Those of you that know me well have probably had to sit through a conversation (or likely a lecture) on the growing importance of Social Media. What started out as setting up a Facebook page (reluctantly, after proudly having avoided MySpace) has evolved into a full-blown interest for me. Before I dig in, I want to state one very important thing: I am no Social Media expert. If you are looking for one of those, sign up for a Twitter account and talk to nearly anyone there. I am simply someone who is fascinated by the tools that have changed the way I interact in both my personal and professional worlds.
For me, it all began with Facebook
I started out on Facebook for one simple reason: it was suggested by two colleagues I respect. They told me that this would be a fun way to keep in touch and that I would be able to poke them. The whole poking thing put me over the top and I created my first online account since AOL in 1995. Although I am yet to poke anyone, I was hooked the moment I signed up. In a matter of days I had connected to close friends, co-workers, colleagues and reconnected with a wealth of people who I thought had left my life forever.
Why should you do this?
Why did you get a telephone when they came out? The mail still worked fine. Why create an email account if you simply can pick up the phone and dial? Why sign up for an Instant Message account when you can write an email? Okay, I think I have sufficiently hammered this home. Every one of these advancements made communicating easier and more efficient; Social Media is no exception.
Online services such as Facebook and Twitter are the next evolution in communication. If you need proof, log on to Twitter the next time there is a breaking news story. You will see immediate, unfiltered and personal recounting of what is happening. In fact, if you want to see the power and usefulness of Twitter, make sure to sign up and follow along on Inauguration Day.
Where Should You Start?
For those who haven’t signed up yet, I usually hear the same question when someone is ready to break down and create an online account. MySpace or Facebook? While MySpace has been around a lot longer and currently has more users, the look and feel of Facebook is far cleaner and easier to use. While I could go on and on about the differences between the two, I think this was best summed up on a post from StuffWhitePeopleLike.com. I know that this was meant to be amusing, but there is a lot of insight as to why Facebook is slowly taking over MySpace’s place as the online leader.
What Can You Get From This?
The beauty of these tools is that they are flexible and the best sites offer a benefit for every walk of life. Professionals can use sites like Facebook to network while grandmothers use it to see the latest pictures of their grandchild. Of all the sites I am on, Facebook has had the most profound effect on my relationships. I no longer lose as much time catching up. These days, we’ve already seen each other’s latest pictures and mutual status updates keep us in the know on what is going on in each other’s worlds. It has allowed me to spend more time enjoying my friends in the present.
Sites like Twitter offer a whole other range of benefits. Many people are just waking up to Twitter, so you often end up connecting with new contacts rather than your current group of friends and colleagues. The open and public nature of Twitter allows you to find people with common interests, makes it easy to connect with them and allows you to learn from their experiences.
The bottom line…
This is where things are heading and it will benefit you greatly to begin to work these tools into your life. I understand the reluctance to live a portion of your life online; it took me a long time to embrace this shift. I have heard every excuse in the book: What about privacy? There are people who I keep out of my life for a reason. And the most common excuse, I just don’t have the time. They all make sense, they are all valid, but they will all keep you from moving forward.
I am sure that if you are reading this, it is likely that you are already living a little of your life online. If so, I hope you pass this along to those who I am sure you have tried to convince to head online. It was a long time before I finally gave in and I hope this post convinces a few more stragglers to sign on.
I will be following this post up shortly by sharing the tools I use and how I use each one. There are so many Social Media sites these days and I will be happy to walk you through the sites I use and why. In the meantime, I would appreciate any insight into the sites you have chosen to weave into your life and why you use them.