On Writing, Social Networking

4 ways to get started in social media

I’ve been meeting a lot of people lately who are relatively unfamiliar with social media (except maybe using it for personal use of Facebook or LinkedIn.)  It does feel a little bit strange when you’re getting started to speak to an audience who you’ve never met: you’re worried about saying the wrong thing, not knowing your audience, and saying something that lasts forever.

With those fears in mind, here are four suggestions to get started:

Listen.

Whether you’re paying attention to a hash tag at http://search.twitter.com, reading the tweets of interesting people on Twitter, or simply searching blogs on Google for a title, there’s lots of interesting stuff out there to read.  In fact, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all there is to read.  Picking a few topics to listen and then seeing what people say that resonates with you is a great way to start in social media.  A few resources that will help you are Google Reader (a great way to aggregate RSS feeds if you don’t know what you’re looking for) and Gist (a great way to learn more about the people you find online who are experts in a topic.)

Share.

Now that you’ve gained valuable insight into a topic, share it with your friends, or share it with the world.  Common ways to do this include Retweeting, or sharing a link through Facebook or plain ol’ email.  If you think something is interesting (and you’d like your friends to know why) say so – but don’t feel compelled to overthink your response.  Your main goal in sharing content is to bring interesting and new items about a topic to other people.

Comment.

When you’re comfortable with the idea of Listening and Sharing, start commenting.  This could be as simple as writing a comment on your friend’s Facebook page, or as involved as finding the blog of someone you don’t know and writing them a few sentence comment on a recent post to tell them how you feel.  Authors are publishers too, and they really do want to hear from you (really.)  If you can’t think of how to start, think about how you’d like to be addressed if someone wrote you a quick note telling you about something going on in your life.

Compose.

To paraphrase Dale Chumbley, composing is easy and just like writing email.  The subject of the email becomes the title of the blog; the content or body of the email becomes the content of the post; and the audience just becomes a bit wider than sending your email to one person.  You can start writing today — it’s not hard, and no one expects you to be an expert overnight.  Try writing a blog post and see how it feels — then write some more.  You’ll quickly figure out what sort of a rhythm works for you and how often you should publish, and it’s great when other people read what you’ve written and start the whole cycle again.

What are some ways that you recommend for people to get started in Social Media?

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