Does Social Media Come With Instructions?

As a public relations student, I am often asked about social media with the assumption that because I am a 20-something and in PR I l have all of the social media answers. For the record, I by no means have all of the answers, however I have absolutely no problem answering these questions. But once in a while, I wonder why people are so confused about it.

For the most part, it seems that people who ask about social media are not asking about concepts like ROI and counting impressions, they are literally asking about how to tweet, what a “like” is, or how to “check in” on Foursquare.

Todd Defren’s “Social Media for Newbies,” on his blog, PR Squared, seems to share my sentiments. His main question is, “Why don’t they get it?”

Defren then offers six tips for a new user to get better acquainted with social media. The tips boil down to: Don’t be intimidated or afraid of being a social media user and be careful to give social media credit for what it has done for companies both good and bad and the potential for its future. Defren encourages people to just get out there and start rather than sitting on the sidelines and waiting for an invitation.

On the other hand, Lynn Terry’s blog ClickNewz, gives a really in-depth analysis, I would imagine geared toward the public relations or communication professional, that looks at social media and how you can use it both the “right” and “wrong” ways. Many of these tips are fairly basic, for example “build rapport” or engage with your customers. However, some are more complex, like her suggestion not to “over optimize” when it comes to search engines.

As PR students, many of us were kind of forced into social media because of classes we were taking (and many times extra credit)! However, those that were pushed had a reason to start and to keep going. Much of our real and perceived expertise is simply because we had to start trying and just kept going!

What is your best advice for a new social media user? What platform would you recommend as a starting point?

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7 Responses to Does Social Media Come With Instructions?

  1. estrapko says:

    Although you are suggesting that the best way is just to start and don’t be intimidated by social media, my advice for the new users would be to know the pros, but also cons, of social media before you start using them. If new users don’t know anything about privacy settings, for example, or don’t know how to distinguish private and professional information on their social media sites, sometimes it might be more harmful then useful.

  2. smwillar says:

    The best advice I could give a new social media user is to start with a group of friends who are also beginners when it comes to these platforms. The point of these sites is to engage and connect, so it makes sense to begin your journey with a few people with whom you will actually have stuff to talk about. Once you get the feel for sharing content with people you are comfortable with, it will be easier to approach friends of friends and engage with them. Before the new Facebook changes, I would have said to start with this site, but now even I am a little confused by all the updated features. I would recommend starting with Twitter because it limits the status updates to 140 characters and makes it easy to follow other users.

  3. lworthin says:

    I find it interesting that there is still a large amount of people that have no idea about social media. Through Facebook and Twitter, I can now receive my news, shopping deals, events in my area and so much more. Social media isn’t just something young people can benefit from, but people of any age. I think that deciding on what platform to use first depends on what you do. In our line of work, I think the most beneficial social media platform is Twitter. However, now that Facebook has made some big changes, it is beginning to cover almost every aspect that any other social media site could offer. If I could give advice to anyone who doesn’t use social media, it would be to go for it! You can only benefit from it in the long run.

  4. rsutherl says:

    Oh, social media. I’ve had the same experience with newbies who think I know what I’m doing because I’m a PR student. The bottom line is that these platforms were designed to be accessible and user-friendly for just about anyone, not just PR pros. I think the social media jargon is what intimidates people. My boss recently asked me what it meant when our social media “guru” said he was going to give him a “buzz.” Um…he’s going to call you? But my boss assumed it was some kind of Twitter-related verb that he didn’t understand. After being forced into Twitter and Foursquare for school, I appreciate that at least the mystery was solved for me, although I don’t continue to use it for personal purposes. For a new user, I would suggest Foursquare because you don’t have to worry about generating content, per se. You just check in and add a helpful hint if the mood strikes. If you’re using social media for commercial purposes, I feel like Twitter might be an easier platform for gaining momentum with followers, but Facebook tends to be more personally engaging.

  5. ammarty says:

    I think the best advice would be to sit down and just get familiar with all there is out there. There are now SOOO many different social media outlets that you really need to check them all out in order to understand what is best for you and your business. I mean, I am pretty sure Twitter and Facebook are the best way to go — at this point, because they are the most utilized and well-known, but you need to learn about the others too because trends are changing every day and new sites are constantly going up. There is no way to keep up, but by using the outlets you do think are beneficial to your business, you can stay on top of the game in terms of what is important to you and what will help you succeed.

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  7. abwolfe says:

    I would agree that people hear I am studying PR, and they assume I must know everything there is to know about social media. I feel that I have learned more about Facebook and Twitter from being in college than being a PR student. I think people assume social media sites are so simple because everyone is using them, that they ignore the little pop-ups for help because they want to figure it out on their own. In reality, navigating and controlling social media is hard. Becoming relevant and desired on social media is even harder. People need to realize that the Internet is not cut and dry, it takes time and help to learn, and no one person knows everything.

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