Three steps to improve your social web literacy

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Image by StreetFly JZ via Flickr

We wrote last week about the rise of social web literacy - how people are having to get used to a new way of communicating and a new way of using language to share information and ideas. It’s not just the technology and tools available to us that are different, the real change comes when people use these tools, adapting what they say and how they say it.

In short, as we make more use of social media, be it personal or for business, we need to hone our social web literacy. We need to practice and develop how we communicate. How do you enter a discussion in a forum? How should your brand talk differently in social media to in other, more traditional, media? How do you engage people online?

At FreshNetworks we work with brands who are engaging strategically online often for the first time. We help them to improve their social web literacy so that they get the most out of these interactions. And we find the following three steps are a simple and easy way for people to do just this.

1. Write comments

In social media and, particularly, in online communities, people share and develop ideas based on a common area of interest, concern or a goal. They may not know each other, but will happily share thoughts with each other to develop an idea or solve a problem.

A great first step to improve your social web literacy is to get involved in discussions just like this. Find a news article, blog post or forum topic that you are interested in and comment on it. Subscribe to updates so that you can follow what others say and make a conscious effort to go back to the same discussion and develop what you said first time around.

By entering these kind of discussions you will learn how people discuss and debate in comments and forums. By taking part you will start to develop your own style in forums, learn how to respond to people politely and how to express your opinion even when others may not agree with you

2. Use Twitter (even if nobody follows you)

There are many benefits of Twitter, but one clear benefit is the focus that comes from 140 characters. Having to express yourself in such a short space is a great way of learning the kind of direct and concise language that often works well in social media. The restrictions that this character limit brings means that you need to think carefully about exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it. How do you express your opinion in such a short space, without being unnecessarily ambiguous or causing offense.

Getting used to expressing yourself like this is a great way of developing your social web literacy skills. That’s why we encourage clients to start using Twitter (even if nobody follows them). It’s a way of learning a new way of expressing yourself and the impact that a restriction on message length can bring. Many people are comfortable expressing themselves at length, when they have time to set out their opinion, ideas and supporting information. Conveying a similar idea in a very short message is a skill that is good to develop.

3. Get tagging

One aspect of social web literacy is developing the skills to tag and categorise information. Social media involves users organising information for themselves and for others. And how this information is organised dictates how easily it can then be found by others. Tagging content and then using these tags to find information relevant to you is a great way of accessing the vast quantities of information that is available online. One of the best ways to learn and experience how this works is to get involved and do it. To get tagging.

Set up an account with Delicious, and bookmark content your see and enjoy online. Choose relevant tags for this content and then see what else others have tagged in the same way. Learn and refine how you use tags, using more or less and choosing your words carefully. Learn how to tag content in a way that is useful for you and for other users. Find out what tagging typologies work for you and why.

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4 Comments

  1. links for 2009-07-28 « Using technology in the voluntary and community sector:

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  2. Marcy:

    That’s a great idea. Through this, you will learn how to communicate with co-bloggers/forum posters etc.

  3. Sue John:

    Those are great suggestions.

    I think my friend should show this to her boss as he doesn’t “get” social media at all. She told him she was following their marketing guy on Twitter and her boss’s response was “You’re on a witch hunt?”. Perhaps marketing guy should explain Social Media to his fellow employees and maybe direct them to your post

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