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Social Media 101

Originally posted: February 2, 2010 on TrishMcFarlane.com

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post called ‘How to Simplify Your Social Media Life.’  When I wrote that post, it was with the assumption that if people were reading my blog, they probably have at least a minimal level of comfort using social media.  Since then, I have had many people reach out to me privately who really don’t feel that comfortable.  They have asked for some tips to getting started with their own social media plan.  This post is for them.

I’ve created a social media 101 plan for several people and it seems to be working.  In a very short time, they are already progressing and feeling more comfortable than they anticipated they would in a short few weeks.  That is a good sign.  What that tells me is that if an individual is open to spending even 5- 10 minutes a day on social media, they will be able to manage learning this medium in a short amount of time.

Here are some steps I recommend if you have virtually no experience in social media.  These tips apply regardless if you’re planning to become more knowledgeable in a specific industry, a hobby, a sport, your local community, or whatever you plan to use social media for.  While I’m not claiming to be an expert, I do think having simple goals will make learning more achievable.

The most important point is….Keep It Simple.

Week One

Start small.  Ask colleagues, friends, or family who use social media to recommend ONE blog you can follow.  Try to find a blog that covers your topic of interest, one that posts daily or every other day, and one that you find appealing.  For example, for friends and colleagues who are in HR, I always recommend starting with Fistful of Talent.  I do this because they meet the criteria I mention above AND they have multiple authors.  This enables the individual to read many viewpoints on the topic of interest.  So, step one is find a collaborative blog to follow.

Commit to 5- 10 minutes each morning to check that one blog.  Hopefully they are posting frequently.  If not, find another blog to follow that is posting regularly.

Week Two

So, now you’ve been reading a blog for a whole week.  Hopefully you are starting to get a feel for the content.  You may even have agreed or disagreed with a post or two.  This week, your task is to write a comment on a post on that blog. As all serious bloggers know, the most valuable thing we get back from spending time researching and writing is the connection we get from the people who read what we post.  Your comment doesn’t have to be long, just a heartfelt expression of how a post makes you feel.  Even a simple “thank you” or “great post” is a good start to get you comfortable with giving feedback to the blogger.

Week Three

Now you’re getting more comfortable. Find two more blogs to add to your morning reading routine. Make a point to comment at least once on each blog this week.  Again, the length of the comment is not the point.  Giving feedback is.

Week Four

Now you’re ready to branch out.  Sign up for a Twitter account. Use the “search” feature to search for a topic that interests you.  Now, follow some of the people that the search provides.  There is no need to feel like you have to “tweet” (ie. share information by posting).  Just lurk.  Watch.  See how the conversations develop.  Begin to find people that you think are interesting.  If they link to an article, click through to the article.  It may lead you to another blog you would like to follow.

Week Five

By this time, you have given yourself an opportunity to see if you like using social media and if it has value for you.  If not, no harm done.  If it does hold value, consider adding a Google Reader to manage some of the blogs you are now following.  If you’ve signed up for Twitter and been lurking, try tweeting back to some of the people you’re following.

Check out my post of How to Simplify Your Social Media Life for more information on Google Reader.

Let me know if this plan works for you.  Or, let me know what I’ve missed in the comments.

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