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Thing # 7 – Social Networking

October 24, 2010

WHAT

Facebook is another one of those services that you’ve probably heard a lot about, even if you haven’t actually used it yourself. Well, if you’ve found yourself wondering why tools like Facebook (or MySpace, Ning, LinkedIn, or any other social networking service) are so popular, you’ll be happy to know that this week is devoted to exploring these tools — what they are, how they work, and why we should care.

Defining a “social network” is a bit difficult — it’s one of those things where you know it when you see it.  That said, most social networking sites have a few features in common:

  • Profile Pages: When you sign up for an account on a social networking site, your “profile page” becomes your home base. Most social networks allow you to add as much or as little information about yourself as you’d like. Common fields include your name, contact information, interests, and a photograph of yourself. Don’t want to put all of your contact information? Then don’t! You control how much information you share about yourself.
  • Friending: This is probably the most important characteristic of a social network because finding friends (existing or new) on a social networking site is pretty much the point of being there in the first place. So, most social networks allow you to add another person/profile as a “friend” or a “contact” and your collection of friends becomes your own personal social network.
  • Groups: With real life social networks, groups tend to form around common interests; with that in mind, most online social networks allow users to start a group or join a group based on their interests or common goals. Depending on the social networking site, you will probably find a group that represents your interests, regardless of what that interest might be.

While many 2.0 tools use some of these elements, most sites that are considered to be online “social networks” have all these elements in common.

WHY

Social networks exist primarily to help people keep in touch personally or professionally. These sites, such as Facebook, MySpace, and Ning, provide users the freedom to add pictures, slideshows, audio and video excerpts, and even custom designs. The other sites concentrate on users’ specific common interests such as video (YouTube), photography (Flickr), music (last.fm), or books (LibraryThing). The features offered by these “specific” sites tend to be much more geared toward the nature of their content and are much less customizable.

Facebook probably gets more mainstream press than any other tool that we will be exploring in 23 Things SCPL. Social networks are one of the main ways that people of all ages communicate with each other.

It is worth noting that these networks incorporate one of the tools we’ve already covered in past weeks, blogging, and tools that we will cover in the upcoming weeks, such as photo and video sharing. But the one-stop shopping of social networks is part of their appeal—one user name, one password, and any other information you could ever want all in one spot.

Another part of the appeal is the need to “belong to a group” and communicate with people who share similar interests. Additionally, joining social networks like Facebook allow family and friends who may live far away from each other the opportunity to easily keep up to date on each others’ lives.

Popular Online Social Networks

  • Facebook: Originally limited to college and university students, Facebook is now the most popular social networking site in the world. Facebook defines itself as “a social utility that connects you with the people around you.”
  • MySpace: MySpace has had a somewhat controversial history that has seen it simultaneously be one of the most popular sites on the web, claiming over 90 million accounts at one time, and one of (if not) the worst designed. It’s used by many musicians, particularly independent ones, to promote their work. MySpace appears to be on the decline; the library used to have a MySpace account, but recently canceled it.
  • LinkedIn – LinkedIn is “an online network of more than 9 million experienced professionals from around the world, representing 130 industries.”
  • Ning – Ning is not so much a social networking site as a site that allows you to create your own social networking site or community, complete with its own appearance and features.

HOW

You have two options.

A.

  1. Read how to get started with Facebook.
  2. Read about LinkedIn.
  3. Log into our practice Facebook account and see what it’s all about. Go to facebook.com and enter 23thingsscpl@gmail.com for the user name and 23facebook for the password. Once you’re logged in, go crazy! Search for things and people that you like. Try play some silly Facebook games. Add anything you want (within reason, of course!) to this profile. It’s all for fun.

–OR– the more fun option

B.

  1. If you do not have a Facebook or LinkedIn account, make one. Remember, you control the privacy settings, so you control how much information people can see. This link for getting started with Facebook might be helpful.
  2. If you are setting a Facebook account (or already have one), take the time to look at the privacy settings under the “Account” tab in the upper right corner when you are logged into Facebook. Ultimately the privacy settings are up to you, but we’d recommend choosing the “Friends Only” option.
  3. Find people you know who are already using Facebook or LinkedIn and ask them to be your friend or contact.

SHARE

What do you think about libraries using social networking sites? How can the library improve its Facebook page? If you have a profile on Facebook or LinkedIn, consider posting your username in this blog post. Name this blog post Thing #7.

STRETCH

Join Facebook AND LinkedIn!

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