Social media basics

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Why do you need social media? Aside from the providing a way to connect with your friends and family, it is also used for professional development, building your network, and as a medium for marketing products or services you may want to offer. Many employers now also check our online presence on social media, making it a necessity when we are looking for a job.

What is social media?

Social media is any online channel like a website or an application that facilitates sharing of content, as well as connecting and collaborating with other users. These services are offered for free. Types can include forums, microblogging, social networking, social bookmarking, social curation, and wikis.

This video from Say it Visually explains the basics of social media, how networks grow, what kind of information is exchanged and how it has affected our lives as users:

Most popular social media examples:

There are hundreds of social media platforms that you can use, but the following are the most popular ones for connecting, sharing and acquiring content:


This is a social networking site that enables you to be updated on your family and friends’ activities. It is also the world’s largest social network with 900 million global users. Interactions are seen as newsfeeds on your wall. You can post messages (as well as private messages), react to your friends’ posts, publish pictures, links, and videos. Facebook now uses 37 different languages.

What do you use it for? – For staying up-to-date with the activities of your family and friends; a means to keep up with the latest current events; connecting with people with the same interests; promoting a cause, business, organization, or charity.

Why do you need it? – If you need to stay in touch with your connections from your home country, this is a free and easy way to do it. With Facebook’s popularity, chances are most of your friends are already members. You can also start expanding your Canadian network by “friending” your new classmates, work buddies, and acquaintances.

What do you need to watch out for? Marketers and scammers who send friend requests; over-sharing details about your life and posting too many pictures; “flamers and trolls” or those who comment on posts with the intention of inciting online arguments and fights.


Twitter is a social networking service that allows its users to microblog, broadcasting short posts of not more than 280 characters called tweets. Members can “follow” other members’ posts without asking permission, reply to posts, retweet, like, or send messages. You can attach links, photos, and videos with tweets. Posts on the same topic or event can be “gathered” or catalogued using hashtags expressed as “#keyword.” For instance, people tweeting about drastic changes in the weather may use the hashtag #globalwarming or maybe #weirdweather.

What do you use it for? – It can be used as a tool to keep yourself up-to-date on current events and trends, as well as disseminate messages for various campaigns. One of its best uses is for resource sharing. People with the same interests and practitioners of the same field can share links to materials for self-improvement or professional development on Twitter.

Why do you need it? – As mentioned above, it can be used as a self-improvement or professional development tool. Reading trending tweets can also help you stay in touch with the latest developments in the world.

What do you need to watch out for? – Just like in any other social media platform, be careful about what you say. There have been people who have been fired, lost a cause, or have generally fallen from grace, because of negative tweets (i.e. racist, insensitive, misinformed, etc.). And since tweets are public, filed and kept on record, any bad tweet can be searched and resurrected and can be used against you.


It is a social networking site for the business community. In this platform, professionals can connect with other professionals through “invites.” You create a profile or an online resume that other members, even prospective employers, can see and check. One of its best features is a section on your profile where you can collect endorsements for various skills. This is given by your connections. Aside from this, you can share updates, photos, or publish a post, a want ad, or an event on the LinkedIn newsfeed.

What do you use it for? – LinkedIn is one of the most efficient tools for newcomers like you for promoting your skills and professional experience.

Why do you need it? – Rebuilding your professional contacts is not an easy task. Using LinkedIn is one of the fastest and easiest ways to network (even find work) within your professional circles. Also, as mentioned, prospective employers may check your LinkedIn profile. Having a professional and well-written one is a powerful way to introduce yourself to the professional world.

What do you need to watch out for? – Since you reveal more information about yourself on LinkedIn compared to Facebook or Twitter, a security breach can be disastrous as your information can be used by unscrupulous persons. Consider limiting the personal information you include in your profile and choose a secure password (for tips, read 5 tips for online safety).

Watch this video by Professor Heather Austin on “How To Use LinkedIn To Network – 5 LinkedIn Networking Tips”:

Also read: 5 ways LinkedIn can help your career

Explore the Net

There are many other interesting social media channels that you can use, depending on your need. You can check out Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, and Periscope for networking, information sharing, and resource curation. Tapping the power of social media and its many benefits can be an exciting experience, especially for networking and finding resources for learning. Just remember to always stay safe, be mindful of what you post and share, and practice responsible netizenship.

Sources:, and The beginner’s guide to social media by Marc Georges on Mashable.

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Community Resources

Read 5 simple rules of proper netiquette and Tips to maximize your online experience to learn how to conduct yourself responsibly and create a positive online persona on various social media.

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Social Media Basics

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