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Getting Started with Social Networking

by Steve Woodruff  |  
June 8, 2009

It can be a bewildering task for those just getting started with social media/on-line networking. What should I expect? What networks to join? What are the "rules"? How do I begin?

Fortunately, there is help - the social networking crowd is very giving and supportive. There are many reasons why businesses and marketers should use social media (See Chris Brogan's 50 Ways here), but let's focus on the individual for the moment. Why are you getting involved in Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/blogging? Is it just to chat with friends, or to promote yourself, or to create an Opportunity Network? Are your trying to connect with the past, build for the future, or some combination of both? Your main goal(s) will determine how - and where - you get started.
5LevelsSM.jpgThen, you need to decide just how much of yourself you want to share, and where. There are at least 5 levels of participation, with growing levels of transparency, disclosure, and interaction. Do you simply want to put the basics of your professional resume on-line as a passive outposting strategy? Do you want to create more formal connections with professionals through a platform like LinkedIn? Are you interested in lifestreaming, whereby you're sharing various personal thoughts and media through applications life Facebook, Twitter, and the like? You may wish to join more private, "walled garden" communities that are built around a specific area of interest. Or, you may choose to disclose yourself much more fully on open web communities like Twitter, or via blogs and other public platforms. Bear in mind that you may start at a certain level, and then, as your comfort level with on-line disclosure grows, you may well evolve into new levels.
Whatever you choose for an approach, there are resources to guide you. Amber Naslund has put together a great little Social Media starter kit (free download). I've also created a free e-book (Getting Started with Social Networking) with loads of links and resources for those taking initial steps into the on-line networking world. Antony Mayfield has produced a nice (free) overview of social media. And a whole bunch of friendly networkers on the various platforms described stand ready to help you "learn the ropes." People like Gavin Heaton, Jane Hart, Paul Gillin, Mack Collier, and many others who once - well, just started.
So, maybe someone you know pointed you to this post and said, "Get Started!" What are you waiting for? Jump in and join the network - shallow end or deep, the water's fine!

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Steve Woodruff is the world's only Clarity Therapist. He connects people with their purpose, their message, and with other people in order to create new business opportunities. He writes at the

Steve is an unusual hybrid of conceptualizer, strategist, marketer, analyst, wordsmith, semi-techie, and all-around decent fellow, except when there's bad coffee or lousy wine.

Steve can also be found on Twitter, LinkedIn.

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  • by Lisa Randolph Mon Jun 8, 2009 via blog

    Great post, Steve. For many businesses, making the transition to using social networking is extremely nerve-wrecking, but it's really not that difficult. I think the question that you posed in your post (ie, level of participation and involvement) is a great way to help them evaluate their motives and get started. And it's true - people using these sites are typically very eager to help introduce a newcomer to this networking space, so there should be no fear in admitting that you're new and could use a little guidance. Thanks for sharing!

  • by Jennifer Caron Mon Jun 8, 2009 via blog

    I'm just now getting into social media on a personal level, and am exploring the possibilities for my company. This article provides excellent insights. Personally, I'm trying this approach: one blog for all things me, both personal and professional -- and then linking up to Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I'm hoping this multi-pronged, yet easily maintainable approach will work for me.

  • by Paul Chaney Mon Jun 8, 2009 via blog

    Love the five levels of participation scheme. I'm here to help too. Happy to do so.

  • by Farts from the Heart Mon Jun 8, 2009 via blog

    We made the transition to social media and found it to be helpful in hits to the site. Setting up a fan page on Facebook has really helped.

  • by Elizabeth Mon Jun 8, 2009 via blog

    "What are you waiting for? Jump in and join the network - shallow end or deep, the water's fine!" I completely agree. Social networking is constantly evolving. The best way to learn how to do it, is just by doing it. There is a lot of information out there to help you with it, but don't wait until you know "everything" to get involved because you may never actually do it. So like you asked, "what are you waiting for? Jump in!"

  • by Gavin Heaton Mon Jun 8, 2009 via blog

    I am liking the five levels of participation! Will give it some more thought as well.

  • by I Make Thousands of Dollars a Month Posting Links on Google from Home Mon Jun 8, 2009 via blog

    Hey, great post, very well written. You should write more about this.

  • by Elaine Fogel Tue Jun 9, 2009 via blog

    Steve, I love this line in your e-book on this subject: " can be a great networker .... without a personality transplant."

  • by Kelly R Short Tue Jun 9, 2009 via blog

    Someone asked me recently if their business should be on Twitter. My response was two-fold: are your current customers using Twitter (Facebook, MySpace, etc.) and how would they want to use those tools to engage your company? Of course, answering these two questions assumes you have asked your clients if they use social networking tools and if they would want to engage your company using them. Have the pulse of your clients will define how and when to use social networking tools. Personally, I generally advocate their use as I have seen powerful results leveraging their member bases and connections.

  • by Business Genome Tue Jun 9, 2009 via blog

    Great post. It's good to know that there are resources for people who are new to the field of social networking. At Business Genome, we're also digging into the question of how to make the web our friend, instead of some strange, daunting space for tech-savvy teenagers. In particular, we're trying to unlock how businesses can make the most out of the newest search engine technologies. Thanks for your insight into another aspect of online marketing!

  • by Steve Woodruff Fri Jun 12, 2009 via blog

    Thanks, folks, for the comments and feedback. I just got back from the MarketingProfs B2B conference, and while there were some experienced social networking people there, a ton of folks just starting out were eagerly listening and asking questions. It was a great reminder to me how many people are only just wrestling with the very basics...those are the ones we need to help!

  • by Christine Masters Mon Jun 22, 2009 via blog

    I have signed up with Twitter, Facebook, Squidoo, StumbleUpon, and some others. However, I don't really know the best way to use these sites to help my website. The info here will certainly help me out! Thanks, Christine

  • by Andy Michaels Tue Dec 15, 2009 via blog

    Based on your levels I'm on the life streaming side of it. Great post! ---------------- Andy Michaels

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