In his book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR, David Meerman Scott perhaps captures why a number of us so heavily engage in using social media:
“ It’s fun to blog and tweet, and it makes you feel good to get your ideas out into the world.”
It is fun to blog and tweet, and there is satisfaction that comes from “getting your ideas out there.” But for me real satisfaction comes from making “connections” with other educators and growing my personal learning network. This real satisfaction also comes from developing an “online presence” that authentically represents who I am. Making personal network connections to learn and interact with other educators is both personally and professionally satisfying, and this is best done when we do so as real people.
Making the most of social media presence for most educators means one thing: growing and maintaining a strong, vibrant network of other educators. The best way to do this is to optimize your social media presence as an educator. Optimizing your presence, as I see it, is a process of becoming a real person, a real educator on the web. It is announcing to the cyberworld, “I am an educator, and I have something to share!” There are some things you can begin to do now to make the most of social media by becoming an authentic, real person with whom others want to connect.
Here are seven steps to optimizing your presence as an educator on social networks.
1. Just as if you're writing a book or a journal article, when engaging in social media use, know your audience. When engaging in social media for the purpose of connecting and growing your personal learning network, know who want to connect with and make their interests, needs, and wants a consideration in the content your share over those networks. In other words, the content of your Tweets, Facebook posts, Google+ posts, and blog posts do matter if you want to connect with other educators. Posting about what you learned during your last project-based learning workshop might get you connected with another teacher, but posting about your reactions to last night’s Superbowl may connect you with fellow pro-football enthusiasts. Know who want to connect with, and make that the focus of your social media content efforts.
2. Be a “thought leader” as Scott suggests in his book, The Rules for Marketing and PR. If you want to engage fellow educators, provide them with information that is valuable and interesting to them. If you want to engage fly-fishing enthusiasts, post information valuable and interesting to fly fisherman. Be willing to share your ideas and thoughts through the media. Yes, it does make you feel a bit vulnerable, but is that not what leadership is sometimes about? Be a thought leader in the area of education and share your area of expertise.
3. Be real and transparent. Authentic personal learning network connections happen between real people, not people hiding behind fake Twitter names or Facebook profiles. By being who you are on social networks, you don’t risk making others angry and wanting to disconnect with you should they find out you’re a phony. Being real means sharing your experiences. It means being the person and educator in cyberspace that inhabits your classroom or your office. No one likes a phony. Being transparent means not overinflating who you are. It means not hiding anything. Being real and transparent in social media channels makes others feel as if they are conversing with another real person, because they are.
4. Share links and resources. Educators love links and are always "on the prowl" for ideas to make their classroom and teaching run smoother, or their schools operate more effectively. When you find an excellent resource to share, send out the link on Twitter, on Facebook, and Google+. When you are reading a particularly engaging book, share out quotes, especially thought-provoking ones. I keep my curating tools on standby all the time in order to capture these resources pouring constantly to me from Twitter. If you want to connect and grow your personal learning network, share links and other resources with other educators.
5. Participate in online social media discussions. This means joining a Twitter Chat such as #edchat, #satchat, or #ncadmin. There are quite a few of these occurring during a week’s time. You can probably find one in your main area of educational interest too. Participating in a chat means more than lurking. It means sharing out your thoughts on the topic of discussion. It means engaging a conversation where what you say is limited to 140 characters or less, which means your words are as valuable as gold. Choose them wisely. If you want to connect and grow your personal learning network and optimize your social media educator presence, engage in online discussions with other educators using social media.
6. Make it easy for others to contact you. If both of you connect through Twitter, direct messaging makes it easy. If they can’t contact with you that way, provide an email address on your blog or web page. If you want to authentically connect with other educators, you have to make it easy for them to do so. Providing an email address through which others may contact you might mean you'll get a bunch of junk email, but it is well-worth it. You can delete and dump those junk emails, but if other educators can't connect with you directly, it's hard to have an online presence.
7. Make it easy for other educators to find you. Cross-link all of your social media accounts to your blogs, web site, and other social media accounts. Playing hide-n-seek in cyberspace only frustrates others who are trying to connect with you. They are not going to work hard trying to find you. Use your social media accounts and web presence to make it easy for other educators to find you by cross-linking everything.
It is fun to Tweet, blog, and post on Facebook. And I do get a great deal of satisfaction from “getting my ideas out there.” The greater satisfaction for me, however, comes from connecting and sharing with other educators. I can do that more effectively if I have optimized my personal and professional social media presence. Optimizing your social media presence as an educator is no more than making yourself available and being who you are in cyberspace.