Social media for newbies

I’ve been tasked with preparing a staff workshop on social media at work. The age demographic at my workplace is slightly older than the norm, with the average age being around 46, and very few, if any, millenial workers in the bunch. So social media, although our organization uses Facebook and Twitter to communicate, is not a familiar topic among many staff.

In fact, some just downright dislike it and don’t want to have anything to do with it. It’s hard for someone like me to understand, since I find it such an interesting way to be able to connect and communicate with your friends and family – and people all over the world – at anytime, any place, using a mobile phone.

However, just recently a few staff members have come to me with questions about blogging and Twitter, and they are very interested in how it can be used. And they are asking for a workshop to teach them the basics so they can understand what this is all about, that is going on all around them. (I find this so exciting!)

I’m not shy about sharing information about myself, although I don’t post everyday on Facebook and I haven’t used Twitter much in a long time, I don’t feel that fear of opening myself up to the Internet. There could be a few reasons for this:

  • I know how to use the tools, which is half the battle. I know how to go into my settings on Facebook and block certain people, or block my profile from being viewed by people other than my friends.
  • I know what people can see of my posts and tweets and what they can’t.
  • And I never, ever post something that I don’t want the general public to know

A good friend once said to me regarding social media: “If you’re an idiot, people are going to find out.” Meaning, if you are rude, ignorant and socially inept in face-to-face communication, that will come out online too. It’s not the social media tools that are bad, it’s who is using them, and how they are using them.

Having said all that, in planning my workshop I am thinking a lot about why people are afraid of these tools and looking for information on why they might be apprehensive, in order to address some people’s concerns. I found an excellent blog post by Liz Jostes, titled, “Helping Newbies Understand Social Media.”

Below is an excerpt that I found particularly helpful. Think of some of the older users of the Internet you know, and see if you can spot any familiarities.

Liz writes about helping her mom get started with Facebook:

  1. Privacy is a huge issue – Not that any of us should take our online privacy for granted, but as soon as she made a few Friend connections, she immediately panicked over a couple of them knowing she was out of town and visiting me for the weekend (She lives in Chicago and was visiting me in Memphis). Her fear was that one of them would post something about her visiting me out-of-state, a thief would read that, and her house would be burglarized.

  2. Making decisions about default profile settings requires more analysis than choosing your retirement plan – This may have been the most tedious part of the process. There are so many choices within your personal Facebook profile, plus options for each status update. Also, each decision seemed to spark some other type of worry: “Why would people share this with the world?” and “Don’t people worry about who is seeing/reading that?“

  3. Notifications can be stressful After our initial profile set-up and her asking to be friends with a dozen or so people, she opened her email to a flurry of Facebook notifications. I sensed real urgency from her as she sorted through them, along with a feeling of her being overwhelmed. Because of this, I told her that all these notification emails are set up by default, but she can uncheck several boxes to only receive notifications for the activities that matter most to her.

  4. Words like “feed, “stream” and “wall” mean nothing Even the most basic of terminology needed to be explained. She kept asking me, “So where’s this ‘wall’ you keep mentioning? Show me my wall!“

  5. If all they know is email… That’s all they have to compare social media to. My mom kept asking me how people ‘send’ her news and photos. It took a few conversations until she grasped that her Friends are posting updates for her to read if she chooses; but no one is actually sending anything to her.

  6. Engagement is a two-way street Those of us who live and breathe social media understand the ‘how’ and ‘why’ to proper engagement. But users like my mom can have a hard time grasping the need for the posting of updates in order for news or photos to be spread. I received a handful of, “Well, why am I not seeing any updates by Sandi?” type questions. I also made a point to explain that she needs to post something every once in a while, too, if she ever wants any of her family or friends to hear from her.

  7. Friends who are active can seem overly chatty We all know that it takes some time for your social connections to grow. So in the mean time when you have something like 25 friends, you’re going to want to tell Cousin Bob to shut the heck up because his thrice-daily posts comprise 80% of the content on your wall.

Read more: Helping Newbies Understand Social Media

What else do you think newbies to social media need to know? Do you think it’s time for people to get over the fear of social media since it has become such a huge part of social interaction? Is this a good thing?

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