A cheat's guide to social media

A cheat's guide to social media.

At a glance

  • Most of our kids are using multiple kinds of social media.
  • Social media is just another way of receiving news – whether it's from friends and family or strangers we've never met.
  • The best way to learn about social media is simply to visit the sites and see for yourself.
  • Being familiar with the sites your child visits is just as important as knowing where they go and who.

Twitter is just one of the latest (well, it's actually already a few years old) technologies that falls into the slightly fuzzy world of social media.

Don't worry, if we're honest, most of us have only made a point of finding out about social media because:

a) we have kids who are using this stuff and we want to know what they're doing, or

b) our work lives have made it unavoidable.

To understand social media, think about news in general. Traditionally, we received our news from papers, radio and TV. The media organisations decided what was news, and how and when they'd deliver it to us.

With the internet came the ability for every single person to decide what was newsworthy, and publish it themselves at any time of the day or night.

News flash – Beckham joins Forestville Under-7s


These days, the unlikely event of Forestville Under-7 Cockatoos winning their first ever soccer match becomes news - to their parents at least. So Alex, one of those proud parents, goes to his personal blog on Wordpress and writes about the match.

On the blog, he adds a link to photos of the match (which happen to be housed on an image sharing site, like Flickr).

Earlier in the season, the Cockatoos created a group on Facebook, where the parents post comments about the game, add links to inspiring soccer sites, and also share photos they have taken (with permission, or course). They even can embed a link to a video on YouTube, which shows how to celebrate a goal by pulling your shirt over your head and running in circles.

Meanwhile, Alex is so thrilled about the win he just can't sleep and so he's up till the wee hours 'tweeting' on Twitter. Other people have previously chosen to 'follow' him on Twitter, which means they receive all the little comments he makes about the game, via their computers or their mobile phones.

According to technorati  there are currently more than 209,593,000 blogs on the internet

These followers are so amazed by Alex's comparisons between his seven-year-old and Beckham, they decide to go to his Wordpress blog for more details.

Once on the blog, they click on the Flickr link and check out the match photos, too. (Where it becomes apparent that apart from the hair, the seven-year-old player doesn't share a whole lot in common with Mr Beckham.)

One Twitterer goes so far as to add the blog to his favourites on a social bookmarking site like delicious.com, so he can find the site easily from any computer in the world. He tags it using words like 'delusional dad', 'Forestville', 'under-7', 'soccer player', and 'Beckham', so that others can find it too.

What type of social networking butterfly are you?

This is just a very brief example of how some of the technologies might be useful in your life. There are many different social media sites and even more ways to use them.

According to technorati there are currently more than 209,593,000 blogs alone on the internet  - not counting other tools like wikis, social networking sites or virtual worlds, like The Sims and Second Life.

In a nutshell, not all social media technologies are useful to everyone. Leading Australian social network strategist and blogger Laurel Papworth has even written an article called What type of social networking butterfly are you? - it's a bit of fun but also gives a little insight into what sites you might check out.

Twitter is for asking quick questions (140 characters or less) and getting quick responses. Other micro-blogging sites include Plurk and TodaysMama (designed for women).

Facebook is a social networking site where users can join groups organised by city, workplace, school, and region, to connect and interact with other people. Other social networking sites include Bebo, MySpace and LinkedIn.

Blogs, on the other hand can be rich in content, including links, images and ongoing discussions. Go to the technorati blog directory and search by keywords to find blogs that interest you.

The key is to be brave and start with the social media sites linked here. Veterans recommend you 'lurk' (observe silently) until you get the feel of the community, the tone and the content - and check for a 'policy of use' to know the rules.

What you will discover is: no matter what the topic, someone out there has decided it's 'news' and is more than ready to discuss it with you, right now.

 


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