Social Media Basics for Beginners

If you want to know the temperature of the water, you’re going to have to get wet. In other words, to understand how social media works, you need to become a part of it, but first learn the basics and what your options are.


Social network
A website which allows people to build a web page or profile, and then connect, share content and communicate with others. The major players are: MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn.

A Blog is an journal, or web log written about whatever the blogger feels like writing about: personal, political, or business topics, (there are also blogs written by the mainstream media). You’re reading a blog right now if you are reading this post!  You can subscribe to a blog using RSS which allows you to read the blog in a newsreader service like: Bloglines, Google Reader or Newsgator.  Use a search engine like Technorati or Google Blog Search to find blogs that you’re interested in. Blogs are easy to set up using Google’s Blogspot or WordPress, and can be stand alone, or be installed on an existing website and customized (by someone like Inspired 2 Design!).

Social networking that’s a combination of instant messaging and miniature blog entries. Most people are familiar with the microblog, Twitter. Twitter which allows users to send 140 character messages (called Tweets) instantly to followers via a browser, mobile phone or RSS feed.


Audio and video files available by subscription through a website like iTunes. What’s important about podcasts
is that it allows regular people to create a following of their own “shows” putting them on a level playing field with traditional media for audio and visual content online.

A website or part of a website where discussions about a specific topic are held.  Forums were pretty much the original social media format, popular with developers, help desks, hobbies, interests, etc.  Each discussion in a forum is known as a thread, and there can be lots of different threads going on at the same time each moderated by an administrator.

Content community
A website used to organize and share particular kinds of content: photos (Flickr), bookmarked links ( or Digg) and videos (YouTube).

A private or public website made up of content added by people or edited by people like a community document or database.  The best known wiki is Wikipedia, an online encyclopaedia. They are great for collaboration (say you have multiple offices around the world and are drafting your company manual).

(Really Simple Syndication) allows people to subscribe to a blog or website.  It notifies a ‘newsreader’ that new content is available and sends it the entry.  You can then read these in your newsreader without having to visit the website itself, making the blog easy to add to other social media.

Instant Messaging (IM)
One type of real-time communication between two internet users (using Skype, AIM, Facebook, MySpace and others).

Like it or not, social media is the cusp of what’s to come. Recently a business owner I spoke with said they didn’t want to get into it because they were afraid competitors would bash them online. Really, it doesn’t matter if you’re in it or not, that is always a possiblity, so read my post on Reputation Management. What does matter about social media and social networking is the transparency involved.

Over the past few years marketers have learned that personal buying experiences matter to customers, and that the internet has become the number one information source buyers use during the buying cycle.  As the Y-Generation takes over in the next 5-10 years, their demand for honest two-way communication will be unmatched as they’ve grown up in the “me” generation.

Smart business owners will make the effort now to start tempering themselves off to the water temperature. Here’s why: at this time right now, the social media world is forgiving.

Today, there are tons of folks all asking the same questions: Why? What’s the point? How can this help my business? Who cares? But in 5 years, if you’re not there… then you’ll be climbing a steep learning curve, before a very unforgiving audience. Of course, maybe you don’t plan to be in business in 5 years…