Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sharing Social Media with the Uninitiated

As bloggers, many of us are conversant in the online world- Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, LibraryThing, Flickr, Deli.ci.ous, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc. Nobody uses every online tool but most of us by now have picked a few favorites. My favorites are the ones that provide the most benefit for the time I have spend online- services that help me organize information, connect with friends and family, and meet new people in the library and book world.

Not every tool gets the same emphasis. I use LibraryThing, for example, to keep track of my reading first and network second. And some profiles are completely restricted to people I know personally. But other tools, like LinkedIn and Twitter, are all about reaching out, and while I'm hardly a superstar I've had some nice successes here and there. One example- The BostonBEA Tweetup. A group of book people acquainted with each other through Twitter decided to have their own get-together when they couldn't make it to a national publishing conference. We shared information, made new friends and forged connections. And felt pretty cool doing it.

When you're accustomed to doing business online, you'll find the tools and learn to use them; the online world is, after all, all about entrepreneurship, self-promotion and self-starting. And there are plenty of folks willing to offer advice.

But how do you promote online tools to people who aren't used to living online? Recently I've been fielding a lot of questions from colleagues and friends about how the online world has helped me and how it might help them. Here are a few things I've learned about how to make a persuasive case for the online world.
  • If at all possible, be at a computer for these conversations, so you can demonstrate sites live and show them in action. A hands-on lesson is so much more powerful than a description.
  • Start with the best thing the online world has done for you- in a single sentence. In my case, my online activities have put me in touch with book-industry professionals to whom I would have no access any other way.
  • Avoid jargon, even if you think your listener will understand. Clear, plain-spoken enthusiasm will push your message further. If your listener doesn't understand, you will isolate yourself and diminish your effectiveness.
  • Point to the specific benefits of a given service. "Deli.ci.ous is so cool" is less helpful than "Deli.ci.ous helps me find new sites for shopping/hobbies/business."
  • Emphasize that most sites give ample privacy options. Privacy is a big concern for a lot of people and it means a lot to know that users can set some limits.
  • Tell a brief story about a specific accomplishment or contact that came from an online connection. "There are so many cool people on Twitter" says less than "I met a great publishing rep who pointed me to her podcast, which I now listen to every week."
  • Make your examples relevant to your listener. "You can keep up with all your old high school friends on Facebook" might not appeal equally to all.
  • Be honest about the amount of time you spend online. Let your listener understand what you put into it, so he or she can set realistic expectations for him- or herself.
What about you? How do you talk about the online world to people who aren't in as deep as you? What strategies work or don't work? What kinds of attitudes do you encounter, positive and negative, about our online life? What else do you think is important to say to skeptics? What are your online success stories?


Amy M. said...

This is a really helpful and thoughtful post, Marie!!!

(Life by Candlelight)

bermudaonion said...

Great post! I've found that most people's eyes glaze over if I mention my blog or Twitter. I think that's part of the reason BEA was so much fun for me.

Anonymous said...

I use Twitter but I do not spend much time on it, since most of the connections are made through my blog. I did meet someone with whom I chat on a regular basis through a dating site. :)

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I think a lot of my friends understand myspace and facebook. I think twitter seems to be harder for them to grasp and I've found that's hard to explain or justify unless there is a specific interest, which in my case would be books. In a way it's okay for me that it splits along those lines.

ninaivanovna said...

Good questions.

Unfortunately, I'm sometimes quite impatient with people don't using internet regularly.

And sometimes I think, many people misunderstand what means a blog, a twitter account, etc. Unfortunately they think blogging is just a new form to find a new date/relationship/love.
It makes me sometimes sad, sometimes angry, and I feel I can't explain blog is rather a new form of newspapers/magazines/journals. It's not about dating for me.
A really hates that kind of misunderstanding.


Unknown said...

Thanks for the nice post. My main is blogging of course. I use ning. and less frequently I use facebook. I don't understand twitter at all. I wish someone would explain it to me sometime. I not sure how it works. Library thing just seems to overwhelming to me. Too much information. Thanks for your input, Marie.

Anonymous said...

This is a great and very helpful post.

Personally, I have found that my biggest problem with all these tools--and the thing that makes it hardest to give advice about them--is that with the huge proliferation I feel like you really need a big-picture game plan. What is the goal of my blog? What is the goal of Twitter, for me? Which of these tools are personal and private, which are for self-promotion?

For me, Facebook has become more a massive address book than anything else. My blog is quite focused. And Twitter is about getting random thoughts out of my brain and into the feeds of a few people who might care. I haven't been able to integrate in a satisfying way. I keep thinking of putting my Twitter feed on the blog, but does my book-loving audience really care about my crazy moments in line at the post office?

This is also because I find it really hard to do the kind of self-promotion and self-marketing so many others accomplish easily. It's just not "me." So I'm always asking myself, what do I hope to accomplish with this tool and how can I make it work for me in a way I feel comfortable with? Unfortunately, with so many options, it can be hard to work out strategies that really make sense.

And thinking about the time you're willing to put in is so important. All these tools are about conversations, and if you let the conversation drop your efforts are largely lost.

Marie Cloutier said...

Amy, BermudiaOnion, thank you :)

Marie Cloutier said...

Nicole, I know a lot of my peers are pretty conversant in many online utilities. I get a lot of questions from people my parents' age rather than my peers, and I'm trying to figure out how to reach out to them. I think more and more online is where business is done, and a lot of people are missing something important right now.

Marie Cloutier said...

Anni, exactly, and that's why I try to emphasize what can be accomplished in concrete terms.

Marie Cloutier said...

Nicolebythelake- Yes! This is exactly what I'm getting at. It's about focusing on your goals and how different utilities can help get you there. I use Facebook to stay in touch with a wide swath of personal-life people- friends and family- and a handful of pro contacts. Twitter is all about the blog and more pro contacts, but it has such a personal feel because of the immediacy of the contact and the variety of conversations that can be had. I know what you mean about having a hard time with self-promotion- I do too, and have found that online is great for introverts that way! :-)

Marie Cloutier said...

Susan, I know what you mean. I started slow with LibraryThing, then my blog came next, then Facebook came in because my family uses it, finally Twitter. Now it amazes me how much time I spend online! It creeps up on you! :-)