Monday, February 16, 2015

Social Network Sites: How do they Work for you Personally?

By Rose Strong

What started out in 2004 as a small network at Harvard has grown into something much, much bigger than just a group of students using “the facebook” to connect with one another on a Massachusetts campus. Besides giving us the ability to keep up with friends and family, social networking sites became the go-to space by which business connected with their audiences / clients / customers.

In PR and marketing we know what it’s used for: pushing out product information, connecting with customers, seeking new business leads and the like. But, how do you make use of sites such as Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook for your personal connections that have nothing to do with business?

How do you use social media personally?

A few weeks ago, my wife had a medical emergency just after we had eaten dinner. After heading to the emergency room and sitting there for hours on end amidst a sea of flu-stricken adults and toddlers, I kept my friends and family updated through Facebook’s Messenger app. When texts wouldn’t go through, the Messenger app, posting directly on Facebook or sending a picture through Instagram worked!

The best thing about using social networking sites during an emergency like we experienced was that my friends, several of which are insomniacs or in different time zones, were there and supported me through a very long and intense night.

This is just one example of how these sites also have given us ways to get information out en masse to those we wanted informed.

How’d we do it back then?

In the olden days – she said very sarcastically – I would have had to wait until I returned home to make many phone calls to family and friends. It would have been exhausting. By the time things were stabilized at the hospital and I was able to go home at 6:45 a.m., I only had to make a few personal calls and take a much-needed nap.

According to a survey done by PewInternet.org, Facebook remains the most popular social networking site today, although its growth has slowed somewhat. Other popular sites, meanwhile, are making headway and seeing growth.

From the highlights of PewInternet.org survey, I found the following pretty fascinating:
  • Social networking sites are increasingly used to keep up with close social ties
  • The average user of a social networking site has more close ties and is half as likely to be socially isolated as the average American
  • Facebook users are more trusting than others
  • Facebook users have more close relationships
  • Internet users get more support from their social ties and Facebook users get the most support
I know it may sound strange, but I’ll admit that I have friends online whom I’ve never met but who still mean a lot to me. I belong to several closed Facebook special interest groups. The people in these groups share my interests and we often speak beyond our interests either online in the group or through email or instant messaging, becoming distant participants in each other’s lives simply through social networking.

We share our lives with each other. And only what we want to share. Several people have lost husbands or wives, some long-time members have passed on, family members of the group associates have become sick, graduated school, seen the births of their first grandbabies, and lost pets or adopted new ones, been in car accidents, won awards, traveled around the world, been laid off, fired or found new jobs. In each instance, members of the group rally, be it with tears, kind words, encouragement or congrats.

Without these folks from all over my social network sites, I don’t know what I’d have done to get through such a long and arduous night in the emergency department. I found it a godsend to be able to keep my friends and family updated and gain their support back as I needed it.

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