Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The importance of social networks

We live in an environment of networks, whether that is electricity, water, roads or, these days, the all-important online social networks. These networks allow us to directly link with people. In our lecture we went through the different social networks that are available today and how they can benefit our lives and careers.

Facebook still remains the most popular social networking site. It is easy to connect and talk to friends, discover like-minded individuals and creatives, re-connect with old acquaintances, organise events and form groups. It is also used professionally; it is now considered normal for institutions to use Facebook to update people on their product, find opinions and expand their awareness.

The main aspect of Twitter is the speed of which information can be shared. Updates tend to be short and to-the-point. It also works like a "word-of-mouth engine", as people can easily pass on information about your practice, and over time this can significantly raise awareness as connections are made between hundreds of people. It is also easier than Facebook to contact professionals who may not have time to work through inbox messages and friend requests on Facebook.

Linked in
Linked in acts as a professional directory, where you advertise your skills and expertise. Potential employers can easily view your skills, career history, testimonials and recommendations before any further contact is made.

Myspace began as a social forum, but failed after Facebook rose to popularity with it's sleeker, more intuitive interface. However, since then Myspace has found a niche in hosting band webpages, and is particularly popular with unsigned bands to distribute their music and information to their fans.

Flickr is a site where you can store images and host videos. It is very simple from there to share your work with friends and colleagues. The site allows you to search by photographer, subject or group, so it is easy to find images relating to a certain subject matter.

Redbubble is a very useful network of artists, and is a profitable way for artists and designers to sell their work. You can place your designs on t-shirts, prints, calendars, and many other products. The site takes care of customer service, production and postage, and you get a percentage of the profit.

These are just a few of the many, many social networking platforms and websites out there. Generally, it is possible to place the sites into subcategories to form a "social media landscape":

Publish: Wikia, Wikipedia, Digg, Blogger, Tumblr
Share: Youtube, Flickr, Crowdstorm, Last.FM
Discuss: MSN, Skype, Meebo, Google Talk
Social Networks: Facebook, Bebo, Linkedin, Myspace
Microblog: Twitter, Plurk, Twitxr, Tweetpeek
Lifestream: Socializr, Friendfeed, Socialthing, Eventbrite
Livecast: Yahoo Live, Justin.TV, Qik
Virtual worlds: Imvu, Habbo, Club Penguin, Life
Social games: Pogo, Three Rings, SGN
MMO: World of Warcraft, Neopets, MapleStory

Taking into account the vast number of websites available, before you embark you have to ask yourself what it is you're trying to achieve. Who are you trying to reach? Students, employers, specialists, course tutors? It is crucial that you know your audience. Which media platform is the best for your particular area of practice? What do others recommend? What will you showcase to engage others in your practice?

Once you have chosen, peruse the site and study what's going on before leaping in. Take note of the sort of pictures, posts and information that is available. Understand the community. Not all of them will be the right one for you.

When using these sites as a platform for sharing art, it is most beneficial to follow a rule of thirds:
- One third external showcase
- One third professional and interactive - sharing feedback, giving and receiving comments, building professional relationships
- One third social - share current thinking, listen and learn about others, build relationships.

This allows people and customers to get a balanced perception of you, showing that you are approachable, friendly and sociable, but also professional, mindful of your work, and willing to share your opinions.

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