If you’re new to social media and Web 2.0, you probably feel overwhelmed by all the different tools that are out there. Should you use Twitter? Get on Facebook? Start a blog? Share photos? Share videos? It seems that as soon as you’ve worked up the courage to try something new, another ten new tools come along. And where are you going to find the time to do all of this, anyway?
When I coach people on social media, I notice that people often focus on–or get distracted by–the tools. They worry about not being on the right networks, about staying with a tool long after their target audience has passed. They sometimes have a hard time seeing the big picture and how all the pieces fit together.
Here’s the big picture: You want to work more effectively. You want to reach out and connect to people.
The tools you use to go for that big picture will change over time. That’s okay. You might need to be in more than one network or to use more than one kind of tool. That’s okay. You might need to leave tools, copying your data over if possible. That’s okay.
The big picture is: You want to work more effectively. You want to reach out and connect to people.
So, how do you go about putting the pieces together?
At the minimum, you should have one website where people can go to find out about all the rest of the tools you use to share. Many people build their profiles on LinkedIn for this purpose, but it’s best to use your own web host instead of relying on a third-party company that might be renamed, go out of business, or simply go out of style.
I strongly recommend registering your own domain name. If your name is still available as a domain and it’s easy to spell, use that. If not, come up with another phrase or tagline that people can use to find you.
Set up a simple site with your photo and some information about you. Include your contact information. You can use something like WordPress to easily create a few webpages.
You may also want to set up e-mail so that you can use your new domain name for your personal mail. If you never change e-mail addresses, you’ll never have to worry about losing contact. Google Apps is a good way to get your own mail system.
Now that you have a main site, you can explore other tools and social networks. Here’s a sample:
- Social networks like LinkedIn.com, Xing.com, MySpace.com or Facebook.com make it easy to keep in touch with contacts
- Microblogging sites like Twitter.com make it easy to share short, quick updates
- Blogging sites like WordPress.com or Blogger.com let you share longer stories and posts
- Media-sharing sites like Flickr.com (photos) or YouTube.com (videos) let you share your creations
- Social bookmarking sites like Delicious.com
Other kinds of sites cover all sorts of other purposes. Go ahead and explore.
Whenever you build a presence on another social network, link back to your main site. If you want, make it easy for people to discover your other profiles by linking to those profiles from your main site.
Worried about losing track of what you put where? Take notes by bookmarking the resources you’ve shared or by blogging about them.
Over time, you’ll figure out which set of tools work well for you, and you’ll have the flexibility to add interesting new tools as they come along.