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Riding the social media wave

(ARA) – Who is using social media? What is it exactly? When and where do people tweet, post and blog? Why do people engage in social media?

Social media is everywhere. It encompasses blogs, social networks (such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace), professional networking avenues such as LinkedIn, and creative sites like Flickr, a photography-sharing website. People such as the teenager next door, grandma and celebrities are using social media outlets. Remember when Conan O’Brien made news by first breaking his recent public silence on Twitter? Did you know that there are more than 300 million active Facebook users who post nearly 1 billion photos monthly to their accounts? Additionally, it would take 7,000 years for all the photos on Flickr to be developed at a one-hour photo!

People use social media for a variety of reasons. What role does social media play in your life? What role should it play?

“The savvy social media user will know how to maximize social media use for their benefit,” explains Ted Long, academic director of Web Design & Interactive Media at The Illinois Institute of Art – Schaumburg. He recommends pointers from as a guide to social media beginners. Some favorites follow.

Know what you are talking about. If you are going to work with social media, be involved in social media. Start your own Twitter account, Facebook page, read blogs and get engaged. That is the best way to understand the culture, tone, best practices, and protocol.

Always be transparent. When you are communicating in social media say who you are and who you work for. Don’t try to be sneaky and plant comments, don’t hire people to go out and say nice things about you and stay away from ghost writing. Be genuine and be real.

Post frequently. It’s a lot of work, but don’t post to your blog then leave it for two weeks. Readers won’t have a reason to follow you on Twitter or check your blog if they can’t expect new content regularly.

Add value. Share tips, tricks and insights. People’s time is precious and they need to get something out of the time they spend with you. Make listening to you worth their time.

Respond. Answer questions, thank people even if it’s just a few words. Make it a two-way conversation.

Have fun. If you don’t like what you are doing, others will notice it and won’t enjoy interacting with you.

Vanessa Jackson, assistant director of career services at The Illinois Institute of Art – Schaumburg, reminds users that social media should always be appropriate for a professional setting. “Social networking sites are like the invention of fire for the 21st century. There is great power, possibility and functionality, but use it improperly and you can burn yourself,” cautions Jackson.

Jackson advises:

  • You can lock your profile, but remember that a lot of information can be derived simply by looking at your profile picture.
  • Keep one clean profile per social media site. Don’t bother having two profiles, one for friends and one professional.
  • LinkedIn is for professional networking and shouldn’t be used in the same manner that you use Facebook or MySpace, unless all of your social media profiles are business appropriate.
  • Employers (and potential employers) really do check your social networking sites. Spell correctly, use proper grammar and don’t be vulgar or degrading to others.

Social media has revolutionized the way we communicate, leaving many who don’t use it feeling out of touch. To begin, start slow, learn as you go, and remember to represent yourself in a way that is appropriate for the world to see. Then you too can experience the benefits of being more connected than ever before.

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Courtesy of ARAcontent