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Trying Social Media on for Size..

July 26, 2011

Several years ago I received an email from a young co-worker suggesting that I sign up for Facebook.  I can remember taking a look at the site, and wondering what the point of it was.  The only people I knew “on the Facebook” were college kids and it just seemed like a timewaster.  Besides, I had only JUST gotten the hang of MySpace and now I was expected to join up for another one of these things!  However, I logged on somewhat begrudgingly.. just to try it out, of course.. and quickly became hooked on seeing what all my friends were doing.

Another friend suggested I join Twitter a few years ago while I was looking for a new job.  He told me it was a great way to make contacts and network.  I wasn’t entirely convinced at first, but I had time on my hands and dove into the Social media pool.

I quickly became a huge “Tweeter”, using Twitter as a business and networking tool as well as on a social level.  Now when I tell people “I Twitter and Facebook for a living” I am usually met with looks of astonishment and disbelief.  Of course, I’m being somewhat facetious – that’s just part of what I do and just one of many social media tools I use.

Social media can take on many different forms, including Internet forumsweblogs (blogging), social blogsmicrobloggingwikispodcasts, photographs or pictures, video, rating and social bookmarking. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, FourSquare, Digg, Reddit, WordPress, LinkedIn…there are hundreds of them.  There are social networking sites dedicated to pretty much anything– connecting with friends, dating, blogging, beer, gaming, cooking, fashion, health, technology, music, real estate, pop culture… you name it, and there’s probably a social site for it.

Most people are aware of Facebook and Twitter, but what about all the other social sites out there? It’s confusing to know which ones to use and it all depends on what your interests are and what you’re looking to achieve through your social media activity.

LinkedIn is a terrific business tool – akin to an online resume, it allows you to connect with friends, people you’ve worked with, broaden your business network and search out job opportunities.  Many businesses now hire exclusively through LinkedIn and many use the forums and discussion features to connect with potential clients or exchange ideas.

Delicious, Feedmarker, Linkatopia, and Google Reader are among the dozens of bookmarking tools and out of these, I prefer Delicious.  The site allows you to save links to articles and websites and access them through your account on any computer.  It’s a handy tool when you log onto multiple computers.  The site also allows you to “tag” your bookmarks, which enables bookmarks to be grouped by category.  This also allows you to view other’s bookmarks including popular or “hotlist” topics.

Other Social news and bookmarking sites, such as Reddit, Digg, and Stumbleupon use voting by users or selection by editors to rank interesting stories.  As well as submitting news and articles of interest, Reddit allows users to submit original content whereas Digg is more news oriented.  Stumbleupon is a “discovery engine” that finds and recommends content to its users based on their interests.

Blogger, WordPress, Typepad and LiveJournal are all blogging sites.  There are sites for photography and art sharing (deviantArt, Flickr, Photobucket), video sharing (Vimeo, YouTube, Metacafe and more),  document managing and editing (Google Docs, Dropbox) and presentation sharing (SlideShare, scribd).

The “next big thing” in social media is predicted to be question and answer sites like Answerbag, Ask.com, Wiki Answers and Quora.  Any question can be asked and participants offer answers on everything from technology to Harry Potter.

So which social media sites are right for you? It all depends on whether you’re using social media as strictly a social activity, for business or a combination of the two. The only way to discover which social media forums suit you best is to try them on for size.  Not every site will be a good fit.

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