Being Purposeful with Social Media

Earlier this week, Jeff Lail posted How I Use Social Media and Leslie Dare followed up with a blog post of her own on the same topic. This got me thinking about how I engage and interact with the social web. Last year I talked about what’s In My Toolbox as an educator, however I think I should share how I use these tools as an educator, professional, student… and then some.  

Flickr photo c/o Luke Mahan

I try to be Mindful with Social Media and how I use it. I strive to be intentional and purposeful when I engage with social media. I am the musician, these resources are my instruments – so here’s how I make my music on the social web:

  • To Blog, Or Not to Blog?: WordPress, specifically TechKNOWToolswas designed to be a reflective space of what I learn, research, read and more throughout my studies. I’m a transparent and open learner/educator. I hope that these posts help support my writing and nurture my research goals. TKT serves as a journal of my PhD & academia journey. Blogger was my first introduction to the blogging realm back in 2006 as I started my travel/work adventures in France & the UK on the Souvenirs of Canada blog. Many of my friends & family follow this to keep track of my happenings – and some asked that I keep sharing what is going on to stay in touch. I have two blogs because I have these different sets of readers. Most of my personal contacts prefer not the get all my research and geek info from TKT blog, and it helps to share more “off off the blog” info when we chat on the phone, Skype or IRL.
  • The NEW & Improved Home Phone: Skype - This VoIP service has not only allow me to maintain relationships far, far away – it has also allowed me advise students at a distance, present training sessions with the screenshare option and conference with colleagues new & old for a variety of projects.
  • Saying Cheese:  Photography has been a part of my life since I was little. Photos were always snapped during special occasions, on road trips, spending time outdoors and more with my family. For me photography captures memories, shares a narrative, and provides a perspective by someone or into the life of others. As a visual learner Flickr helps me to archive and catalog my experiences. I have used Flickr for a few professional conferences, however I first started using it to scrapbook my life and give both my Mom (and other friends/family) the latest and greatest “Laura happenings.”a I like photos in my blogs and I like snapping neat finds. I am pretty sure I was a curator in a previous life.
  • Customized Subscriptions: RSS and Google Reader is my friend. This is a key tool I use to follow news, blogs, podcasts and people, and trends. The convenience of accessing this information in one location and being able to read them on my computer or phone helps me stay engaged. I’m only as smart as the information I am connected to.
  • Micro-conversations & Micro-sharing: Twitter - I have to be honest – when I was first introduced to Twitter in Summer ’08 and I was somewhat skeptical. Why would I be interested in a personal update? What value would this bring to me personally/professionally? Over the last few years this #SM tool has grown on me both a professional in higher ed and doctoral student. With my experiences in open learning courses, conference backchannels, Twitter lists, hashtag communities, and a few of the many Twitter Chats I have participated in – I can now attest to its professional development and educational potential. To help me organize my Twitter streams and followers I want to give a shout out to Hootsuite & Seesmic, two third-party clients I use most on my computer and phone. 
  • I heart The Google: Beyond search, Google is a great productivity and learning tool for me to collaborate and connect to others. My favorite Google applications include: Gmail, Docs, Forms, Chat, Voice, Scholar, Calendar, Maps, Translate, Realtime… need I go on? This is a must have tool for any graduate student or professional. Are you still using Hotmail? That’s so 1990s. I recommend you switch to Gmail to kick-start your productivity resolutions and then other Google applications will follow. [Note: I may have a bias to Google as my phone is smart with the Android platform.]
  • Saving It for Later: Delicious, specifically My delicious, allows me to archive resources, articles and interesting finds online. When I share a URL on Twitter it automatically archives to my delicious via packrati.us  I later go into my account to add any notes or highlights that might be relevant – especially if there are articles I might use for a literature review or paper. I also value my Delicious Network contributors who save and share interesting links.
  • My Networks Have Always Been Social: For those of you who know me, I have always been a social person. The creation of online social networks just allows me to continue to be social when I live far away from friends, family and colleagues. I use Facebook primarily for my personal friends and family, however as of late more professionals from Student Affairs, NACADA and other networks have been connecting to me on here. I have created a few different lists to organize my friends on here. More of my sharing is personal & some professional/student information. I have begun to use this #SM tool a lot less as of late professionally – it’s more to stay in touch with far away friends & family. Other networks I use for more professional and academic networks include Twitter, LinkedIn and Mendeley. Depending on my social network, I choose to share different information. I tend to use LinkedIn for professional interactions, and Mendeley for research/publishing contributions, whereas Facebook would primarily be for personal updates, photo sharing and individual conversations. Twitter seems to be my “go to” for information sharing, knowledge consumption and trend watch for #highered, #edtech, #acadv, #phdchat, #sachat, and other lists I follow-with a few personal updates or location-based check-ins scattered in from time to time.
  • Establishing A Brand: To aggregate my many online spaces I have started using About.Me as my virtual card and personal website. I’ve opted to let my personal website URL go and use this and other FREE options to house all things social web and online for me. My digital identity exists already. I have developed my own Google Profile as well. Have you Googled yourself lately?
  • All Things Wiki: I am partial to PbWorks (since I first used it when it was PbWiki), however I have also accessed Wikispaces and Wetpaint for a group collaborations at the office, assessing vendor options with a group, training/learning seminars, professional association planning, pre-conference presentations, online community space, and doctoral research group meetings and publishing. The current wikis I’m clicked into are for my scholastic endeavours: ATPI Research Group and the #phdchat wiki. Future wiki plans: develop my dissertation proposal on a wiki to share with my faculty advisor/committee and design a wiki for an online course I’m instructing at the University of Manitoba this Fall.
  • Now Presenting: I stop by YouTube to watch an effective TED talk, Khan lesson or In Plain English video and more – then I “favorite” the good ones for presentations and/or course resources. As an instructor/trainer/speaker my key tools would be SlideShare and Prezi. I use my personal SlideShare account to share previous presentations, and also encouraged our UNT advising group, UCAN, to initiate their own account to store monthly meeting resources.
  • Checking In: I started playing around with Foursquare and Gowalla over the last year to find out what this location-based mobile application was all about. Some use it for education programs or marketing communication, I primarily use it to archive where I’ve been – restaurants, travel locations, historic locations and such with my personal network. I have also appreciated the location “tips” and discounts when I arrive at each spot. Yelp & TripAdvisor are a few other travel/location referral websites I frequent to read a restaurant review or plan a vacation. 
Phew! It seems like a lot – I know. But I use the above tools for different purposes AND at different times. Keep in mind that THESE ARE JUST TOOLS. During social media training workshops, I often recommend that participants new to the social web “try one or two on for size” to find out what works for them. The bottom line is – it has to serve a purpose, be used intentionally, and help you be a better you. If you don’t use, then you should probably loose it.
There have been a other social media tools I have tried out, but as you can see they haven’t made my frequent flier list. I suggest figuring out what is right for YOU and decide what YOU want to make time for. If you understand the what/purpose (content) and the where (social media application), you will be able to find your social web zen. Social web participation and engagement has to make sense. Be sure to ask yourself:

Are your social web interactions meeting your personal, professional and/or  learning needs?