There has been an explosion in social media networks over the past ten years. The younger set gets it, and aggressively uses them. The older set may or may not. I know quite a few people over the age of 50 that pooh pooh social media and it’s uses. They might acknowledge that there is something there, but they refuse to believe it will change opinion, or create a wave. They also see it as a superficial way to connect to people.
Hey, I wouldn’t disagree that it’s superficial. To really get to know someone, you have to press the flesh. That’s why the book, “A Million Cups of Coffee” might be one of the great all time titles! Once you establish your network, even if you are in contact on social media, it pays to meet once in awhile. The good news is if you are both avid users of social media, the small talk is shorter and the real productive action happens sooner in the conversation.
For you the older set that hasn’t gotten into the social media thing, here is a primer. Be forewarned, as soon as I type this it might be obsolete! There is continual innovation in this sort of thing that will escalate with the Facebook IPO. But if you just got an iPad and are looking for ways to populate it with aps, this will help you.
Instead of getting intimidated by the many networks out there, segment them and view them as tools. When you decide what you want to use them for, it makes the decision of whether to join or not to join a lot easier.
First there are the big four social networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+.
Facebook is a place to post stuff about you. You can reconnect with friends here, and connect with existing friends. Unless you are trying to develop yourself as a brand, it’s not a place that you will actively meet new unknown people to you unless there is a common bridge between you. It’s really your personal page. People can get to know you better here. In social media, Facebook is “flat”. Facebook is free, but you will get targeted ads. Facebook is a platform that a lot of smaller boutique social networks use to launch their networks. For example, the gaming company Zynga ($ZNGA) wouldn’t be what it is without Facebook. If you don’t know what Zynga is, think Farmville and Words With Friends.
LinkedIN is a research site. This is where you put your professional information. Kind of like an online resume. Before I meet with people a lot of times I will check to see if they are on Linked In. Or, if someone wants to meet with me I might go there to check to see if it should be a higher or lower priority. LIke the address book on your computer, it’s an in depth personal rolodex. LinkedIn is “flat”. There is a free version of the product, and there are pay for versions as well. You decide what you want. I use only the free version. If you are still working, put something up on LinkedIn. If you want to reconnect with old workplace friends in a professional manner, LinkedIn might be for you. However, if you have no interest in working and are reconnecting socially only, it’s probably not for you.
Twitter is a here and now site. It’s a marketplace of ideas. A river of information. This is where you get what you want from the web when you want it from sources you think are important. It can be fun, newsy, anything you want. If you choose someone to follow and find you don’t like them, simply unfollow. No one knows the difference. Some people have loads of Twitter followers, and some don’t. It’s not a competition. For business, Twitter is the place for brands to have direct contact with their customers in a real time basis. Cheaper than setting up a call center. You get on the ground info on what people are thinking. To utilize it better, download an ap like Seesmic, Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to make it more efficient. I use Twitter to spot trends, get on the second news and to engage people I might not normally engage with in real time. Stocktwits is an example of a specialized Twitter network. If you are interested in the market, sign up and check it out. Oh, and like the others, all this stuff is free.
There is a newer network, Google+. It’s a competitor to Facebook, but it has some of the friending advantages of Twitter. There is a great feature called hangouts which can be video enabled. I am on Google+, like the interface but I am still learning about it. The best thing about it is the competition it has brought to the social network space. Google has made Facebook innovate faster. Google is frantically trying to innovate the platform. It’s being integrated into Google search, which will make it a lot more valuable for business.
Once you download those and populate accounts, there are other social media companies that you might like. These are specialized social networks. Virtually every major company you may have heard of has a mobile application you can download. Amazon($AMZN), Groupon($GRPN), Living Social, Apple ($AAPL), they all have them. If you are actively using something like that on your computer, download their mobile ap to the iPad.
Yelp is a review network. You can create a profile here, friend people. The thing that Yelp does is allow you to review all kinds of businesses online. Plus, if you think there is a fraud review, you can research that person to see if they are a confederate or if they are a real person. Yelp is the bane of a lot of businesses. As long as people are honest with their reviews, it’s great. What I find is that sometimes people want to be MR. CRITIC and they wouldn’t be as critical if they were simply having a conversation about the place with their friends. Want to see the blood drain from a maitre d’s face. When you show up on time for your reservation and they tell you the wait is thirty to sixty minutes, pull out your phone and tell them you are doing a Yelp review.
Spotify, Pandora-these are music networks. You can friend people and share your various music likes with them. My wife uses Pandora all day long and streams it over the speakers in our apartment off her iPad. The great thing about them is you get the music you want without paying for it. It just streams. With Apple’s iTunes, you have to buy the song to get it into a playlist. Pandora and Spotify allow you to pick the genre and they bring it.
Instagram is a photo sharing ap. You can friend people here too! It’s a great place to upload photos and have people comment on them. The idea came from the old Poloroid camera. Take a photo with your phone, instantly upload it. Share it on Facebook, Twitter and anywhere else you might want to go. Kids love this. It’s an extremely cool site for creative people. Tag your photos with a hashtag and then they go into a search.
TripAdvisor is a great ap for travel. There are good reviews of hotels and other sites here. You can friend people. I haven’t been wronged by a review on Trip Advisor yet. A few years ago, I planned my whole trip to Bali using it. We stayed in some great places that were out of the way. I pay them back for that great experience by reviewing things when I go. Read my review on Charlie Vergos Rendezvous (YUCK don’t go). There are many other travel sights out there like gTrot and Tripit. Tripit is kind of cool because you simply email your travel plans to it and it reminds you. Saves all your confirmation numbers too.
The important thing is to just join the social networks that you will use. If they have a sign in using one of your big three accounts, use it. That way you don’t have to remember a billion passwords. For critics of this post that say I didn’t go deep enough, I am sorry. This was designed for people that don’t participate in social media at all, or the ones that had their grandkids persuade them to set up a Facebook account and then they never use it.
As a person that has a 98 year old grandfather, I have learned a few things about communication with the older set over the years. You have to communicate on their terms. My grandfather never got the hang of the computer. So, now we have to send him letters via snail mail. Wouldn’t it be neat to interact with him in real time since I can’t be there? For grandparents, it’s a great way to interact with your grandkids. Speak to them on their terms. Don’t worry about making mistakes. They’ll forgive you because of your age! No different than when you were teaching them how to cast a lure or make a cake for the first time. Eventually, it will become natural to you.
There are literally thousands of applications in a place like the Apple iTunes store. Search for them by your interests. Most of them are reviewed, then decide if you want to download it or not. Most are free as well. If you like them, keep them. Don’t like them, discard them. It’s simple as that.
Social networks will continue to proliferate. Eventually, there will be many fragmented specialized networks. You will interact with people that have the same interests that you have never met in person. You will accept their recommendations and they will accept yours. You will teach each other. But because there is an online searchable database, they will know if you have credibility or not. Your real identity will merge with your online identity.
This interaction will cause people to become a lot more informed and productive. The best applications save us time and money for menial tasks today, like Card Munch for business cards or various receipt trackers like Pro on Go. As aps have developed, some are very powerful. They are mini computers on your mobile device.
So, don’t be intimidated. Jump in. It will take you a bit to master it, but once you do you will have a richer life.