Saturday, September 22, 2012

The "dip in" theory of social media

After asking me "how can I unfriend someone on Facebook and will they know?", the second-most common question I hear from clients and course participants is "How do you have time to keep up with social media?"

I have a few answers, starting mostly with tapping my smartphone and suggesting they might need one too (honestly, I need all the help I can get and a smartphone makes me a tad smarter, or at least more able to do stuff when I get a spare moment), they may well need to lock themselves in the bathroom to read their Twitter stream but most importantly, you don't have to keep up with everything!

Using smartphones on the train (to keep up with social media?!) via Retinafunk
When I show people how to use their Facebook news feed or to follow people on Twitter, they often ask "How can I delete all those updates when I've read them?" People want to start again with a clean slate. They want to think they've seen everything or, perhaps more importantly, not missed anything. I always try to explain that social media just doesn't work like that. You have to "dip in" when you can, have a look around, have a few conversations, share something, find new people or pages, and then head back out again into the real world. Whether you have time to do this for five minutes a day, or thirty minutes twice a week, or whatever, that's your social media time budget and that's fine.

In an interesting piece on social media rejection, the ever-wise Valerie Khoo has some sage words:
For those of you getting overwhelmed by the number of Tweets you are viewing, just remember … you don’t have to read every single one of them. That’s just insane. I thought Twitter was best described by US technology journalist and uber-podcaster Leo Laporte. He suggests that you think of Twitter like a river. And every so often you stand on the bridge that crosses the river and watch what goes by. You don’t have to keep up with what went past a few hours (or days) ago and you can step off the bridge at any time. But while you’re on it, you may choose to interact and respond to whatever you see going past at the time.
My sentiments exactly! Never, ever feel like you need to keep up with everything on social media. That's not the point of it. I know, for example, that on Twitter feeds I manage, I schedule the same message to run a few different times simply because that's the way it works - people just pop in now and again and see what's there at the time.

So relax. Dip in, enjoy, then get out and do something else. That's social media. Easy!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Thanks Facebook: A school reunion made even more fun

Over the weekend, I attended my 20th high school reunion. (Yes, go on, do the calculations, I already know the answer: that makes me OLD!). Five years ago, I went to my first reunion, having been overseas when the ten-year reunion took place. There was a huge difference between these two events, and funnily enough, the reason for that is simple: Facebook!

Back in 2007, Facebook was just starting up (it only opened up to the general public in 2006) and I had got in touch with a handful of old school friends there. In the vast majority of cases at the fifteen-year reunion, I knew nothing of the life and times of my old classmates and they knew nothing of me, so I felt like I spent the entire evening regurgitating my life-story-since-high-school and asking other people for theirs. To be honest, that got a bit exhausting and I ended up not saying hello to at least half of the people I would have liked to catch up with.

Twenty years ago ... of course we all look just the same now ;-)
Wind the clock forward to now, and Facebook is as invasive and pervasive as ... something that's really, really pervasive! The reunion itself was organised almost exclusively via a private group on Facebook, and I've become "friends" with nearly all of the classmates I could remember from high school. While we may not have physically seen each other for a long time - in quite a few cases, the full two decades - we knew quite a lot about whether or not we were married, how cute our various children were, and all kinds of other things that we'd gleaned from various Facebook updates over the years.

And I think this made the reunion extra-wonderful. I could go up to a long-lost friend and say hello and we could skip the boring "What are you doing now?" and cut straight to the "I loved the pictures of your Bali holiday" and "Did you decide what to do about that job offer?" kind of discussions. Conversations that mean a bit more than just regurgitating your CV. Conversations that were different for every person I spoke to. And there were even people who told me they often read my blog! I had no idea (and was so excited to hear it).

When I run Facebook talks and courses, there are usually a couple in the crowd who want to harp on about all the "bad stuff" about Facebook, and I counter with a big list of "good stuff". The reunion on the weekend proved it to me again - there is definitely some really "good stuff" about using Facebook.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Social media is evolving. Fast!

Every month or two on a Saturday morning I get to take a lovely drive along the river to get to the Futuresphere at Christchurch Grammar School here in Perth - it's the venue for all my computer lab-based courses for UWA Extension. Without fail I pass by large bunches of cyclists enjoying the relatively quiet roads and the scenic route along the Swan and it always puts me in just the right frame of mind to meet and teach a new group. It's become quite a nice routine over the last couple of years!

Part of my driving view - thanks to borkazoid
This morning I headed off in beautiful sunny weather (yes, slightly jealous of those who could enjoy one of the first warm days here) and taught a half-day course called "Facebook, Twitter and more". It's basically an introductory course to Facebook and Twitter with a little preview of other social media thrown in (this time, that included Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+).

Anyway, what struck me about this course on my drive home (not so scenic - I drive a more direct way then, keen to get home to my family) is how much it and its audience has changed over the last couple of years. Sure, Facebook specifically and social media in general have both changed a lot since I started teaching this classes but what's changed more is what people know about them. They really know a lot.

(Computer lab pic from FailedImitator - not the same computer lab that I teach in!)

Back when this class began it was called "Safe social networking" and it was squarely aimed at parents of teenagers. It sold out for the first three or four runs. Then the parents stopped needing to come. They were all on Facebook already, I think! So we rejigged the course a little and it became a social media introduction (and Facebook in particular) for pretty much anyone. This kind of worked, but this morning at least half the class already had some experience of Facebook and Twitter and even more surprisingly (for me), they didn't need it for personal use, but they wanted to learn how to use Facebook and other social media to help promote their businesses. I was pretty amazed - this is a huge shift in knowledge in probably less than eighteen months. But it does make me feel like I'm in the right business ;-) As long as I can keep up with all the changes!
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