PLEASE – How do I make sense of the Social Web?

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PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE How do I make sense of the Social Web? I have been thinking about the process of understanding and emersion in the Social Web.  The complexity of the web 2.0 ecosystem can lead to confusion at best and analysis-paralysis (not my clever words) at worst.  So here is my take on how to organise the process – summed up in the PLEASE acronym.

P is for Planning

It is worth spending time planning each stage of the process.  This might be your website design, your blog post strategy, your platform strategy.

I recommend setting out notes on your computer using which ever programme you are most comfortable with.   I use Notepad Deluxe (no disclosure required – I just think its a great product) but you could use, word, powerpoint or even excel.  Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted.

L is for Listening

Thomas Power one of the founders of ecademy told me earlier this year that it takes at least three months to begin to understand the social web.  He is right.  I have spent a considerable amount of time visiting and reading blogs, listening to podcasts, watching informative YouTube videos.  There is so much information out there and so much to learn.  In my view the best place to start is by following your favourite bloggers on twitter and let them lead you to posts that they find interesting – most of the time it won’t be their content but new blogs and sites which you will learn from.

E is for Executing

It is too easy to keep researching and never to start.  I therefore advocate getting started.  This can me starting with something straightforward like twitter (find me @jbdcolley) where you can simply retweet interesting posts you find.  Alternatively go to a hosted blog site and start a simple blog or go to YouTube and record and post a video.  Remember though its the content which is key and therefore you should have planned your content strategy first.  You can then ask a few friends to go and read your blog or tweets and let you know what they think.

A is for Access-orise

I know we are stretching the acronym thing here!  You must remember that the social web is exactly that a web.  Think about it in terms of strands going out from your site/blog/twitter account.  You need to explore these strands and make your content accessible to other people.  This can be done by following other people on twitter, book marking your site at delicious or inviting some your personal contacts to check out your blog.  Another simple (and passive) way is to put your blog/twitter/Youtube account in the signature block of your email.

S is for Searching

There is no reason to be purely passive.  Get out there and explore.  Follow tweets to new sites and bloggers,  look at who are following people you follow, on blog sites explore the blog roll (lists of sites recommended by that blogger).  I listen to a lot of podcasts and use itunes to download them.  Each itunes account offers some connected or similar accounts for you to follow or simply put search terms (Like Social Media) into the itunes search and then follow the podcast link.  You will be amazed at the scope of what you find out there.

E is for Evaluate

Take stock of what you have now learned and where you are.  I use my Magic Hexagon structure and notes to try to improve my understanding of what I have learned and to make some sense of the apparent chaos.  I think that you should start simple, master the basics and continually evaluate where you are before starting another planning cycle.  The “What to do next?” question will depend very much on “Where you are now?” and “Where you want to try to end up?”

P is for Planning…..

And so round we go again…I hope this was of some use to new comers to the Social Web.  I will take up these themes in future posts as I explore and learn (with you) how to get the best out of this amazing and constantly changing online world.

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