A few months ago I wrote a post on how I use various social media sites, but realized I didn’t share how I arrived at those use cases/decisions so here it is.
First and foremost identify what you hope to get from your social media experience. If one of your goals isn’t to share knowledge then re-think why you are trying to use social media. I have heard, well read, that Twitter is one of the largest groups of people who love to share their knowledge and experiences. When I decided it was time to be more involved I had several reasons – becoming more involved in a community I was passionate about, learning from others, sharing my experiences and meeting others who shared similar interest were my key drivers for getting started with social media.
Next you will want to identify the key areas you want to focus on. For me this was an easy task as I had decided to veer off my (at the time) current career trajectory and re-focus on more hands on/engineering type roles that would hopefully revolve around virtualization, VMware and other related technologies.
Once you know what information you want, do some research and identify what networks are most active in that area. I find Twitter to be much more active with others in the VMware/engineering space versus Facebook so I started with Twitter and later expanded into other networks. While I use some platforms in a similar manner, I also have specific uses for others. For example Twitter is my primary social network where I will engage openly with everyone, and use Google+ in a similar fashion while leveraging circles to share more personal information such as pictures of my family with just a limited subset of circles. You will likely also find yourself involved in groups with no real tie to a particular social media site/tool such as local meet up groups, blogs or webinars.
Now, develop a plan. Once you have identified the reasons why you want to be involved, and which communities are most active your plan could be as simple as taking time to focus on one specific aspect and expanding into other areas as you become comfortable in others. For example, after several attempts and “figuring out” Twitter, I focused simply on using it as a tool to stay up to date on information from various vendors who I enjoyed working with. This made an easy transition into following others who were talking about the same topics, learning from and meeting those people.
Finally – push yourself. It is easy to stay in an area you are comfortable – with people you know, information or skills you may already excel at but you won’t grow if you do not challenge yourself. One area that I just stumbled into was being more out going, as typically I am quiet and reserved and don’t go out of my way to talk to people. One night I just happened to see someone I follow on Twitter who lives out of state ask where he could get dinner just a couple towns away from me as in was in the area for work, several other people who already knew him suggested some places and others even were going to meet him there so I just threw myself into the mix and had some great conversations over dinner with people I had never met – that was far outside my comfort zone. Of course in a scenario like that, ask first don’t just show up!
If you are struggling with how to get started, leverage social media as a means to get information and learn and you will likely find that over time you will start engaging and sharing more information naturally as others are already doing.