It's changed the way we think, communicate and debate. It's infiltrated schools, homes and workplaces like none before it other than the www. It's out there, it's been revolutionary, it's global and it's addictive...but how do we utilise and harness the power of social media?
1. Decide on the purpose for each social media tool - look closely at how others are using the tool and then decide on how this will look for you. For example, will you have a PLN developing through using it or is it just for socialising with friends overseas? Each tool has a slightly different function but each has the power to bring the world closer so it's a case of working out why we want to sign up to it and how we will utilise it best.
2. Check all of the settings when you sign up - there is nothing worse than receiving 1,000 e-mails a day or text messages because you didn't change the settings to stop that! It is also a case of making sure that you have protected your own personal safety and privacy by adjusting the settings accordingly. A friend of mine didn't realise that she needed to constantly monitor and change her privacy settings on facebook and ended up with her page being hacked and lots of messages sent out by someone pretending to be her! All because her page was so easy to find and her privacy settings almost didn't exist as facebook has changed all of their own settings.
3. Use it or lose it - if you decide to use social media professionally to build a PLN, you have to use it. People will follow you on places such as twitter only if you add value to their learning. There is great learning to be done through these networks but you must also contribute to the learning of others - even if it just by re-tweeting someone's own messages. When you go quiet and stop adding comments, people tend to divorce you quickly and your network ceases to grow. So, get busy, even for 10 minutes a day, and your network will grow!
4. Be careful what you say...all things silly have a way of biting us in the butt if we are foolish enough to put them onto social network sites. Sadly, something that we say, do or photograph may look or seem hilarious today but it is the future that must be considered. "With great power comes great responsibility..." is a phrase coined by Spiderman that we must constantly think of when using social media. The internet is powerful tool, social media is a powerful communication tool and we must exercise great responsibility with this power. Never be so naive as to think that delete means delete forever, your global footprint can be a terrible dent.
5. Write, read and learn! There is blogging, tweeting, Facebook, Googledocs, Reader and Youtube but the list is endless and often under-utilised in different countries. The more you write, the more you read and the more you communicate, the bigger the boundaries expand outward and as your learning network grows so does your learning. Use it, learn with it and love it! Social networking has changed the way we live and it is a great thing when embraced fully for what it is - an amazing learning tool!