My main goal for this post is to somewhat de-mystify social media. It’s such an opaque term. But to my way of thinking, social media just means any web based site or tool that allows users to contribute. So here are some basic things on the “been there, done that” check list.
Amazon Reviews. Amazon really pioneered the idea of letting readers tell other people their thoughts about a book or CD in the context of an e-commerce experience. However, until you’ve written one yourself, they simply aren’t as real as they could be. And here is a really good reason to write a book review. If you’d like to get a bit of a public, professional toehold in a subject area that interests, you, there is no faster route than to create two or three Amazon book reviews in that area. The reason? Google ranks Amazon reviews very highly in their search results because they are original content by real people. So, here’s what you do:
- Pick one, two or more books that represent your interests well (professional or personal)
- Make sure you are absolutely fine with being very publicly associated with those books
- Write an Amazon review for each book (or other Amazon media product)
- Consider using your real name, rather than create a screen name. Real name reviews are more highly ranked on Amazon and using your real name is the only way to get a true online association with the subject area.
For someone looking to establish a credible, professional online presence, an Amazon review can be one of the quickest and best ways to get started. This is particularly key advice for young grads and people returning to the work force, or people looking to make a job or career change. The first thing a hiring manager will do is Google your name, and you can really stand out with a thoughtful review about a professional subject. (Be careful though…I once wrote an Amazon review in which I complained about the difficult language in a South African novel. Later, I realized that wasn’t a great advertisement for my literacy skills when I was moving back from Ireland and networking. But even today, when I have five pages of actual Google content about me, a couple of my Amazon reviews are still on the second page of Google results.)
Wikipedia. It feels like everyone knows about Wikipedia, but maybe not everyone knows that it can be the best place to start researching most any topic or organization. For instance, when I was doing business development in my last startup and needed to get up to speed efficiently on a lot of new companies, I always started with Wikpedia. After this first step, I moved to scouring the target company site and a Google search, and finally a Linked In search. But Wikipedia got me set on the right course with the basic facts, and often some obscure or historical ones. They miss whole topics and organizations, but there is nothing to stop you (or anyone else) from getting the ball rolling.
Wikipedia (combination of “wiki” and “encyclopedia”) is created and vetted by real people. Anyone can contribute, but truly bad content has a hard time surviving the vigilant volunteer editors. A study which had scholars in a wide variety of areas compare Wikipedia to the Encyclopedia Britannica found the Wikipedia content to be equally valid. Here’s what you can do to get your feet wet:
- Research any topic that interests you
- If you find one which is incomplete (like maybe a limited history of a company you once worked for), create a Wikipedia account (easy) and add your own edits
- Read this earlier blog post in which I reported some interesting things said by Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia at the Connecticut Forum
Craigslist. Free online classifieds. Ugly as hell, and really basic. But that is the beauty of the site. It’s totally democratic in its listings and everyone is subjected to the same yucky Courier typewriter type font listings. I’m a very light user but have found it invaluable for dumping a like-new drum kit, looking for a housekeeper, and buying a LuvSac that was taking up half the living space in the tiny North Shore apartment of a nice young man.
Here’s how to take a fun little tour:
- Find your city (in tiny type) on the Craigslist home page
- Search for anything that might remotely interest you. I just looked for a “boat” because there is two inches of new rain falling as I write from a cabin in Maine. Yes, the listings are really as basic as they look. Just listed in chronological order, so you only see the latest postings. You can narrow your search in a category, so I found plenty of listings for “Whaler” but nothing for “ark.”
- Try putting up a listing for the weirdest useless thing in your house.
- If you ever really try to get rid of a lot of stuff at once, be wise and only put the listings up if you are really ready for customers. My husband helped close an office and learned to not list the old desks, file cabinets etc. until 7AM of the day they were ready to sell them. There are plenty of Craigslist nuts who will pounce on you the minute you put up a listing. In the case of my husband’s office, where they listed the office address alongside the items for sale, the company employees arrived at work the first day they used Craigslist and found a huge queue of people waiting in the wee early morning hours. The waiting line of folks seemed to be a combination of both strange and community-minded—bargain hunters with a vengeance— but also many quite happy to hang around and help virtual strangers carry out their heavy loot.
- Just for fun, be sure to check out “Best of Craigslist” on the left side of the home page. These are the listings nominated as funniest or strangest by readers…they never fail to deliver a belly laugh. Today I chuckled at “female companion needed 4 anything”.
- Finally, I reported on a talk given by Craigslist’s odd but strangely endearing founder Craig Newmark.
Last, here is one update to Part One, on social networks. Don’t assume you will catch all of your friend’s status updates in the Facebook “Friends” tab. If you have loads of friends (but if you do, why would you be listening to me on this topic?), or a few friends with very frequent updates, Facebook might edit out some of those updates. To be sure of catching every update on your more prolific friends, you have to periodically check their “mini feed” on their profile page.