September 13, 2011

Facebook and Twitter are notorious time wasters. But they can also be outrageously effective power tools.

If you know how to use them, these websites can connect you with people who might share your passions, offer you job opportunities and, save you money.

The best way to begin is to simply find the courage to register on these free sites. Then, dive in.

But be responsible. I always tell my students to think carefully about becoming part of the online world. Once you put stuff out there, you can’t really take it back.

Oh sure, you can delete that nasty tweet that you wrote or that photo of you looking sloppy drunk. But these things don’t go away. Tech intelligence experts and law enforcement investigators have ways of digging up stuff. Having said that, here are three ideas for getting started with social media.



Mashable is an extraordinary online news resource. It offers daily updates in the following categories: Social Media, Tech & Gadgets, Business & Marketing, Video, Mobile, Dev & Design, Media, Social Good, Startups.

You can follow Mashable on Facebook and or/Twitter. I also subscribe, which means that every morning, Mashable sends me an email filled with all of its latest social media headlines. If an item interests me, I’ll click on it to read more. Otherwise, a quick scan is enough.


Set up your Twitter account effectively

Every semester, I meet students who fall into four groups:

  • They love Twitter (very few).
  • They hate Twitter because it’s a stoopid time-waster (the majority).
  • They hate Twitter because they can’t stand technology (a minority).
  • They’re ambivalent because they don’t know what to tweet about (the majority).

I am happy to say that by the end of the semester, most students realize Twitter’s importance. In fact, many of them get so good at tweeting that it becomes a resume-worthy skill worth mentioning in job and internship interviews. Their social media skills always give them an edge that gets them hired.

To get started on Twitter, read my post on :)

Follow each step. That’s what my students do. They go through the post like it’s a chapter in a textbook.


Explore Facebook pages

On Facebook, you can do so many things. We’ll just deal here with pages. Once you have a personal profile, you can get on the site and start schmoozing.

Facebook pages were originally called fan pages (a very dumb name so they changed it). Who uses Facebook pages? Businesses, organizations, celebrities, bands, artists, authors. The pages are for anyone with a product to sell. And yes, in the 21st century, it’s totally okay to market yourself as a self as a product/brand.

Your favorite retailer, airline and favorite beverage manufacturer all probably have Facebook pages. If you “like” them, you’ll be notified of the latest updates from these sources. Sometimes there are coupons or other types of store discounts; I always love that. The best pages work on a very professional schedule of posting specific types of info on specific days of the week. That way, customers, followers and fans can latch onto a routine.

To understand how to use a Facebook page as part of building an online brand, read my post on  :)

There was a time when the page concept seemed like such a vanity. But I’ve recently attended several social media training sessions where the experts are saying that every journalist and artist should have a page.

Your page lets your audience see you behind-the-scenes; the setting makes you more human. It’s a great place to experiment with ideas. For an example of how this works, consider New York Times superstar Nick Kristof’s Facebook page; it’s quite admired in journalism circles.

If you find pages you like, you can start practicing the art of online conversation. Comment, baby, comment!

I have a little page too. It’s an essential outlet because I don’t friend total strangers, no matter how nice they are. Given my personal boundaries, the page is an essential place to chat with the larger Facebook world. And actually, I actually would rather chat there than on my profile. So maybe you’ll visit the Betty Ming Liu Facebook page.  :)

So…..with this information, we have new dimensions for opening new conversations. If you have advice, ideas or feedback, please give us your comments below.

See you next Tuesday!