For many, it’s a strange new world out there. The digital age—texting, smart phones, iPads, Facebook, Tweets, QR codes, LinkedIn . . . just the thought of it is enough to drive them crazy.
Unfortunately, a lot of the dazed and confused folks who are overwhelmed by the concept of social media are people who did not grow up with personal computers in the classroom, much less the idea of tiny smart devices that seem to be an extension of one’s body. For these people, even the thought of being plugged in 24/7/365 is an insane one.
And yet, they know the world is changing and no one wants to be left behind. Behind not only in the technology, but also the real-life conversations with co-workers and friends, where a foreign language is being spoken. Ricë Freeman Zachary recently broached the topic of social media with me for a podcast for CreateMixedMedia, and I did my best to answer her questions.
There’s a lot of ground to cover when it comes to social media. Even though we spoke for an hour (!), there are still some points I’d like to share with those of you who are new to navigating the waters of online-conversation from a marketing and PR perspective.
In the podcast, I spoke about the “Big 3” of social media; blogging, Facebook and Twitter. Since these are the largest venues at the moment, a good place to begin is to pick one of these platforms. How do you choose?
The publishing world has changed so much since I got my degree in journalism in 1990, and I’m not even that old! For more than a century, the power was held by the press. The only way you could have a conversation with your newspaper was to write a letter to the editor and cross your fingers he published it. Blogging (short for weblog) has turned that concept on its head. Everyone can have an opinion and everyone can (potentially) be heard.
As other social media venues have taken off, blogging has become old school. People who tell you they had blogs pre-2004 are seriously old pros. Starting a blog is definitely participating in social media. It’s just a more passive social media because you’re still writing to an audience of readers. Blogging is not as scary as it sounds because companies such as WordPress and Blogger have made it super simple to sign up for their services, pick a template and start typing.
If you’re wanting to market your work and you have the time to create a blog, this is a good place to begin. Whatever you do, pick a schedule for updating that works for you and stick to it. Blogging, and gaining a measurable audience (beyond your family and friends), is a time commitment. The worst thing you can do from a PR standpoint is to begin like gangbusters and then tire of it and slack off.
Let’s say you don’t want to begin a blog. No worries. You don’t have to blog just because it seems like everyone is doing it. Actually, I congratulate you if you know it’s not for you and you say no. Not everyone is cut out for blogging, and learning to put your PR time into what works best for you is Marketing 101. Maybe Facebook is the answer.
Facebook is a social network that’s grown exponentially. Seriously, did you see the movie? It’s a place to connect with family and friends where you can have a virtual conversation when you want to have it. I talk a lot about Facebook in Ricë’s podcast.
Facebook is also a great place to grow an audience for your artwork. The mixed-media network on Facebook is phenomenal, and it’s a truly savvy way to connect with likeminded folks who share your passion. At this moment, I believe it is the place to be for social media.
Twitter is another website that started in 2006 and has taken off because it’s a combination of blogging and social networking. Called “microblogging,” people sign up for a Twitter account and then send short 140-character messages (Tweets) to their followers about what they are doing at the moment.
Twitter is an interesting concept because it condenses thoughts into a short burst of information. It’s name is perfect for it because when you step back and look at the mass amounts of constant data being produced every second, it has the feel of millions of squawking birds. That sounds like I’m not a fan of Twitter, but the reverse is actually true. I think it’s a fun social media outlet, as well as a very valid public stage for getting messages to your customers. The social dos and don’ts of Twitter are just a tad trickier to traverse for folks because it’s primarily being used by tekkies, or technology’s early adopters.
This is just a quick overview of additional information to Ricë’s question to me: How does one begin? The answer, in my opinion, is to pick 1 (and only one at first) of the Big 3 and jump in. Social media is the new Wild, Wild West. Stake your claim and go for it!
Jen Cushman is a natural storyteller who found mixed media art a decade ago and never looked back. She is drawn to the imperfect, the funky, the quirky, the artsy and the authentic: be it people or objects or art. To learn more, visit her website www.jencushman.com.
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