By Grant J Everett
The different epochs of human history are named according to what makes them notable, such as The Bronze Age, The Industrial Revolution and (more recently) The Information Age. Considering that the last decade has probably best been defined by the meteoric worldwide rise of social media, are we already wading knee-deep in The Social Age? And why should you care?
Social media, by its definition, is primarily about connecting people together, about bridging geographical gaps so we can instantaneously communicate via devices such as computers and mobile phones. This isn’t a new idea by any means, as email, chat rooms and other precursors to the social media phenomenon appeared decades ago. However, social media applications such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have totally redefined how we communicate and share as a society.
Knowing how to use social media has become almost essential in today’s world, whether you use it for business purposes, to chat with friends, to keep your extended family connected, or just to check out what’s happening with your favourite cat memes, social media is here to stay.
Even though it makes sense to think that all the different social media choices out there would be in fierce competition with each other, most of them have their own specialities and are able to coexist. It’s not like the whole VHS versus Betamax war in the 1980s, or the HD-DVD versus Blu-Ray thing a few years ago: these different flavours of social media all have their place and there’s no need for one to simply “win” against the others. Here’s the basics of how they differ.
Facebook is the big daddy of the social network scene. By far the largest and most well recognised of the bunch, Facebook has rewritten the way we interact as a society, and at the end of 2015 it had 1.59 billion active users (according to http://www.statista.com). If you want to find old school friends, keep in touch with everyone you know or connect up with people who have similar interests, Facebook is ideal.
Twitter is all about short, rapid comments. The maximum you can “tweet” in a single message is 144 characters, so tweeting is more useful for quick zingers than short novels. Although nowhere near the size and scope of Facebook, Twitter is a serious industry and has become entrenched in popular culture.
YouTube may initially seem like nothing more than a repository of cat memes and idiots eating ghost chillies, but it’s still a form of social media, and is huge, huge business in every way. A little known fact is that you can Friend people on YouTube, just like on Facebook.
LinkedIn is focussed on the world of business, employment and all the stuff that it envelops, like databases of resumes, professional contacts, potential jobs and other stuff like that. Social media has become a big part of the recruitment process for many major businesses, and is probably social media at its most constructive and positive.
Don’t write about your colleagues on social media. Slander is still a thing, and you’ll need to face your new enemies on Monday!
If you post something and people see it, you can’t make them UNsee it. Just ask the kindergarten teacher who posted sexy pictures of herself back when she was still in high school, and had the parents of her students discover them. Ouch.
Use common sense when sending Friend requests to colleagues. Those pictures of your vodka-fuelled nude run through a Mormon church last Saturday night may not be to everyone’s tastes.
Try not to give away too much info. Your full name, date of birth, mother’s maiden name and other seemingly harmless things can result in someone hacking your account or worse. Scammers don’t need much info to steal your identity.
Don’t broadcast sensitive information. Guess what happens when somebody announces they’ll be away from home for a week? I hope they didn’t want all their stuff to still be in the house when they get back, if you know what I mean…
A report by American firm Jobvite found that:
- 94% of US recruitment companies are planning to use social media to search for staff
- A full third of employers have rejected an applicant due to something in their social media profile
- On the subject, 78% of employers disapprove of references to drug use in social media posts, and 67% reacted negatively to posts of sexual nature
- 14.4 million Americans have used social media to search for a job, including (naughty naughty) while they’re at work at their current one
A Clarius study of more than 1000 workers last year found that social media use was one of the biggest inhibitors to workplace productivity, with almost half of those surveyed using social media at work, and one in six using it up to 10 times a day