Getting Started with Social Networking -- Part 1

social networkingBy day, Chet Lewis works for an interactive marketing agency. But in his personal time, he nourishes his passion for introducing people to great music that isn't necessarily played on the radio. He networks with artists and musicians from all over the world, interviewing them and reviewing their music for his website as a free service to get them exposure. What makes this possible from his home base in Detroit? Twitter.

If you're not an active user of social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, you may be wondering whether you should even bother. After all, you've survived this long without it, you already know everyone you need to know, you don't have time, and it's only for kids anyway, right?

Remember feeling that way about your cell phone? First you didn't think you needed one at all. Then eventually you could see using it occasionally, like for emergencies. Now it's one of the first things you reach for in the morning and the last thing you look at at night.

What's so great about social networking?

LinkedIn has over 65 million users, Twitter over 75 million. And of Facebook's 400 million active users, nearly 50 million live in the United States and are ages 35 and older. As human beings, we want to communicate -- for information, for companionship, for self-expression. Social networking makes it easy to do so. And on our own terms.

Jeanne McDonald uses Facebook to keep up with nieces and nephews she sees only during holidays. "It's nice to get frequent updates on what's happening in their lives."

Shenia Ivey initially joined to keep track of what her kids were doing. "I had no intention of liking it," she said. But now, "I spend more time than I ever thought I would and have connected to many people from so many areas of my life."

Bob Foley turns to Twitter to get the "news before the news does."

Social networking sites have also become important for business. While McDonald doesn't promote her business at all on Facebook, Carolyn Lawson Low has found the site useful for connecting with peers and potential clients. Recruiters and hiring managers use LinkedIn to find candidates selectively rather than posting positions on open job boards. A friend of mine landed a job she first heard about on Twitter.

The beauty of social networking is that you can create your own experience, one that works for your specific needs. You can communicate with whom you want when you want. You can connect with just the folks you already know or expand your horizons globally to find people with similar interests. You can find jobs, customers, business partners and friends.

If you're ready to dive in, Social Networking, Part 2 will guide you on getting started with each of the three big sites, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Next:Social Networking Guide >>

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