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Who's Afraid of the Big Bad (Social Media) Wolf?

I was recently asked to help a friend understand why anyone would want to use Twitter specifically and social media in general.

The main concerns that they had, as others do, were:

  1. everybody knows/is aware of what you are doing every second of the day
  2. everybody knows where you are
  3. if you're a small business you'll be inundated with more work than you can cope with.

Legitimate Concerns

These are legitimate concerns but ones that are easily answerable. As with any social activity (online or in real life) there are many layers of interaction and possibilities for you to buy in to at whatever level is comfortable for you - whether it's dipping a toe in tentatively or wholeheartedly throwing yourself in at the deep end.

1. Everybody knows what you are doing and when you are doing it.

The simple answer to this is, if you want people to then yes they will, but on the flip side you are able to maintain as much privacy as you wish to. As with any conversation it is down to the user to decide how much, or little, information that they wish to let the reader know.

A Social Media conversation is no different to any other, its just a different platform that is being used. As with any conversation, you are able to determine what you will and what you wont talk about so if there is a topic or a subject that makes you feel uncomfortable, then just don't let it develop. If someone asks you a question that you don't feel you want to answer either ignore it, or, as would be my preference, explain to them that you don't feel comfortable with it.

2. Everybody knows where you are.

There is a growing number of location based services and apps that are out there, and many of the applications that you may use on your smartphone or tablet may use your GPS location to pinpoint your exact location (many of which can be very helpful to you as a user such as Maps etc)

These are aspects of your digital presence that you can choose to be a part of or not. If you're not happy with your location being public, don't use 4Square or Gowalla or, in the case of an iPhone, go into your settings and disable the location settings that you don't want known.

As an example, and to highlight the fact that it is easy to 'obscure' your location, last year (2010), I went on holiday with my family to Portugal for a week. Apart from my close friends on Social media, nobody knew this nor would they have suspected that I was away unless I chose to tell them.

3. As a small business you will be inundated with work that you cannot hope to fulfill or handle.

Wow, what a position, if that were indeed the case, to be in! The holy grail of marketing where you just switch it on and suddenly the world knows all about you.

Clearly, this is far from the truth, and in fact when you start out on Twitter, the very nature of this platform is that you are talking to yourself for a time!

Even if the statement were true, surely it would be better to have that business with the ability to upscale your business and business process to accommodate?

You are in control, so is there anything to be frightened of really?

Most of the people that follow me on Twitter, at least the ones that I interact with regularly, will all be aware that I don't talk about where I am, show pictures of my wife or daughter and don't use their names either... (this is based more on the fact that I choose to be on Twitter whereas they have not made that decision themselves).

I hope that this post has helped allay any fears that you might have if you are thinking of getting stuck into Social Media. On the upside, you will find a rich, vibrant, engaging and welcoming group of people who will, in some cases, become amazing friends. The downside is you will meet people you don't like - these you just ignore and don't engage with, quite simple really!

Sound a bit familiar? Welcome to real life!

If you want to connect with me, I am always happy to have a chat - hook up with me on twitter and say 'Hi!' @JamieForster

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