Six Tips for Taking the Social Networking Plunge

By Marilynne Rudick on June 13, 2010

So, you’re ready to take the plunge and join a social network. Perhaps you’re feeling a little queasy. It’s so public. Once you click “join,” you are sure your pictures will be all over the Internet and your identity will be stolen tomorrow.

Calm down: you are in control! You determine who sees the information you put on your profile page. Still, taking the social networking plunge can feel like diving off the high board.

So here are six tips to help you dive gracefully.

1. Know How You Want to Use Social Networking

Do you want to keep in touch with existing friends, find new friends, find travel companions, find true love, make business contacts, or connect with people who share your passion for French films? Focusing on how you will use the network will help you decide what social network to join, what information you will post, and who you will let see it.

2. Start Slowly

Social networks are rapidly expanding their applications, so you can do almost any web function within your network. To keep from hyperventilating, just concentrate on one or two applications to begin. For example, if you join Facebook, start by networking with friends and maybe join a group or two.

3. Don’t Obsess Over Your Profile

You can change it whenever you want. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Thinking about who you want to friend and your purpose will help you with a profile. Go ahead: give your profile a face. Upload your photo!

True Confession. When I joined my first social network—Facebook—I freaked. What did I want my online persona to be (cool, with it)? What parts of myself did I want to make public? What photo? (Did I have a cool photo? Did I have one with my eyes open?) But after deciding to use Facebook as a private network to keep in touch with close friends, the profile got easier. (No need to obsess about a persona; they knew me!) So, I just posted the basics, knowing I could add more any time.

I found writing my LinkedIn profile easier. My purpose was to make business connections, so I focused my profile on my current work projects and was light on personal information.

4. Keep Friending in Perspective

When I finished my Facebook profile, I got this message: “You have 0 friends.” I panicked; I felt lonely; I felt like I was back in high school. I felt compelled to get friends quickly. But before I got obsessed with popularity, I remembered that I wanted to share some private and personal details about my life—stuff that I might not want to share with strangers (even if they were friends of friends). So I limited my network to close friends.

5. Choose Your Privacy Settings Carefully

Every social network gives your privacy options. (Typical privacy options are friends only, friends of friends, everybody.) You often have the option of excluding specific people (your boss, your kids!). You may decide to go more public later, but right now I suggest you choose the most restrictive privacy options.

6. Remember to Have Fun!

Remember, social networking started as a fun way to communicate with friends. Take a lesson from your kids or grandkids and approach it in the spirit of fun. Social networking has evolved into a serious marketing tool. You may decide to embrace social networking as a marketing tool, but right now, keep it simple and fun.

Categories: Facebook, Fun!, Safety & Privacy, Social Networking
Tags: , , ,


  • “Start slowly” – what is the minimum?

    I don’t want to network socially, I don’t want “friends” and I don’t want to “share my passion” (what would my husband say to that?).

    However, my job as a freelance translator calls for extensive research and I can’t count the number of times I’ve followed a lead to the screen that asks me to sign in to Facebook. End of a promising line of research.

    So, can you tell me what the minimum requirement is? Can I just give them a user-id and password and leave it at that?

    Posted by: Sheila on January 18, 2011 at 1:04 pm

  • Congratulations, Marilynne!

    Nicely done, well organized, clear, fun, does what it’s supposed to do in a way that inspires trust and delivers confidence. Your style and format will make even the most resistant over 50 person want to dip their toes in the waters of social networking and information streaming because you will have taught them how to swim. The hesitant, the avoiders, the snobs, and the merely curious will find a way to get comfortable with technology they only partially understand or haven’t bothered to try to understand, are totally unfamiliar with, fear, haven’t considered using for whatever reason, or are just plain ignorant of. Your creation provides a fine entry point into understanding the technological developments that are making it possible for us to access friends and information in totally new ways. With so many tools available it’s very helpful to be able to figure out which ones we really do want to use. For myself, I prefer spending spare time trying to understand and use digital tools for the purpose of integrating that technology with the ancient art of putting paint on paper — and there’s never enough time for that. But streaming info that relates to this endeavor might interest me — so you see, I learned something from your blog! I know I’ll love RSS now that I know what it is.
    So much for the “resistance” of a right brainer…..

    Congratulations on the launching of “WebOver50”!


    Posted by: Christine M. Becker on June 22, 2010 at 12:36 pm

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