Sunday, November 1, 2009

What is Social Media?

Up until now, I've talked a lot about social media - its various platforms, growing importance, and how to get started - but I haven't actually defined what it is.

My compulsive need to define things in a linear way can be attributed to years and years of schooling where the majority of text books start off with a broad subject definition and then gradually introduce supplementary concepts so that you can see how each topic is linked to the main subject area.

It's no surprise then that defining social media in somewhat absolute terms is next on my blogging to-do list. However, this is a much bigger task than I originally imagined.

So, I decided to write a poem while I continue to wrap my head around the phenomenon that is social media. Keep in mind that this is the reason I don't write poetry or fiction in the first place. 
Social media, social media, you’re the buzzword on the scene
Don’t know how to blog you if I don’t know what you mean.

Social media, social media, you put the masses in control
You let consumers play reporter AND the publisher role.

Social media, social media, you’re just so darn cheap
Now businesses and consumers can readily reap.

Social media, social media, you let me tweet, post and upload
This shift is forever, you’ve paved a new road.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Getting Started with Social Media

Ok, fine. Social media is kind of a big deal. But where do I begin? How do I get started?

Here are a few easy ways to dig in.

1. Sign up for a "newsreader". Sit back and relax as all of your news, gossip and industry updates come directly to you - via a "newsreader" of course. One of the cool things about social media has been the innovation of a technology called RSS (Really Simple Syndication). By subscribing to the RSS feed of a website or blog, your "newsreader" (i.e. Google Reader or Windows Live) will be notified when new content is available. Then, read the stories and view the images you want in your newsreader at anytime without having to visit each website individually - such convenience!

2. Join LinkedIn. A good network is invaluable. When it comes to meeting new contacts, marketing yourself, finding a job, or getting answers to business questions, LinkedIn is one of the best places to start. It's a great way to see who's who in your industry, and how you are - or could be - connected to prominent and influential people. It's also an excellent source of company and people information - especially when it comes to interviews or business meetings. Because everything on LinkedIn has been placed there voluntarily, it's a good starting point to build common ground and cultivate relationships.

3. Get on Twitter. Even with 140 character limit, you can still get your message across - and much more creatively. Because Twitter is not permission-based like LinkedIn or Facebook, you can follow anyone you want to. This feature gives you access to people whom you might otherwise never have "met". So take advantage of Twitter's openness and expand your network. Engage with industry leaders and influential people; support the people and causes you care about, form communities around shared hobbies...the list is endless! Or, use the network you've built on Twitter to drive traffic to your own content and generate interest in a very big way.

4. Manage the "online you." With so many social media platforms, it can be easy to view them in isolation of each other. However, everyone googles - employers, co-workers, new love interests, old love interests, and even older friends - and you wouldn't want them to stumble upon something that you wouldn't voluntarily offer up yourself, now would you? Which is why it's important to manage the "online you" so that all of your online touch points reflect the message or image you want to convey. Remember, no matter how good your memory, the internet never forgets.

5. Re-evaluate Facebook. But first, if you're not on a social networking site (Facebook, MySpace or Bebo), get with the program! Seriously. Never before has it been so easy to stay in touch - whether it's with family, friends, distant relatives or high school classmates - social networking sites allow you to stay up-to-date with the people in your network and to be part of a much larger circle of friends than the average person's time permits. With that said, if you are on a social networking site, then please, heed the advice above. Decide if your profile is for personal or professional use - it's really hard to do both and be real at the same time.

6. Use Flickr. Instead of posting your drunken/half-naked pictures to Facebook for all to see, upload them to Flickr where you can better control who sees what. Because the harsh reality is that sitting next to a person for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week does not automatically make you friends. Sorry.

7. Discover or pursue a hobby. There are tons of social networking groups that cater to special interests - everything from online games and photography to cooking and politics. Meet people who share your interest and have fun learning new things.

8. Entertain yourself. Watch downloaded movies or TV shows on your phone in the subway, record yourself singing your favourite song, or Twitter to your network as you sit in 2 hour traffic at the border. Whatever you can do to entertain yourself and make time pass just a little less slowly.

You see, by providing us with the tools, social media enables us to have more friends, share more experiences, listen to more interesting conversations, speak to (more) industry leaders, connect with more like-minded people, find more information and faster, make better decisions, and create lasting relationships. It's your life - but better.

Besides, you can't knock it until you try it right? And who wants to turn down an opportunity to make their life better?

So dig in and try something new. You might be surprised at what you find.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Social Media: What's the big deal?

So Lil Ninja, why blog about social media? What's so special about it, and more importantly, why should I care?

Well, it's not that you should care, you might not and be happy to live your life immersed in the technology without ever really understanding the impact it's had or the implications it’s created. But, on the other hand, your wisdom might tell you that everyone cares about things in which they are directly involved - and like or not, social media is absolutely and positively relevant to you. 

The reason that social media is such a big deal is because it brings people together. And when people are together, they talk - they share their experiences, ideas, interests, opinions, and lives with one another. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube all facilitate conversations that build a sense of friendship, community, belonging and shared meaning. 

When it comes right down to it, social media simply perpetuates the human need for social interaction - and it does this easily, conveniently and in an online environment. 

But there's more to social media than just connecting with people. Before social technology, TV networks and newspapers spent millions of dollars each year on the production of news and entertainment - while we spent thousands of hours cooperatively consuming it. Unlike Facebook and Twitter that demand participation and engagement from its users, traditional media merely required us be present in order to receive the information and messages directed our way. We were being talked at, but not spoken to. 

Now, however, the conversation is less monologue and more dialogue. With today's digital technology and the internet, anyone can make, publish and share content - words, video, audio, and images - easily and for the most part, affordably. 

The best part about all of this user-generated content is that it gives us a much wider selection of sources to turn to. Consider this:  
  • There are over 200 million blogs online 
  • Approximately 13 million articles are available on Wikipedia
  • On average, Twitter boasts 3 million Tweets per day 
  • Facebook users spend about 5 billion minutes daily on the social networking site 
And while Facebook, Twitter and blogs may not seem like obvious pools of information, each platform is a means for us to build on the comments and perspective of others. The flip side of this, however, is that the distinction between audience and producer, writer and reporter, media and public is no longer crystal clear.

And this is just the beginning. As social media continues to give people like you and me the ability to create and broadcast messages on a global scale, and as our combined voices and efforts are made stronger and more powerful by social technology, then the real question is not should you care, but can you afford not to?


Need a few more reasons to care about social media? Check out these awesome presentations for some astounding facts and stats about this growing phenomenon. Trust me, all three are worth your time.

1. What the F**K is Social Media:
2. What the F**K is Social Media (one year later):
3. Social Media Revolution:
4. Mayfield, Antony. What is Social Media? iCrossing.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Do You Believe in Magic?

You know the people with the really great jobs? The ones who actually love what they do? Yeah, those people. You know who I’m talking about. Perhaps you have encountered someone of this species, or have had the torturous pleasure of making friends with this type - the kind who willingly bring their work home and try to discuss work related things with you after 5 as though “work” is an interesting topic of conversation. Pfft.

They’re also the ones who make you feel inspired AND depressed all at the same time…as if life wasn’t complicated enough without having to smile and nod as you simmer those conflicting emotions bubbling deep inside. You may begin to tune out, to mentally deconstruct talents and achievements as nothing more than luck. “Why isn’t that me?” screams the voice inside. “What is this exclusive club where work is play and people are happy?”

But soon, the conversation will come to an end, and your glimpse inside this paradoxical world will begin to dim. And when that happens, it’s just you again…the unfortunate onlooker, miserable and unsatisfied without a key to this magical place.

So how do you get in?

That’s the question I asked myself about three months ago when I became fully aware of how much my “onlooker” status sucked. After all, I’m a Gen Y which means I’m ambitious with high expectations. So why should I settle for a job that doesn’t resonate with me or reflect who I am?
Could I have predicted that I would be sitting here – blogging – about social media? Lol, no wayyy. Technology was always a part of my life but it was never something that I indulged in for fun.
But I needed to get out into the job market and didn’t have a tremendous amount of time to dedicate. As a relatively new grad, I also didn’t have a large network of people to turn to – so I joined LinkedIn and fell in love…well, that is, until I joined Twitter and started blogging.

From the technology side, I may have been an unlikely match for social media, but people change, they evolve, they grow. Essentially, this social media thing is just an extension of my ever-present desire to connect and engage with others.

So if knowing what you want to do is half the battle, then don’t I deserve some credit?

But maybe that’s my Gen Y side talking – the need for participatory ribbons and pat on the backs. The reality is, there is no such thing as half a key even in the most magical of places.

But here’s a secret that the club doesn’t tell you - the magic is in the process. It’s in the groundwork and comes from the learning, networking, and anticipating. It’s the days where you can imagine without limits what life is like on the other side; what you will do, who you will know and where you will be. It’s the magic that pushes you to achieve.

And the key? Well, it’s just a trophy to be flaunted. And although golden and glorious, even the most acclaimed winners will tell you that trophies would hold no value if not for the magic and the story that made it all possible.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009