Don’t call me a social media expert. I’m just an old guy who likes to keep up on things. If keeping up means playing with Twitter and the other media, so be it.
I really envy those who can work Twitter and Facebook like professionals, using these tools to build tribes, promote a cause, create policy, change public opinion, or make the unknown things popular. I wish I could be that good. I only know enough to be dangerous, and in fact my social media approach resembles a wrecking ball on a chessboard.
But I do have accounts with all the major ones, and I find each social medium seems to have a specific use in my compartmentalized life.
To say I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook isn’t entirely accurate. It’s more like a tolerate-hate relationship. I use it mostly because so many of my real-life flesh-and-blood friends use that as their sole means of communication. I’ve shut off all third-party apps, and stick with the messaging system and timeline. I guess Facebook is the thing if you want to keep up with your buddies and play online games, but things like FarmVille or whatever it is this week don’t exactly float my boat. I’ve also had problems with malware and security glitches through the site, and if I was running a Windows system I probably wouldn’t go near Facebook.
If this sounds like an anti-Facebook screed, you’re wrong. If I was of a more frivolous nature I might go in for all its trappings, including the games. But when I park at the computer, I’m generally all about business unless I’m tweaking my system. But in truth I try to look more serious than I really am; just don’t tell anybody.
I like Twitter enough to have two accounts there, though I’m finally starting to get the idea how to work it. Twitter is a mass unchecked stream of unrelated data at 140 characters per, and it’s up to the user to figure out how to filter such a random mess. I find it a lot easier with a Web app like Hootsuite, and when you learn the #hashtags a little bit you can get up-to-the-minute dispatches on whatever news item or trend you’re following. People really can have conversations, too, turning Twitter into a gigantic chat room.
There are other social media sites like LinkedIn (which I use for professional purposes), Eons for people over 50, and that now-irrelevant MySpace, buth those are bit players in the scene right now. Of these, LinkedIn has the most use but it’s not for everybody.
Google+ finally went public, and I think I’ve found my social media weapon of choice. It’s like Twitter in that you can do mass following, but the “circles” aspect makes a lot more sense out of it all. Your circles can include family, real-life friends, and people you admire. My own circles include writers, photographers, musicians, Linux geeks, and “bellwethers” — folks who know tomorrow’s trends today because they’re busy creating them.
In my very short time on Google+, I’ve had very good discussions on writing. I’ve picked up ideas for this column. And Google Plus is my go-to for getting the word out on some of my projects. In that sense it’s like Twitter except the stuff you send out actually gets read.
At first I thought Google+ would turn Facebook into another MySpace, but now I don’t think so. Facebook was merely a better-designed, faster-loading version of MySpace, but the audience remains the same. Google+ seems to be geared toward a more serious crowd, kind of a bridge between Facebook and LinkedIn. If anyone’s going to lose action to Google+, it might be Twitter.
OK, with all these choices, which social media to use?
It all depends on what you want to do with it. Business or personal. Serious or not.