Social Media

24 07 2011

Social media is one of those things that you either “get” or you don’t. When I first created my Twitter account, lots of people asked me, “What is Twitter even for?” Those that didn’t ask that made some comment about not needing to know what Ashton Kutcher had for breakfast. I resisted Twitter for a while, having very much the same reactions myself. One of the benefits of my job is that I get to sit in on corporate meetings. Most of the time, this is not a benefit at all. But every now and then, there’s an interesting speaker or topic that really makes me sit up and pay attention. One of these topics was social media and how the healthcare industry could use it. They touched on Twitter just enough to make me a little curious. I still did nothing about it. A few months later, a different group had a speaker discuss social media. This speaker was much more interesting, sharing personal stories and examples. I made my Twitter account that night. Here is an updated version of a video that she showed during her presentation:

Another presenter showed that video a few days ago, which is why this is on my mind. I’ve fallen out of the habit of using Twitter, and I mean to start that up again. I have also since joined LinkedIn, and more recently, Google+.

Most people I know are on Facebook, so that’s mainly a tool I use to check in with them or let people know about what’s going on in my life. Currently, I’m on there very sparingly, but I’m going to try to use it a little more effectively.

There are very few people I know who use Twitter. But there are plenty of people I don’t know who use it and are more interesting than “eating waffles at vi!!” I have found many people in industries/trades that interest me, and most have been very friendly and helpful. Like everything, there’s a lot of crap floating around on Twitter, and the main challenge is finding your way past it to the gold that lurks inside.

LinkedIn is geared primarily towards business networking, as opposed to purely social networking, like Facebook. I have limited need for that at the moment, but I have signed up, and continue to slowly complete my profile. I’m still trying to figure out what exactly it can offer me, but I’m open to find it.

The new kid on the block is Google+, which is still in its beta phase. The best way to describe it that I can think of, is somewhere between Twitter and Facebook. The main draw of it for me so far is the concept of “circles.” Similar to lists or groups in Facebook, Google’s circles win hands down due to them being easy and intuitive to use, integral to the concept of Google+, and therefore obvious and in the forefront of the interface. Similar tools on Facebook are a few clicks away to find, and most users of Facebook (especially those who were around before they introduced these functions) don’t even know they exist. I’m very curious to see if Google+ can gain a foothold.

But what is it all for? That’s the question that returns again and again. People seem to think that any new social media tool needs to fill an obvious gap or it’s useless. The thing is, social media in all its forms is a tool. And you use tools in many and varied ways. A screwdriver can be used to, well, screw things. Just like Twitter is used to tell people that you’re drunk and partying at Matt’s place. Screwdrivers can be used for other things as well, like prying the lid off a paint can. Likewise, Twitter can be used for other things, like marketing or fueling a political revolution (see Egypt). I find, instead of asking what social media is for, I ask how can I use social media for x purpose?

How do I let all my friends know about a party? Facebook. How do I look for a new group of local gamers? Google+, once my circles are built. How do I meet other people interested in game design? Twitter. How do I find use for LinkedIn? Still working on that one. In fact, I can see some definite use for LinkedIn once some of my current projects get closer to completion, but that’s a long way off.

In the meantime, with LinkedIn and all social media, I’m rededicating myself to increasing my presence so that when I need to use the tool, it’s ready to be used. Keep your knives sharp.

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