April 11, 2014 | John Goethert

Explaining Social Media for the Skeptical, Confused, and Clueless

Don't Understand Social Media? “Social media? I just don’t get it." It’s surprising how often I hear that when I tell people what I do. So rather than write about a bunch of stats for optimal engagement times, charts of re-tweet conversions, or other high-level info, I decided to get back to the basics for those of us who just don’t get social media, but really want to!

The Basics:

Most of the people who tell me they don’t understand simply haven’t tried using social media. Some social media outlets require you to have an account to be able to see posts, so the best way to learn about social media is sign up for an account and just start playing with it! Just remember that your social media accounts will show up in search results for your name.

The Specifics:

What Is Facebook?

VIEO's Facebook Page

Imagine Facebook is as one big cocktail party. When you arrive, you see groups of people, each discussing its own topic. Some groups will allow you to eavesdrop and some will allow you to join in right away, while others are a little harder to break in to.

Facebook is exactly the same. Most pages are public, and you can scan posts first and then decide if you want to get in on the fun by “liking” the page or joining the group, while the case of private groups, you have to request to join.

On Facebook, you can search for groups and pages for any topic, organization, or company you’re interested in. You can send “friend requests” when you find someone you know, and you can also send and receive invitations to like a page or join a group.

When you “like” a page, discussions that happen on that page will show up in your personal news feed, because Facebook will “feed” the comments to you without you having to go to that page. Things that your friends post on their personal “timelines” will show up in your news feed too, just like your posts will show up in theirs.

What Is Twitter?

VIEO's Twitter Feed

While cliques dominate the Facebook party, Twitter is like one big noisy classroom full of people talking and passing notes.

Instead of joining groups, you “follow” individual people, businesses, news outlets, and more, and see a fast-moving stream of “tweets” in your Twitter feed from everyone you follow. Twitter is great for staying up-to-date on news and events, as well as sharing information, photos, and links with your friends and followers.

So, how do you sift through all that information? You can search for topics or tag a topic in your own tweet with “hashtags” (more on that here) and tag people you know by including their Twitter “handles” in your tweets – ours is @VIEODesign.

What Is Pinterest?

VIEO's Pinterest Page

Pinterest is like a party in an art gallery or at a craft fair, because it’s all about visuals.

The photos that people “pin” are the main focus – you can like them, share them with fellow “pinners,” comment on them, and pin them to your own “boards,” which are your collections of images centered on any topic you want.

You can pin images from almost any website and “re-pin” pins that already appear on Pinterest, as well as upload your own photos. Looking for an easy dinner recipe or a great font for your business logo? Just search Pinterest, and thousands of images will appear.

The great thing about pins is that they link back to the original source, so if you want to save an interesting blog post, piece of clothing, or recipe for later, all you have to do is pin it – as long as it has an image for you to pin!

What Is LinkedIn?

VIEO's LinkedIn Page

LinkedIn is like a business networking event where people are busy swapping business cards, discussing industry news, and sharing workplace tips. Discussions about you kids are a waste of time here, but it’s a great place to network, look for a job, and research best practices in your industry.

What is Google+?

VIEO's Google Plus Page If

Twitter is a noisy classroom full of unruly students, Google+ is the opposite.

Using Google+ is like being the teacher’s pet, and Google is the teacher. Joining and being active on Google+ gets you extra credit in terms of better search results if you have your account linked to your website, because Google can verify you and the content you share.

In Google+, you add people to your “circles” and “+1” posts that you like. You post just like you do in Facebook and LinkedIn, and you can tag other Google+ users and use hashtags just like you can on Twitter. Some people may dismiss Google+, but remember, the teacher’s pet gets better grades!

Using Social Media for your Business:

As the name clearly states, social media platforms are SOCIAL, and if you’re using them for a business, it’s important to always keep that in mind.

You can’t only publish posts promoting your business and leave it at that – in fact, repeatedly publishing posts that are clearly one-sided and not about earning genuine engagement is not only frowned upon but can get your posts marked as spam and your account blocked, even on LinkedIn.

You wouldn’t jump into a conversation with your friends about a kid’s soccer match by asking them to buy your car. It’s rude, and chances are, you won’t sell your car. Soccer shoes, maybe. And if you do sell soccer shoes, don’t jump into every conversation about soccer by trying to sell shoes. However, those same people might welcome your input on how to choose a set of cleats.

Socialize with them and let your knowledge build your credibility. Then, once they know and trust you, they may want to buy your soccer shoes.

 Social Media Image Sizes Guide and Templates


John Goethert

John Goethert

John Goethert served as VIEO’s senior inbound marketing project manager for many years and enjoyed using his varied expertise on behalf of our clients.

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