Social Media Defined: Even Your Mom Will Understand

What exactly is social media and what’s all the hype about anyway? Basically, it’s a way to stay connected with people, businesses and other organizations online. As more and more companies add Facebook and Twitter to their websites, blogs and other outlets, we have seen a surge in engagement that we hadn’t seen five years ago. People have been introduced to an entirely new platform of communication that even our parents and grandparents are using. Although most people have used most of these channels, my perception is somewhat skewed because I live near the Mecca of technology, Silicon Valley. I assume that everyone knows because everyone has been using it for years which isn’t necessarily the case. In theory, my explanations below should help you, and your Mom, better understand each channel.

Given my use of these channels may be more than the average person and is typically used for marketing purposes, I feel that everyone should be familiar with each platform. Here is a list of my top social media channels with an overview of what each does and what I use them for. All of the accounts are free and have apps for your iPhone, most smart phones or tablets. You also have the option to set your security settings so you control who sees your information and images. I highly suggest that you use these settings to protect yourself from danger and identity theft. Let’s get started:

Facebook: Everyone, and I mean over a billion users, are on Facebook. For those of you who aren’t yet on it, you may want to consider learning the platform to stay competitive in the job market. This channel allows you to share images, updates and connect with friends. It also has a chat feature similar to an instant message. I use this to connect with friends that I wouldn’t necessarily call to catch up with. I also like Facebook for viewing pictures of my friend’s kids as they grow. Even though they may live across the country, I feel more connected with them throughout the year.

LinkedIn: Think of this as one big networking event and a new way to share your job history, talents and skills quickly and easily online with industry professionals. It’s a professional networking channel for your professional circles. There is a limited public view where employers seeking new hires can view your profile and a more detailed view for those that you have invites into your network. Consider this “job security” in the event you lose your job. Your networks are already aligned and all you have to do is ask who knows who and you will be instantly connected.

20120320-085324.jpgTwitter: This is a unique program as it is limited to 140 characters or less. I think of this as a Hollywood program. It’s a great way to connect with a fan base or audience that you may influence. It isn’t just for celebs. For example, you are a professor or industry leader who reads articles about new trends everyday. This is a great way to quickly share a title with a link quickly to your students or those who choose to follow your updates or “tweets”. Twitter is fabulous source for real time news. Get up-to-the-second information on breaking stories. Twitter broke the news of Steve Jobs’ death 27 minutes before the media. Now that’s real time!

Pinterest: Remember your first bulletin board? You would use a push pin or tack to pin up inspirational pieces or photos of loved ones. This is the same concept except online. Pinterest is an online bulletin board that allows you to “pin” interesting images onto different boards. It’s totally addicting! I use it for inspiration, design and hair and make-up how-to’s.

20120320-085318.jpgInstagram: I love this app. It makes any picture that you take on your phone look twice as good as the original (unless you are a professional iPhone photographer). There are different filters and looks that you can choose from and it saves the image as a new one preserving the original. This is really fun and allows you to adjust your images in anyway that you would like and publish them to a feed so your friends can view.


Google+: This is another social platform that is similar to Facebook in the sense of sharing images and updates. The difference is that you can have a “hang out” with your friends/ family by using your web cam. Similar to skype or Apple’s Facetime, you can see who you are talking to. The greatest attraction is that it’s powered by Google, the most powerful platform on earth. This is great for small businesses who need more exposure. Having a powerhouse like Google behind them, gives them more online exposure (in terms of search) than a business that isn’t on G+. There are quite a few skeptics out there who aren’t convinced that this platform will stick around and I haven’t made up my mind about it so you will have to be the judge of that.

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