As veterans in the diabetes blogging community, Amy and I are often asked how people can get started or get more involved in social media. If you're unfamiliar, it can feel like a huge undertaking, so it's not surprising that many people are hesitant about jumping in feet first. Plus, the discussion continues about whether social media really does make a difference. This month's Diabetes Social Media Advocacy (DSMA) carnival poses the question:
What advice would you give someone trying to figure out how to use social media?
Obviously, we wholeheartedly believe that social media does make a difference, so here's some of our advice on getting started:
Allison's Advice -
My advice on the show — and a conviction I stick to — is that it's OK to start slow. When you're just getting started, it can seem very overwhelming to have so many options! A dozen diabetes social networks, plus Twitter, plus Facebook, plus the hundreds of diabetes blogs can feel very paralyzing.
Simply start with whatever makes you feel most comfortable. Some people are more interested in lurking and observing, so reading blogs or forums might be their best fit, whereas some people might want to jump into blogging or tweeting their own stories and advice. Blogging can be great if you have stories or experiences you want to make available to people, while Twitter can be perfect for those who want to keep a pulse on the community without the work that goes into maintaining a blog. However, keeping up with the frequency of Twitter can be overwhelming, too, so some might feel more comfortable getting to know people on Facebook or another diabetes social network, like Diabetic Connect. Honestly, there really is something for everyone!
The last thing you want to do is let yourself get overwhelmed by social media and start feeling like you're not really connecting with anyone because you're so wrapped up in just trying to keep up with all the messages! Start by doing the one or two things that make you comfortable, and that you feel like you're getting some value out of. Once you've mastered one social network or community, it is a lot easier to branch out and use other tools.
Amy's Advice -
I don't think it's any secret that social media has changed my life. I can barely imagine what it would have been like to be diagnosed with this isolating, high-maintenance disease in my mid-30's without all the internet tools to plug into a community of empathic fellow patients. Ugly, that's what!
I've been so very fortunate to find myself at the epicenter of this amazing online community, and am extremely grateful to everyone who's followed my work here at the 'Mine — which is my passion, my job, my homebase, and the thing turns living with diabetes into something I can look forward to every day (almost).
I get asked by a lot of people and groups these days about how best to utilize social media, so I'm going to share some tidbits of information that I presented to diabetes educators in Utah at a recent conference. Here goes:
• Keep in mind that social media isn't a fad... it's a fundamental shift in the way our society communicates!
• One of its core tenets is that it is easy to use; all you do is just click a link here or there to get talking. If it were hard to use, Facebook wouldn't have upward of 750 million users!
• What makes social media social is the INTERACTION it allows. No matter what platform you start on, the first thing to do is look for some people who share similar interests with you and reach out to them. Message them. Start a dialogue.
• Follow the golden rules of Transparency & Authenticity: be completely open about who you are, what you stand for, and who pays your bills (if applicable).
• Be prepared to LEARN, and not just push out all the amazing things that you know.
• Facebook is great for: finding old friends and groups like your old alma matter, letting friends and family know what you're up to, finding out what they're up to, keeping up on what your favorite organizations — and retailers! — are up to.
• Twitter is great for: following a constant stream of rapid-fire tips and information from interesting people and organizations you admire, finding out what these people and groups are up to at any given moment, making real-time snarky comments about what you're up to.
• Blogs are great for: reading longer articles about topics that interest you, from writers who interest you, and being able to comment and interact with said writers. Some publish very personal stuff, while some publish more "formal" content like news coverage and product and book reviews (we do both!)
• Dedicated diabetes online communities are great for: establishing an online "home" where you can dwell among friends with diabetes, find great recipes and community product reviews, plus helpful guides to diabetes topics, etc.
• Keep your eye on Google+, a new hybrid of Facebook and Twitter that allows you to choose the people you want to follow and organize them around "circles" of friends, family, colleagues, etc. There will also be video chatting. Much buzz about this to come, I am sure!
• Know what you're looking to get out of social media, so you can use it to your best advantage: Want to make new friends? Understand new products and research better? Find advocacy programs you can get involved in? Check, check, check — you can do all that and more!
• Don't forget to have some fun with it.
Enjoy the DOC. It's the best resource I can imagine for living well with diabetes.
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This post is our November entry in the DSMA Blog Carnival. If you'd like to participate too, you can get all the information here.