A study from the Pew Research Centre’s Internet & American Life Project reported that social media use by adults ages 55 to 65 grew by 88 percent between 2009 and 2010. In the 65+ category, social networking presence leapt a full 100 percent.
The findings suggest that although social networking may be dominated by youthful users, the culture’s changing. You may have been reticent to get online and start sharing your world, but chances are the love of your life from 3rd grade, your neighbours from three moves ago, your friends and co-workers, and your grandchildren are all there. They’ve probably been searching for you for some time too.
Fear not. You should go slowly when getting online. Share only what you’re comfortable with. A good rule of thumb is if you will say it in a crowded elevator, you can say it online. Here are some tips for enjoying your foray into the social networking universe.
The Behemoths—Twitter, Facebook, Google +
Facebook. If you choose only one stop in the social media world, choose Facebook. Everybody’s there. No, literally, everyone. The site has more than 750 million active users, most of whom have an average of 130 friends, or connections, who can you post to your profile. You can:
• Post a message as often as you’d like
• Share photographs and videos
• Take quizzes
• Play games
In a word, Facebook is an alternate reality in which you stay in touch with people no matter where they are.
Twitter. Twitter is called a micro blogging site. That’s because you can only post messages that contain 140 characters or less. People get quite creative in achieving that. The site is growing in market share. It’s the third-largest social media site. The fun of Twitter is:
• Following celebrities. They tell you what’s going on in their world at every turn. (“At lunch with @Regis”)
• Breaking news. Twitter is faster than television. It’s fast becoming the way people stay updated on what’s happening in the world. The death of Osama bin Laden broke on Twitter. With Facebook, Twitter helped organize the thousands of Arab youth who toppled governments in the Middle East in 2011.
• Engaging in Tweetups. These are like online town halls. You and a group of associates share a hash tag, or a keyword to identify your collective conversation. For example, #smallbizchat identify tweets for their weekly lunchtime get-together.
• Doing #FollowFriday. Each Friday, tweeters recommend users they think you should follow. It’s a great way to connect with interesting people who tweet useful messages, and if you get recommended, watch your followers grow.
• Tweeting your life. People joke they don’t want to hear that you’re in line at the grocery store. Guess what? Plenty do. Each post will likely gain you a new crowd of followers. So tweet on.
At this writing, Google+, another social media giant had just entered the market and the hype suggested it was poised to take down Facebook. No one knows if that’s really going to happen, but if you have the time, check it out.
In addition, Linkedin is a different kind of social networking site that’s growing in popularity. It’s more of a professional networking site. You post your work history, connect with colleagues, discuss important issues in your industry, write recommendations and pass around job and business opportunity leads.
Photo and Video Sharing —YouTube, Flickr, PhotoBucket
YouTube is the number 2 social media site. It’s a clearinghouse of videos of all kinds. You can:
• Watch your favourite shows and music videos
• Find old clips
• Share your own videos
• Respond to someone else’s video
• Help a rising artist who’s using YouTube as a platform to stardom
Although Facebook is the largest photo-sharing site on the Internet, there are others, like Flickr and Photo bucket.
Chatting— Skype, AIM, Gmail, Yahoo, Windows Live
Before Facebook and the titans of social media were born, most people wasted their time IMing or instant messaging. Again, although Facebook is now the dominant place to chat in real time with your friends, there are others. They all allow you to type messages, form group conversations, and hold video chats if your computer has a camera. Gmail and Skype also allow you to make phone calls over the Internet. Meebo is useful chat site: It joins all your contacts from Facebook, Gmail, Yahoo, Windows Live, MySpace, AIM and a host of other chat-providers so you can chat with them all in one location.
Social Media Dos and Don’ts
• Pick a user name your friends will know and add a picture so they’ll know it’s really you.
• Control your privacy. Delve into all the user settings so you can determine what you share.
• Look for friends regularly. Some of your old cronies may not be there at first, but eventually, they’ll come aboard.
• Stay active. Post updates often and engage with your friends.
• Keep your computer security updated. With all the good, social media naturally attracts its share of rogues who spread innocent-looking links that contain viruses and spyware.
• Don’t be in a hurry in “friend” or “follow” your grandchildren. Chances are they have said something they don’t want you to see. Let them reach out to you first.
• Don’t rush to friend or follow your subordinates at work. They are even more likely than your grandkids to have said something they don’t want you to see.
• Don’t fight online. This may seem a no-brainer, but just like in real-life, someone’s going to chap your hide. Marriages and relationships have been destroyed in social media. Handle your conflicts offline.
• Don’t stress over losing friends and followers. It’s the nature of the beast. People lose interest and move on. You should do the same.
• Don’t forget real life. Social media can be very addictive. Keep social media in its proper place.
In all remember, social media has its own unspoken culture and rules of etiquette. If you are ever in doubt, simply ask for help. Though there are nuts and lunatics out there, the one abiding trait of the online world is a sense of community. Get help, and then give back whatever way you can.
Sarah writes for Homes With Care, who provide a unique and dedicated service that helps inform interested parties on the availability of assisted living facilities offering integrated close care, close care, extra care and independent living. Be sure to read the latest industry news on their care home blog.