Learning a New Platform

While we may be writing for a class called “Professional Uses of Social Media,” the truth is, everything we know about social media we’ve probably figured out for ourselves. When Instagram gained popularity, no one offered a class on how to navigate the tags or gain followers. And yet here we all are, most of us with hundreds of posts to our names on some social media platform or another. We’re “digital natives,” so we can handle any social media with ease, right?

Well, yes and no.

For those of us who have struggled to understand a platform our friends eagerly adopted (Twitter, Tumblr…) we know there’s a learning curve to everything, and having an account with a lot of posts doesn’t mean you’re using that platform to its fullest potential.

Since most of us will probably list social media as one of our resume credits anyway, it’s time to think seriously about mastering social media. Here are some introductory tips for breaking into a new platform and making the most of it.

  1. Look for Tutorials

Let’s get the obvious step out of the way. In her blog post “3 Ways to Teach Yourself Anything You Want to Learn,” Alexis Grant suggests what most of us already do: Google it. While you won’t become the master of social media through Google searches alone, it’s a good place to start. Look for tutorials and learn the basics. Check common resources like Youtube and relevant blogs for tips and different stylistic approaches. It will give you a background knowledge of how each platforms works and where to start.

  1. Holistic Learning

Shout-out to Scott H. Young for championing one of the most powerful learning tools you can use: holistic learning. Think of it this way. It’s difficult to memorize information and apply new skills in a vacuum. You meet Jane Doe at a business luncheon, but when you see her at a conference two months later, you’re embarrassed to realize you forgot her name. Then it clicks: when you introduced yourselves, you noted that her initials were JD, just like your favorite character from Scrubs. Jane Doe! As she smiles and makes her way over to your table, you’re ready to greet her because you made a seemingly random association.

As Scott H. Young explains, making these connections supercharges your ability to retain and apply anything you learn. In terms of social media, that means taking what you already know and integrating that into your new platform.

At our Social Media panel last week, Sherrie Flick described how she created a blog to generate interest in her book. But she didn’t start a blog about the writing process, or about her short stories. Flick started a blog about cooking and food, because that’s what she already knew and loved. She took an unfamiliar platform and connected it with a subject she thoroughly understood and enjoyed, making the learning curve much easier to tame. Food and short stories may seem like a random association, but it worked.

To use holistic learning with social media, take any platform you haven’t explored and link it with a subject you already care about. Practice! If you’re not sure how Twitter works, pick your favorite TV show and follow the Twitter accounts of its actors and writers. If you followed Step #1 and already looked up Twitter basics, you’ll know to look for common hashtags associated with the show. Try writing a few tweets about tonight’s episode using the hashtags, retweet one of the actors, then rinse and repeat. As you get the hang of it, you can ease into the complexity of each platform. The key is anchor it to something else in your life that you appreciate, whether that’s fly fishing, awards shows, competitive knitting — whatever you’re into.

  1. Structure

If you’re really serious about tackling social media, treat it like any other responsibility in your life. Dustin Wax over at LifeHack not only repeats the wisdom about doing your homework on the subject and using holistic learning (or a “feeling for connectedness”), but also recommends imposing structure on your progress. It can be as simple as ‘I will tweet once a day’ or ‘I will follow 50 people by February 24th.’ Keep yourself accountable. Write it in bold red marker on your calendar, set reminders on your phone, or reach out to friends already using new platforms to look for your updates and encourage you.

Associate it with something else you already do regularly — ‘I’ll make a new post every Tuesday before night class,’ or ‘I’ll tweet at least once when I watch the new The Walking Dead episodes on Sundays.’ At regular intervals, step back and look at your progress. At the two week mark, how many followers did you gain vs. updates you posted? At four weeks? And so on. While it may seem like overkill for platforms like Instagram — hold on a sec, I have to meet my ‘posting cute pictures of my dog’ quota — it’s a great way to push yourself into new territories you might otherwise avoid.

So check out some tutorials, tie that platform to something you love, and schedule yourself for practice. Lastly, remember to be social: whatever you post about, take the opportunity to @ people on Twitter, tag people on Facebook, and re-pin your friend’s atrocious crafting project on Pinterest. Good luck!

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7 thoughts on “Learning a New Platform

  1. Michelle,

    These are all great tips for mastering social media! I especially like the idea of holistic learning. I once watched a TedTalk on memorization. You can watch it here if you’re interested: https://www.ted.com/talks/joshua_foer_feats_of_memory_anyone_can_do). In the talk, Foer discusses how people can memorize numbers and the order of a shuffled deck of cards in seconds. They connect it to weird and/or random images or ideas, which helps them remember it quickly and accurately. I’ve started to use the technique when studying for tests and could certainly use it to help with social media tips and tricks.

    Becca

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  2. Michelle,

    I really enjoyed reading your post. I think setting small, easily achievable benchmarks is a great way to tackle new social media platforms. Sometimes I find that as a “digital native,” I have to know everything about social media — and that can be stressful. My parents ask me questions about their pages all the time. For example, why does so and so want me to play Farmville with them, or what happened to the old Facebook layout. I often find myself overwhelmed because I experience the changes concurrently and don’t always have the answer. (Snapcash is something I still do not understand, and probably never will.) Social media is constantly evolving but staying active (even if that means one tweet a week) is important.

    – Emily

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  3. Hey Michelle!

    Using new platforms is definitely something I am struggling with in this class, especially considering that we have a multi-platform assignment due tomorrow! Though this may be caused by the fact that my phone is outdated, I have a hard time getting accustomed to a new layout.

    I like that you linked us to the information you are talking about in your post. It made it super easy to follow what you were talking about.

    Thanks!
    Rachel

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  4. You definitely bring up some good points about using what you know to start new platform. What would you say to someone looking to start a tumblr? How would you transfer interests to gain followers in that regard?

    I feel like certain social media networks are easier to personalize than others- you can tweet and blog about your interests, but like we said in class, how are you to showcase those interests on somewhere like Facebook? (Considering not many people “post” anymore.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tumblr is one of the hardest platforms to break into just because finding people to follow — and followers finding you — is difficult. Hashtags are king. It’s a known problem that people complain about to the Tumblr developers. But, I would suggest searching through hashtags in something that interests you, and checking out the people posting under that tag. Click through the first few pages of their blog, and see if you’d want to see that kind of content in your feed. Follow them. Once you’ve followed about a dozen people, you’ll get a feel for how that community functions on Tumblr. For example, looking through the foodie tag, you might find that the Tumblr foodie community revolves around pictures and recipes rather than pictures and reviews. Then you can start posting content yourself that adds to that conversation, while reblogging (collecting and posting) other people’s content as well.

      Not sure about Facebook though! I struggle with the same thing. For our cross platform assignment, we had to post a link to an article with a quote and a caption. I might do this more often (with career appropriate articles) to spruce up my Facebook for when future employers visit, and I might cross-post some of my Instagram photos to keep my feed alive. Let me know if you come up with something that makes more sense, hah.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. One of your initial points–that just about everything that we’ve learned about social media platforms up to this point has been self-taught–is an important observation, and this post is both relevant and helpful. When I first started using Twitter, for example, I distinctly remember feeling extremely lost. It took weeks of studying my friends’ tweeting habits for me to finally gain some sort of “mastery” over the platform.

    That being said, you’re absolutely right when you say that “having an account with a lot of posts doesn’t mean you’re using that platform to its fullest potential.” I tweet pretty regularly (probably between 2-3 per day), but it wasn’t until very recently that I began to explore features of Twitter that extend past simply tweeting funny musings–features like searching for hashtags, using the Discover feature, etc.

    Your tip about consistency is a great one, encouraging readers to set reasonable goals in their SM use to attract new followers. I would push that tip one step further and suggest steps like using a popular hashtag to invite connectivity with your tweets or creating a hashtag and using it frequently in your posts.

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    • There are some things you just gotta figure out with time, too — like ironically using hashtags, “subtweeting”, etc. Every platform has quirks like that. Can’t say I’ve completely mastered the hashtag game, but I’m working on it 🙂

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