will be the year users and businesses really get to know these tools and harness the social power of geo-tagging games/services.  Increased integration with existing networks (Facebook Places) helps users see the social value of these location-based services. Businesses will continue to integrate geo-tagging into sales and awareness campaigns. Some businesses are offering deals to the “Mayors” of their shops, but most are reaping the simple value of awareness. Aside: I recently tried a sushi place I learned about through Foursquare without being offered a deal, just a recommendation. It’s more than just Foursquare and Facebook Places. Others are already getting into geo-tagging:

Interest in “International” networks: By nature, all social media is international, but all social media is not necessarily popular on an international level. Businesses around the world will look to Social Media networks that have taken hold in other countries to connect with potential customers.  Opportunities exist in some of the world’s largest populations.  In China, QQ is the most popular IM tool; and 90% of the worldwide traffic to comes from China. Orkut (by Google) is very popular in Brazil and India, making up 70% of the worldwide user base combined. Check out this great post for more examples and details on international social media opportunities.

Final thoughts: 2011 is poised to be another great year for social media. Everyday, more and more users signup and engage. More users + more conversations = positive Social Media outlook. Signup, engage, and enjoy 2011.

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