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What Is Social Media?

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Participate in social media to build your network.

Participate in social media to build your network.

Josh Webb
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Human Resource Management Glossary Index:

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Social media are the tools and platforms that people use to publish content and interact socially online. User generated content includes conversation, articles, images or pictures, recipes, and anything that an individual might share with others in their daily lives.

Increasingly social media provide a platform for recruiting employees, serving customers, professional networking, personal and professional branding, and marketing products and services.

Popular Social Media Sites

Thousands of social media sites exist and appeal to various groups for a variety of reasons. The most popular social media sites include the following.

  • LinkedIn is the premier site for professional networking, group discussions, publishing content, and advertising jobs.

  • Facebook started out as a site for sharing pictures and chat among college students but has evolved into a significant platform for businesses. Facebook provides a way for families and friends to stay in touch and share their daily lives and pictures. Facebook also allows you to create business pages that are separate from your personal page.

  • Twitter is a platform where in 140 characters or less, people share their thoughts, share recommended reading, signal businesses that they need product help, and advertise jobs.

  • Ning allows users to build and maintain their own social networking site.

  • Flickr allows users to easily post pictures to share.

  • Google+ recently arrived with a flourish, and once the option of business pages is added, will rival Facebook for participants. On Facebook, you have one list of friends with whom you share. Google+ brought the concept of circles to the forefront. You can add different people to different circles and decide what and how much you want to share with the people in each circle.

Using Social Media Sites

To use social media sites, most require that you register, create a profile, and then, add friends or followers to create your network. Social media sites provide a variety of privacy options and you can decide whether to make your additions and profile public or private.

Whatever your goals for your business in participating in social media, do have goals so that you can measure the success of the time you invest in social media. For many, sites such as Facebook are platforms that allow them to stay in touch with friends and family. For others, the goal is to tap into another opportunity for professional networking.

If you're interested in how much traffic social media drives to your business or website, this recent study says that content and news sites are more likely to drive traffic than social media sites.

Social Media Goals for Employers

For employers, these are social media goals that make sense for your business or career.

  • Develop a life-long network of professional contacts and easily stay up-to-date and in touch.

  • Recruit potential employees with your business page, your professional and personal social network, and the professional and personal social networks of your employees.

  • Search on candidate names and credentials to confirm your gut feelings about the person you want to hire Check that he or she presents an online image that is consistent with the person who showed up for your interviews.

  • Reinforce your personal and your professional brand and strengthen your business brand.

  • Network with people who share your interest in a career, a profession, or a topic.

  • Create a space around which users of your product or service can interact with you and develop a relationship to build loyalty, word-of-mouth, and repeat use.

  • Solicit feedback, provide customer service, and solve consumers' problems.

Social media is in its infancy. The only prediction that I can make, given the current proliferation of social media opportunities and participants, is that the uses of and participation in social media will continue to grow. When your 80 year old grandma has a Facebook account, your business needs to take advantage of the opportunities online social media present.

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