Interested in learning more about social media but don't know where to start? You are not alone. With so much to do and not enough time to get it all done, learning the ins-and-outs of social media falls to the bottom of the priority pile for many busy employee communication professionals.

To increase your practical knowledge, and stimulate ideas for potential uses of social media in your organization, we suggest the following exercises.

One

Read
There are many periodicals and websites that you can reference to learn more about social media. Combine reading with practice by signing yourself up for an RSS or Twitter feed. A good place to start browsing is Social Media & Marketing Daily, www.mediapost.com. Here you will find an extensive list of articles on the types and uses of social media.

Two

Listen
The next time you are sitting at your lunch or dinner table, ask folks around you for their experiences using social media. Even better, invite them to show you. With electronic notebooks and smart phone devices as common as lunch boxes and purses, it is likely you won't need to leave your seat for an in-person tutorial on YouTube, iPhone apps, LinkedIn, and so on. Be sure to include frequent users of social media to reap the benefits of both their knowledge and enthusiasm.

Three

Observe
Visit Facebook.com for examples of online communities for all kinds of businesses and organizations. Often stereotyped as a place for useless social chatter, savvy companies are using this tool to increase visibility, share information and listen to customers. Search the site for popular brand names and notice the techniques being used to engage audiences: facilitated Q&A, photos, contests, videos and more.

Four

Play
You don't have to be a dedicated "tweeter" to see what Twitter.com has to offer, but you can observe those that do to get a sense of what all the excitement is about. Sign up and select a few topics or organizations to follow. May we suggest "Davis & Company" for more tips about social media? Type in a few of your own observations—no more than 140 characters—and you too will be tweeting in no time.

Five

Experiment
While information is important, hands-on experience is the best teacher. To remove some of the intimidation factor, try experimenting with social media in a controlled environment. Reach out to your IT department and a small group of employees to set up a short online discussion, for example. If you do not have an internal networking platform, there are many online social media tools to experiment with such as Yammer, 
www.yammer.com, where you can set up a free, 
private conversation.

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