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October 5, 2010
The Solution to the Social Media 'First Day of School' Syndrome

When you first get started, social media feels a lot like the first day at a new school. Or worse, switching to a new school mid year. Everyone already has their cliques, their favorite spots. They’ve already decided who the cool kids are. Then you get plopped down right in the middle of it, clutching your Trapper Keeper as you hope no one notices you. It isn’t exactly a pleasant experience.

This “new school” fear is what causes a lot of people to clam up and hide in a virtual corner. Everyone on Twitter already seems to know what they’re doing and each other, and you don’t know where or how to jump in.

Why you don’t 'get' social media

Staying scared is a vicious cycle -- if you don’t use social media to communicate you’ll never “get” it or receive the value. You’ll be stuck wondering what everyone is talking about, while you keep to yourself doing the virtual equivalent of talking to a wall.

If you’ve wondered what all the fuss over social media is about, I can make a pretty good guess that you haven’t been engaging with others. Social media has little value when you don’t insert yourself into the conversation. It’s like using a phone to talk to yourself -- not too exciting!

Remember social media is called “social” for a reason. At its core, it's all about communication with other human beings. Unlike that new school, once you take that first step, people will be much friendlier than you expect.

Get out there and start talking to people. Join in on the conversation, even if they don’t know you, it’s completely awkward, and you have no idea what to say.

What if you don’t know what to say?

A common fear is feeling like you have nothing of value to add or worrying that your input will seem silly. Not everyone’s tweet or Facebook status update needs to be profound. In fact, none are. Just like when we run into a friend at the grocery store, the conversation is mostly small talk. Stop stressing about “adding value” or appearing as an expert and just start chatting.

If you aren’t sure what to say, the easiest thing to do is just respond to others. Let this be simple. If someone sends a link, respond “interesting link." If they post a photo, write “beautiful photo." On Twitter, this takes the form of an “at reply” (a message that starts with @LKR for example), on Facebook it means commenting on someone’s status update.

Remember you’re just a human having a conversation with another human. Although it may not seem like much, starting out with these baby steps will ease you into the fast-moving conversation and allow you to get your bearings.

You’ll start to reap the value in social media -- sharing with others instead of keeping to yourself.

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Laura Roeder is a social media marketing expert who teaches small businesses how to create their own fame and claim their brand online. She is the creator of the Creating Fame Classroom and Your Backstage Pass to Twitter. She resides in Venice Beach, California, where she video blogs about social media, entrepreneurship, and personal branding. Visit her website

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