How to Get Started with Social Networking

Picking the Right Social Network For You

About Social Networking

Much like going to a party or joining a book club, social networking can be enriching, and a lot of fun. And, like getting involved in a writer's group or going to a business conference, it can also be very productive for your career. Social Networking can be many things to many people, but you won't ever know what it could mean to you until you try it out for yourself.

How to Get Started with Social Networking

The question you must ask yourself is what do you want from a social network - why would you want to join.

The Most Popular General Site

If you are looking to stay in touch with family and friends, consider Facebook.

Facebook, founded in 2004, with more than 1.65 billion active users (as of 3/31/16) is the most popular social network site in the world. Facebook’s mission, according to Facebook "is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them."

The Most Popular Business Site

If you are thinking about using social networking for business, consider Linkedin.

Launched in 2003, LinkedIn is the world's largest professional network with more than 433 million members in 200 countries and territories around the globe.

LinkedIn's mission, according to LinkedIn, is: "to connect the world's professionals to make them more productive and successful.

When you join LinkedIn, you get access to people, jobs, news, updates, and insights that help you be great at what you do."

Niche Networking

There are many different social networks ranging from those who cater to specific interests, such as Myspace, once the top general social network, which is now focused on connecting artists, such as musicians and writers, with their current and potential fanbase, and Flixter, which is a social network for movie lovers.

Perhaps you are passionate about music. Last.fm combines the idea of a personalized radio station with social networking allowing you to create your own playlist, suggests music based on your preferences, and allows you to listen to your friends radio stations as well.

If you are passionate about a particular subject, a niche social network with a specific theme can be a terrific place to start. Because it matches your interest, you will be more likely to get involved in the community, and getting involved is what social networking is really all about.

Unfortunately, while there are plenty of social networks that cater to different interest, there isn't a social network for each and every interest. But, not to worry. Most social networks contain user-created groups that help people with similar interest find each other.

Signing In For The First Time

After signing into a social network for the first time, you will find yourself thrust into the shoes of the new kid in school. You have no friends, you belong to no groups, the comments on your blog are bare, and your page looks rather barren.

Now, what you might do on the first day of school to prepare for this is to wear your favorite t-shirt so that you can make a good impression.

On a social network, you want to do the same by customizing your profile page. Don't spend too much time on it right at first, because there is often a lot you can do to customize it, but spend a few minutes picking out a basic template and perhaps customizing a few of the colors.

And don't worry if you find the process a little confusing! Your first visit should be about exploration as much as meeting people. You want to see what the social network has to offer, how easy it is to customize your profile, what options you have available when customizing it, what sort of groups are active in the network, etc.

Once you have your profile the way you want it, or, at least, a bit better than the rather plain profile you started with, it's time to go out and meet some people. If you have friends or family that are involved with social networking, try looking them up in the search features. Or, you could just browse through profiles of those people in your city.

Many social networks will let you look up people based on what high school or college they attended and when they graduated. If you've ever wondered what happened to someone from your school, now is your chance to act on it.

Perhaps the best way to find friends is to browse through the groups and join groups that match your interests. If you like fantasy books, join a group devoted to fantasy. If you love to play Zelda, find a group for Zelda fans. If you love listening to The Beatles, look for a group on the fab four.

And here's the key to making friends on a social network: Invite people to be your friend. Customizing your profile and joining a few groups isn't enough. And there's really no reason to be shy. Search through some groups, read some discussions, check out some profiles, and then invite interesting people to be your friend.

Getting the Most Out of a Social Network

While making connections with other people is the central concept involved in social networking, there is plenty of other things you can do as well. And, for the most part, these aspects play into one another. The more you become involved in other areas of the social network, the more new people you will run across that are interested in the same things that interest you, and the more connections you will end up making.

Many social networks have a blog. If you haven't started blogging yet, this is a great way to start. Think of it as an online journal. Now, it is important to remember that it's not a diary, so don't go giving away all of your secrets. Write whatever you want, what comes to mind, what you did that day, what you want to do tomorrow. Heck, sometimes I just open up the blog to write about how I like to drink root beer.

Other features found on social networks include video, music, and reviews. Some allow members to create their own playlist of favorite songs. This can be a great way of discovering new music by going to different profiles and listening to what they have playing.

The key here is to become involved in what the social network has to offer. If you've joined a social network that caters to a specific interest, like movies or music, this should be easy to do. If you've joined one of the larger general interest social networks, you can discover what it has to offer by searching through the groups.

Once you get involved in the social network, you will begin to make connections, and then you will see the true value coming through.