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At last! How to describe Social Media to your mum

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They call it ‘social media’ or ‘social networking’, and some might quibble at the word ‘social’ because a lot of it can be done alone, from the confines of a darkened room.

And the truth is that most people don’t have the faintest clue how to get the best out of the digital social explosion.

So where to begin to understand how to interact on these various platforms? Are they different in terms of what you share and how you ‘speak’?

Well, ‘yes’, is the answer as far as I can see. And seeing that we call this stuff ‘social’ media, let’s try (tongue firmly in cheek) to relate digital social to social IRL (In Real Life, of course!)

Facebook is like a pub: It’s an informal place where people get together with old friends, shoot the breeze, tell risqué jokes, and meet people they have never spoken to before. There are few rules and people certainly tend to misbehave there at times, often feeling embarrassed later about what they have said, shown or done! But real friendships can start there, and what’s more, business can be done over a beer in the Facebook pub, so it’s not to be ignored.

Twitter is like a cocktail party: There is lots going on, and it’s very high energy. Many conversations are happening at once. Lots of people are talking and far fewer are listening. People drop in and out of conversations and if you like a conversation you might share it with another group. Sure you get the odd twitter cocktail party guest who behaves inappropriately, but mostly it’s pretty cordial, with more manners, and better language, than at the Facebook Pub.

LinkedIn is like a Tradeshow or a corporate conference: It’s business-like. People are there to work, learn and connect with like-minded business people. Mostly everyone is aware they are ‘on show’, and put their best foot forward. At the “Conference” you watch your language, dress up a little.

YouTube is like Times Square on New Years Eve or the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras: Pretty much anything goes! People will let their hair down and willingly make a fool of themselves, but no one really cares… until they meet you at the LinkedIn Conference, maybe.

A Blog is like Hyde Park Corner in London: You can stand on your soapbox and say pretty much whatever you like. But your audience is fickle and will drift in and out, and judge you very quickly to be an interesting expert on a niche subject or a quack to be jeered or ignored. But don’t ignore it because lucid orators on street corners spark ideas!

MySpace is like Woodstock: The young and the crazy populated it, but it’s a fading memory for most.

I guess the point is this. Buttoned-down corporate lawyers for example, go to the pub and let it all hang out at the Mardi Gras. But they also attend corporate conferences and cocktail parties and they would never get confused about how to dress or behave at each event.

That’s social media. Content and context are everything.

This article was partially inspired by a presentation on Social Media by Rachel Gould, Social Media Manager, Lander Associates. Thanks Rachel!

Other posts related to social media:

10 Steps To Promote Brand “You” With Social Media

Job Seekers – Not Online? Think Again.

How social media is synergising personal and corporate brands

Twitter’s marketing secret

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