I have to admit that when I first started using social media several years ago I was skeptical about how valuable it would be for me as an educator. But, the more that I learned about it, as well as how to leverage it for my needs, the more I wanted others to see that it really can be a valuable resource that saves time. But in order for you to be successful, and not be overwhelmed with the vast assortment of resources out there, you need to do some research and pre-planning as to how you will build your social media "tool kit." Don't just jump in with both feet, but do some testing and talk to others that have had success to see which tool is right for you.
I like to keep things simple and efficient. So, after reflecting on it a bit, I have broken it down to the three steps or three C's that guide me in social media participation. My three simple C's to social media success are Connect, Contribute, and Curate.
- Connect - This is pretty self-explanatory. You need to get connected to the right social media tool that works for you. There are many out there so do the research, sign-up, or "lurk" a bit by spending some time "playing" with them. Starting a free blog and inviting people to join is an easy place to start. Of course, Twitter, Facebook, Ning, Google + and Posterousare all great places to start too. This is an important first step because you want to pick a tool that will address your needs.When choosing, think about how easy it will be to use in order to connect with the right people to address your needs. If you are a math teacher, and not that many math teachers are connected to the social network that you are looking to join, then you will only be frustrated. Keep looking and lurking.You have to get started so get connected!
- Collaborate- This may seem obvious but many people forget how important it is to success. So many people connect to social media but do not leverage the "social" aspect it offers. Yes, we have all heard the horror stories of the dangers of social media. But, if you are smart about your privacy you will be fine; and by all means keep professional and personal use separate!Let's say you join Twitter and just consume the information that is being shared. If you fail to contribute back to the community of people you are connected to you will be missing out on some really valuable connections. By contributing you will also gain more followers that will in turn allow you to increase your connections and collect valuable resources. If you have a blog see if your host allows you to connect to Twitter or Facebook. If so, whenever you create a new post it will automatically generate a tweet and/or wall post to all of your followers and friends with a short message and link back to your blog.
- Curate- OK, so you have all of this information, now what do you do with it? Well, I am a big fan of using tools that make your job efficient while allowing you to integrate resources together in one neat package. It is easy to become a "digital hoarder," when you see all of this great information coming your way. By selecting tools that allow you to sort things out and remain organized you will then be able to receive, and share what you have learned, more effectively. You will be able to extend your reach in the realm of social media by becoming an efficient collaborator.By using a free social media "dashboard" like Tweetdeck or HootSuiteyou will be able to include multiple social media sites in one location that will allow you to both consume, contribute, and curate information. They will also allow you to curate who you follow. This is good because you need to make some decision as to whether someone is still a valuable resource. You will need to curate your personal learning network (PLN) as well as your digital library of information.One of my favorite tools for digital curation is the social bookmarking site Diigo. Since many of the resources you receive point back to blogs or web sites, it's a great tool that will allow you to save, share, and organize your resources. You can connect with others that share their bookmarks as well as share your own to a group with like interests. Diigo has some very nice web services as well. One that I use allows you to link your account to your Twitter favorites, so whenever you create a favorite in Twitter, it is automatically saved in your Diigo account. You just have to go in and organize them into lists, etc. afterwards. The Diigo toolbar is also great for quick bookmarking as well as highlighting and note taking.That being said, don't be sucked into the practice of digital hoarding. Go back occasionally and do some tidying up to make sure you stay current and you don't share out-of-date information. If you are a digital hoarder check out this blog post by Leo Babauta for a 3-step cure.
So, if you are ready to take the next step, I hope you find these three C's valuable. Please, do your homework and get connected. Then find the right people to collaborate and share with and share them with others too. Finally, if you take the time to carefully select and curate your shared resources you build a valuable network of colleagues and resources that will improve not just your professional experience, but those you share it with.