Lots of our clients have been asking us: So what is social media? Here’s a primer.
The basic concept of social media is connecting with and discussing stuff with people on the web. That’s it. Wikipedia has a slightly more complex definition: “Social media…support the democratization of knowledge and information and transform people from content consumers to content producers.”
Social media is a big deal because it changes people’s relationships with each other and with the world. Before social media, people were only absorbing content that companies (organizations etc.) put out. Now people are able to create their own content and have dialogues with each other over the internet. There’s a give and take, a sharing of opinion and ideas.
When people talk about social media, they’re usually talking about one of the following:
There are others, such as Google Buzz, Ning, Biznik, MySpace, Meetup, Flickr, and so on, but these four are the most popular right now. And they’re all free to use. Here are the basics of each.
Blogs let anybody put continuous, easily updated content out in the world for others to see. A blog is generally a person (or a small group of people) posting stuff (text, images, whatever) at regular intervals on his/her own page on the internet, and then readers can make comments on that stuff. Specialty software now exists that makes it easy for a non-technical person to have a blog (the best-known are Blogger and WordPress but there are others).
A blog is different from an ordinary website because it has regular updates, and each post is like a mini-magazine article. So each blog post can stand on its own. We have an IvanExpert blog on Mac and tech topics at http://www.ivanexpert.com/blog.
Facebook is frequently how friends and family are connecting on the internet, and sharing text and comments and photos (and stories and other cool stuff). So for example we have our own Facebook pages, which include info about us, our own status updates on what we’re doing, and all our Facebook friends’ status updates. And all the people who are friends with us on Facebook see our status updates on their Facebook pages.
Businesses can have Facebook pages too. And then individuals who use Facebook can connect with a company instead of another individual. We have an IvanExpert Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/IvanExpert, so please link to our page by clicking “Like”! (This used to be called “becoming a fan.”) Then, when we post interesting Mac news on our Facebook page, you’ll see it on your own personal Facebook page.
The idea of Facebook is that other people’s updates and content from all over the site get delivered to you, automatically, in one place–you don’t need to go search it out on other websites. Plus you don’t have to write long emails to each individual friend–you can post something short (or long) about yourself that all your friends can see. It makes it easy to keep up with lots of friends.
LinkedIn is more business-oriented than Facebook. It allows individuals to present their job histories and school histories online, for others to access. Like Facebook, people link their pages to the pages of people they know (co-workers, former co-workers, consultants, clients). Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn is useful for making business connections–looking for a job, finding a potential employee, getting consulting work, and so on. This isn’t the place to post stories about your trip to Disneyland.
Like Facebook, LinkedIn also collects other people’s updates and content in one place for you. So again, it’s about making it easy to stay in touch with lots of current and former co-workers and other business colleagues.
Twitter is the newest and perhaps the most hard to understand social media service. It allows you to send very short (140 characters) messages to anybody with a Twitter account who decides to “follow” you. And you, in turn, are “following” other people–they might be friends or colleagues or radio personalities or experts in a particular subject. The messages of everybody you “follow” show up on your Twitter homepage. So you’re in touch on a minute-by-minute basis with whatever is of interest to the group of people you “follow.”
For example we like to follow some people who are Mac enthusiasts, so we can keep on top of the latest Mac info. And we also follow our graphic designer, @tmisvaer, for design links and tips, and we follow @NickSwisher of the Yankees just for fun. We can’t read every message of every person we follow, but we jump in and out of following and commenting. It’s like being in a room of people and listening in to various conversations, and speaking up when you have something to add. Our Twitter name is @IvanExpertMac; follow us and we’ll follow you back!
So although these four tools all fall into the category of social media, they are very different in terms of audiences and how they’re used.
If you have questions on anything related to social media, ask us and we’ll be glad to help, or we can steer you to an expert on the topic.