I made my Facebook account several years ago. Since then, I’ve been happily engaging in poke wars, crafting clever status updates and liking the right number of pictures. Naturally, I considered myself a tech-savvy social media expert.
Then a few months ago, my friends began doing this thing called “tweeting.” Like birds. (Not Angry Birds, that’s something else). With my self-awarded reputation as a social media expert on the line, I had to see what all the buzz was about. So I made myself a Twitter account.
Using Twitter seemed simple enough – like posting Facebook status updates with lots of “@”s and “#”s. “HA,” I said, patting myself on the back. “I conquered Twitter like a pro.” Unfortunately, by the time I was through congratulating myself, my friends had moved on. While I was still scrolling through my news and Twitter feeds, they were Instagramming, Pinning and Snapchatting away.
What the heck?
It seems like every few days, a new website or application takes the social networking world by storm. With over 800 Apple Store-app-downloads per second, the rate at which new apps are phasing out old ones is accelerating. It’s becoming harder and harder to keep up – especially because simply acquiring the most popular apps isn’t enough. Once you have the apps, you need to maintain your accounts while abiding by the unique set of unwritten rules that govern the use of each of them.
I sense panic… Wait! Stop! Put down your phone – no need to start stress-tweeting. Instead, boost your social swag with this crash course on using 8 of the most popular social media apps (of the week).
“Connect and share with the people in your life.”
If you’re reading this post, I’m willing to bet you’re one of the billion monthly active Facebook users in the world. So chances are you don’t need me to explain how to poke, like or tag. What you might want me to explain, instead, is proper Facebook etiquette. Is your behavior on Facebook consistent with these essential Do’s and Don’t’s?
- DO: Reply to timeline posts, messages, and comments (especially if they’re questions). You don’t ignore phone calls, emails or texts – you shouldn’t ignore timeline posts, messages or comments either. If someone takes the time to appreciate your status or photo or to reach out to you via Facebook, you should acknowledge their interest – or you’ll run the risk of causing it to dissipate.
- DON’T: Post significant life developments before sharing them with friends. “I had to find out over FACEBOOK!” is the last thing you want to hear from your best friend. Whether you’re moving, selecting a college, entering a new relationship or ending an old one, be sure to inform your closest friends (and your soon-to-be-ex) before breaking the news to the masses via an announcement on your Facebook page.
- DO: Write “Happy Birthday” posts. Facebook makes it so easy – you don’t even have to travel to your friends’ timelines to wish them. Just glance at the top right corner of your news feed, click on the name(s) next to the little cupcake icon, and type “Happy Birthday [Insert name and optional emoticon here]!” in the box that appears. Done! Of course, a Facebook wish isn’t always enough. If the Birthday Boy or Birthday Girl is a close friend of yours, be sure to call, text, or wish him or her in person in addition to posting on his or her timeline. You may also want to make your post a bit more special. In this case, skip the basic wish from your newsfeed and post a picture of yourself with the Birthday Boy or Birthday Girl above a heartfelt caption. Facebook also makes it easy to send friends presents on special occasions. If you’re feeling particularly generous, check out the new gift feature here.
- DON’T: Be a Vaguebooker. (No, I didn’t make that up – it’s a word.) Ambiguous status updates can be perceived as bait for sympathy, compliments and attention. So avoid open-ended posts (“having a bad day”), one-word thoughts (“rough”) or stand-alone emoticons and aim to make your Facebook statuses amusing and relatable. And if you really do feel like talking to someone, choose a method of communication that allows you to be candid and direct. Phone calls, texts and private Facebook messages are all appropriate alternatives.
“Find out what’s happening, right now, with the people and organizations you care about.”
Twitter is a social forum that enables users to create personalized streams of 140-character-long, real-time updates from a variety of sources. You can elect to follow media, experts, businesses, friends and celebrities of interest to you on this popular social networking site.
Points to note:
- Spoiler Alert! If you missed this week’s episode of Pretty Little Liars, don’t sign on to your Twitter account! Viewers have a tendency to tweet their reactions to episodes from their favorite TV shows with reckless abandon. Although Twitter hasn’t invented a mechanism to prevent users from spoiling episodes for other users (yet), a website call spoil.rs that allows users to hide revealing parts of their tweets may pose a temporary solution – that is, if people start using it.
- #Warning: While using hashtags (#) to mark key words is a widely accepted practice on some social media apps (i.e. Twitter and Instagram), it is perceived as an irritating one in text messages, during spoken conversations and up until last week – on Facebook (Facebook has now introduced hashtags to help users easily find pre-existing content on the site. Whether the feature will be a #hugesuccess or an #epicfail remains to be seen). Regardless, here’s a word of caution: when it comes to using hashtags outside of Twitter and Instagram, tread carefully to avoid irking your friends.
“Follow the blogs you’ve been hearing about. Share the things that you love.”
Primarily a microblogging website that enables users to share small bits of information (text, links, pictures, short videos), Tumblr is also considered a social networking site in the sense that it allows people with similar interests to connect and develop virtual communities. On Facebook, users tend to reject requests from individuals they don’t know personally, but on Tumblr, it’s common for bloggers to follow people with whom they have no pre-existing connections.
Here’s a compilation of recommended Tumblr blogs for you to check out!
“Be great at what you do.”
The key to being a successful LinkedIn member is keeping in mind that LinkedIn is a professional networking tool that enables its users to connect with peers, colleagues and potential employers. That means that unlike most other forms of social media, LinkedIn commands a certain degree of formality.
To create a high-quality LinkedIn profile, be sure to select an appropriate photo (no selfies or group shots; opt for school pictures or senior portraits, instead). Join your high school and college groups to keep in touch with your peers, ask your employers to write you recommendations and fill out as much information as you can (skills, work experience).
While it’s fairly common for social networkers to sync Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook profiles, most experts recommend keeping your Facebook and LinkedIn accounts separate to avoid mixing your personal and professional lives.
“A fast, beautiful and fun way to share your photos with friends and family.”
Instagram lets users play with the color, texture and feel of their photos through the application of its transformative filters. Users can post their made-over pictures with captions that mention (@) other users and hashtags that categorize their images. Instagram also enables users to easily share these photos on other social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.
Let’s revisit the topic of hashtags for a second. Instagram limits users to 30 hashtags per caption, but let’s be honest: that’s pretty excessive. It’s fairly clear that a user who consistently packs his or her captions with hashtags is on a mission to garner as many likes as possible. #notcool. Use hashtags in moderation!
“A tool for collecting and organizing things you love.”
Pinterest is a photo-sharing website that enables users to organize images into theme-based collections (food, fashion, art, home décor) and to follow other users with similar tastes.
To learn how to be a responsible Pinner, check out Pinterest’s etiquette page, which instructs users to: “be respectful,” “be yourself,” “give credit,” “stay alert” and “let us know.”
“The fastest way to share a moment with friends.”
Snapchat is a photo messaging app that permits users to send photos (and now, videos) to a controlled list of recipients. Users set a time limit (up to 10 seconds) for which the content can be viewed, after which the message will supposedly go poof! (be hidden from the recipient’s device and deleted from the company’s servers). Really – it’ll disappear into thin air? Well, like I said, it supposedly will. A series of recent scandals has sparked a controversy around Snapchat’s self-destruct mechanism. I would advise reading up on it before jumping on the bandwagon and downloading the app.
“The best way to see and share life in motion.”
Vine – the newest social media app on this list – is a video-sharing app designed to enable users to link together short, separate instances into six-second clips. Vines play in continuous loops, and are viewable directly in your Twitter feed.
Check out a couple of examples here!
And that, folks, is the end of our crash course on social media. Hopefully you can breathe a little easier now – provided that you’ve memorized all the rules.
Just kidding! All you really need to remember is this: social media is a useful tool when used properly. Think twice about what you post. Be respectful and responsible. Then, have fun with it!
Happy facebooking, tweeting, blogging, schmoozing, instagramming, pinning, snapchatting, and vining!