Simple breakdown of social networking sites

Thursday, 11 September 2008

My previous post gave a basic overview of social networking for the older generation less familiar with social media: what it is, how to use it and what you get out of it. I’ve also come up with an introduction to the three major social networking sites I mentioned (MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn) and a breakdown of what’s good and bad about each. But perhaps the most useful information comes at the end of this post, a very basic user’s guide if you will, that explains how to maintain and monitor your profiles. I’ve also talked about this in my post on the 5 Facebook applications you need for business.

The good and the bad about each social networking site:

MySpace

Strengths

  • Allows users a lot of freedom
  • Advertiser friendly; potential to be in front of many pairs of eyes
  • Still the biggest social network in US and the first major one to take off
  • Diverse group of people
  • Ability to tweak and add whatever you want to customize profile

Weaknesses

  • Too much freedom; profiles look cluttered and messy; sensory overload
  • Hard to search, navigate
  • Seen as less serious
  • Lots of spam profiles, fake friend requests and bad links in posts
  • Aggressive advertising can be too in-your-face

Facebook

Strengths

  • Consistent profile template makes it easy to use, keeps clean layout
  • Easy search capabilities; each piece of profile links to others with shared interests
  • Built in networking capability by location, education and job
  • Easy to use, figure out
  • Groups, events, notes, pages, applications
  • Privacy settings to control who sees what
  • At a glance updates and notifications to show what’s going on w/ friends

Weaknesses

  • New layout is harder to use/adapt to
  • Unfriendly to businesses; pages are hard to use and less fun than profiles
  • Bound by certain profile limitations; cannot make profile as unique as you want
  • For every well done application there are a dozen bad ones

LinkedIn

Strengths

  • Serious, business only network
  • Lots of restrictions in place to keep users on task
  • Everyone there for exactly the same reason

Weaknesses

  • Not much leeway to do anything with profile except maintain it
  • Focus is on sheer number of connections; not what you do with them
  • Many users take themselves too seriously, look down on newbies

In order to really use and get the most out of your social network you need to be an active user; update your profile, interact with other users, engage in discussions, bring up things of interest to you. But don’t do it just because it’s what you need to do to “make this work;” become actively and genuinely engaged with the community on the site if you want to see any real benefit. This will also help you learn the site better (and faster).

The more you use the site, the more you will show up on the radar of those in your network; this is very important, especially if you’re looking to utilize these profiles for business. Again, there’s a lot that you can add and manipulate to make these profiles your own; this is just a basic overview of what you need to know to stay on top of things and manage how you are perceived online, within your network and without.

Maintaining Your Profile

  • Update frequently; keep it relevant and keep yourself on the “new stuff” screen of friends
  • Play with privacy settings to control what friends, coworkers, people you don’t know can see about you
  • Briefly explain who you are and why you are requesting a new friendship/connection; don’t send a blank or generic request
  • Check out profiles or ask for clarification before accepting someone else’s request

Monitoring Your Reputation

  • Search for your name within each site to see which groups, photos, notes, etc. it is associated with
  • Ego surf to see what search engines return for a search of your name; sometimes other people’s profiles or groups will rank for your name as well
  • Set up an RSS feed (only possible with some sites) to get updates when someone mentions your name
  • Turn on all email alerts and create filters to be notified when people add you, tag photos, post on wall, etc.
  • Set up privacy setting to require you to approve all publicly posted messages before they appear live

I’m sure there are tons of other pros and cons to these networks, as well as countless other strategies for maintaining and monitoring a profile, so let me hear them. Leave a comment below that I can use in Social Networking for Over the Hill Idiots: Volume 2.

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