Leveraging Social Media to Educate

So you’ve got a business or are part of an organization and you want to know what’s all the hype about social media? How can it help you educate potential clients or customers, or spread the word about your product or idea so that people are talking about it among themselves? Today, we’ll explore the basics of social media and how to get started using it to help spread that awareness you seek.

What is Social Media?

Social media is a collaborative and dynamic approach to communicating opinions, ideas, and information using the Internet to communicate. Social media sites allow visitors to become involved and interact with the content of the site. It’s very much a community where people share what’s on their mind with others.

Some of the most popular social media sites out there are Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and YouTube, to name a few.

With sites like these, people no longer are just readers of information. They can carry on a conversation with the author and other visitors. If you read a compelling post that interests you and you want to share it with others, you might Digg it or Sphinn it. These sites let you “tag” the stories and content you think are worth sharing with others and allow other readers to raise it up or pound it down.

Who Do You Trust?

Let’s say you come across an article about a new HDTV that you just purchased and you’d like to offer your opinion on its advertised features. Who do you think people are going to believe more, you or the advertiser? Can you now start to see the impact of this communication method?

Many people are beginning to leverage the power of social media to educate people about their business, an important cause, or to help raise money and even create mutually beneficial relationships. Many people have developed a personal or company profile and started building a network of friends.

Examples of Businesses Using Social Media

Here are a couple of examples to help get your juices flowing. Louis Columbus cries out to the telemarketing community on the need to dial in to social media. Barry Harrigan shares some strategies on how social media can help shorten the sales cycle for small businesses.

Goodwill incorporated social media into their marketing strategy by educating “budget” fashion-conscious shoppers. And more retailers are turning to social media, especially during the back-to-school season, to help reach and educate their target audience.

In Education

Ulises Mejias raises some interesting thoughts on his blog about how social media can be the tool for the lifelong student (because learning doesn’t end when we graduate from college):

“Social media can be used to ensure that education for the constant student becomes something that can be delivered anytime and anywhere, and which — more importantly — can be used to monitor performance throughout the ‘learning’ life of the individual.”

Once you start using social media as a form of communication and develop a network of friends, check on how your ideas are spreading. Sites like Surchur and Serph provide search results about what’s happening right now online via blog posts, news, photos, video, etc. You may be able to find out what people are saying about your product, business, or ideas. Cool, huh?

Well, I hope you’ve caught a glimpse of what social media is and how it can be beneficial as a new form of communication and education. Please send me any case studies where you have benefited from social media. Whether for business, religious, political, or other purposes, social media will give you a platform through which you can create, distribute, and interact with information that shapes our daily lives.

In the next couple of articles, we’ll do a deep dive on some actual social media sites and how they work.

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