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Social media

Selecting the right platform

Selecting the right platform

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of choice regarding social media platforms. It’s much better to be active on one or two sites than to have neglected profiles all over the internet. How do you choose where to start, and where to go from there?

Community is everything

In most aspects of our lives, we tend to choose tools based on how good they are and how much we like them. With social media though, we first have to think about what we want to achieve: what is the tool for? And because social media is all about interaction, we have to think about the community.

Community is everything with online tools like these: being present in the places where the discussions and interactions are taking place which are most pertinent to you, your interests, and your aims. If the community you need is on Twitter, then you need to be on Twitter too, to meet your aims, even if you find Twitter’s 140 character limit too limiting and hate the idea of having to simplify your ideas like that. Conversely, if you absolutely love the look and functionality of Pinterest, but the community you’re interested in doesn’t tend to go there, it’s probably going to be a waste of your time to use it.

Of course, you don't have to go anywhere. It might make career sense to go on a particular platform, but there are compromises attached to any platform and you might not be prepared to make them. We all have to choose what we’re comfortable with.

Searching and testing

Where a platform has an open search facility, search for keywords that relate closely to your interests. If there are people talking sense, it may be worth setting up a profile and joining in with that community. If no one is talking about your preferred topics at all, it may not be worth investing any time on that platform.

Sometimes searching isn’t enough and you need to try a platform out to get a sense of the community. It may be worth setting up a profile and listening in for a couple of weeks, then starting to contribute. If it seems like your community is there, put more time into it. If it doesn’t seem like your community is there, don’t be afraid to pull the plug: delete your profile and move on.

Platforms by purpose

What are you trying to achieve, and which platforms are most appropriate to help you achieve it?

Twitter is great for day to day conversation, for keeping up with news in your field or industry as it happens, for keeping in touch with interesting people you met at events but don’t quite feel ready to email yet, for campaigning to try and get support for a particular issue.

Blogs are brilliant for presenting ideas in more depth, for greeting the people Googling you (people are Googling you) with something more representative of your views than the job history on your LinkedIn page, and for being a general HQ for all your social media presences.

The near-ubiquitous Facebook is good for keeping in touch with friends old and new, or for sharing organisational information to a large captive audience, though it can also ride rather high in your search results, so it’s probably a good idea to set your privacy settings equally high.

Google+ is handy for sharing information within small communities of interest, especially if you’re part of an institution that uses Google.

Slideshare is underrated and amazing for sharing a visual taster of ideas.

YouTube is great for presenting information in an engaging way - as long as that information isn’t just stuff people could just as easily read.

Instagram is often a more personal medium, good for those who want to engage a little more with their life and interests rather than just their professional identity.

There are a host of others - far too many to go through individually. All of them can be used both professionally and personally, or both. In many cases, social media works best when it’s not strictly and exclusively either one of those, but a balance, perhaps slightly in favour of professional. As long as you think about what you want to achieve, you can use it in whatever way works best - but above all, remember it’s all about community. It may be that in a way you don’t have to choose the ‘right’ tool -- your community will already have chosen it for you.

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Good practice for social media

Social media, when it works well, is amazing. It can be a source of support, it can create friendships, it can enhance your career, and it can educate you on things you wouldn’t otherwise learn about. But it has to work for YOU. Be proactive in ensuring social media is a positive and useful aspect of your online life.

You can choose to approach social media however you want, but there are certain things you can do which will help you get the most out of it… Here are ten #UoYTips on just that...

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Using social media

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