A Beginner's Guide to Social Networking

Social Networking Help

Social Networking Guide - Aggies Group on Facebook
The Aggies in Dallas group on Facebook has over 150 members. (Image of Facebook).

Despite what you might think, social networking is not something new. As this social networking guide will explain, social networks have been around for far longer than we have been on the web. We've all belonged to social networks, and we still participate in social networks.

This social networking guide will simply help you navigate the web's version of social networks.

Cliques

High school is an excellent example of basic social networking in action.

There are various cliques like the geeks, the socials, the athletes, the band, etc. These cliques are social groups, and a person can be a member of one of them, a member of several, or a member of none.

Joining a social network can be much like moving to a new high school. On your first day, you don't have any friends. But, as you get to know your new classmates, you start finding people of similar interests. Some like to join groups to kickstart their social integration, while others are so shy they barely get to know anyone.

And, even if we didn't much know or care for a particular classmate, they become a fellow group member as we move out into the world. Society as a whole is a social network, and the groups consist of high schools, colleges, fraternities, work place, work industry, etc.

Have you ever met someone at a party or social gathering and found that you didn't have much to talk about until you found out they went to the same college?

Suddenly, you have plenty to talk about.

Social networking on the web is not much different. At first, you will find yourself without friends, but as you participate, your Friends list will grow. And, like life, the more you participate, the more you will get out of it.

Friends

Social networks are built around the ​"friends" concept.

They aren't always called "friends." Linkedin, a business-oriented social network, calls them "connections." But, they operate in much the same way regardless of what they are called.

Friends are trusted members of the social network that are often allowed to do things that non-friends are not allowed to do. For example, you might restrict getting private messages from anyone that is not on your Friends list. Some social networks allow you to make your entire profile private to the public at large and only allow friends to view it.

Friends can be anyone from a real-life friend to someone who has similar interests, to someone who lives in the same region, to someone you simply found interesting. In essence, they are someone you want to keep track of on the network.

Social networking websites allow you to find friends in various ways. There are often search features that allow you to search for friends who are interested in the same hobbies, of a certain age group, or live in a certain region of the world. You can also find friends through groups.

Groups

Basic groups include a city, a state, a high school, a college, etc. Most social networks allow you to join these type of groups to either look for a long-lost friend or family member or just get to know people.

Groups can also cover interests such as video games, sports, books, movies, music, etc.

Groups serve two purposes.

First, they are a good way to meet people who share a similar interest. If you've always been a fan of the Harry Potter books, you might be interested in joining a group dedicated to Harry Potter and meeting others who enjoy the books.

Second, they are a good way to find out more about the topic. The Harry Potter group might have discussions about a particular plot line in the books or the location of an upcoming book signing by J. K. Rowling.

Social networks allow you to express yourself in many different ways. The most basic way of expressing yourself is to fill out a profile that gives basic information such as your hobbies, interests, education, work, etc.

Most social networks also allow you to customize your profile page with various themes which can include the color scheme and the background picture. Some take this to the extreme allowing users to pick out playlists of their favorite artists, video clips they find funny or interesting, and even widgets or third-party applications.

Social networks can also include a blog to let people know what is going on, a photo gallery, or other forms of expressing yourself.

Having Fun and Doing Business

There are many different reasons to join a social network from meeting people to learning more about a subject, but the two most popular reasons are to have fun or to do business.

The having fun part is simple, so long as you choose the right social network and become involved in the community. Not all social networks are created equal, of course, so it could take several tries to find the social network right for you, but with new social networking sites popping up all the time, you should be able to find one that meets your expectations.

Social networking also has its business side beyond just social networks dedicated to business like Linkedin or XING. If you look on MySpace, you will find profiles of actors, musicians, comedians, etc.

These are people doing business on MySpace by helping to cultivate a fanbase. But it goes beyond just entertainers. Businesses of all types set up profiles on social networking sites both to help advertise their services and to let people know the current news.

Social Networking and You

For those wanting to know how to get started with social networking, the first step is to identify what you want in a social network.

There are many different social networking websites. Some focus on a specific interest such as sports, music, or movies. Others are more general in nature serving the public at large.

Once you identify what you want out of a social network, it is time to choose the one right for you. Don't just settle on the first one. Come up with a small list of interesting social networks and try them before making a decision. And, there's no rule that says you can't be a part of multiple networks if you find the decision hard to make.