Sioux FallsRapid City

Social Networking 101

It’s everywhere on the Web.  Whether you call it social media, social networking, or Web 2.0, the internet has provided all of us some great tools to use in the method of connecting to one another.  Perhaps you’ve used Myspace, Facebook, LinkedIn or the latest tool called Twitter? All of these web-based applications allow you to interact with the entire world.  Let’s talk about how a parent can put these resources to good use.

Social Networks

MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning and a host of many that emerge onto the scene each day are “social” networks.  You begin by entering a profile about yourself that allows others to find out about you and you to learn more about them.  If you find commonalities, you can be friends and chat with each other, exchanging emails or live conversation via the keyboard.  You can join groups and meet several more people who enjoy the same topics you do.  More and more applications now provide a way to share pictures and video, birthdays and more.   The chart above shows just how popular these sites are becoming.  Many are doubling in size while a few are shifting from one network to the other.  At the end of the day, all it takes is a little experimentation and one foot willing to step forward.  Best of all - it’s free.

Twitter is the latest “Darling of the Internet.”  Twitter allows you to interact in real time with people using 140 character messages.  It’s kind of like text messaging for your computer.  You can search for people by keywords that can represent a geographical area, work or industry and other interest.  A search on terms like autism, cerebral palsy and other special needs on Twitter will show you many others that you can trade stories with, share highs and lows and gather information from.

Blogs

Blogs, like this one, are another new tool to the internet that are making their way into the mainstream.  Blogs allow you to read posts, click on underlined words called hyperlinks that take you to more information on that subject, and they also allow you to comment on what you’ve read.  Commenting allows you to become part of the topic for others to see and comment on as well.  Blogging facilitates conversation - and what good is life without a little conversation?

Caution

The only caution when engaging any social networking site is to use your best judgment.  Don’t believe everything you read and with a quick search on Google you can find info to back up most topics you come across to investigate further.  Personal information is not normally requested once your profile is put together.  If someone wants more information, you can always simply refuse or inquire on its necessity.  Also, just because it is on the internet does not make it true.  A general rule for credibility lies in the last three digits of an internet address.  Dot Org’s (like www.cchs.org) are organizational sites or non-profits.  Dot Gov’s (like www.census.gov) are government run sites.  These sites can be raised a little higher in the credibility range but that’s not to say there aren’t just as many Dot Com (www.google.com) sites with good reputations as well.  Again, use your best judgment.

Ready to Open the Door?

We have covered many topics and sites in this post.  You are highly encouraged to try them out for yourself.  In minimal time you will find that no matter what special interest you have, whether it’s autism, microcephaly, cerebral palsy, scrapbooking or sports - you have many people waiting to talk with you and share.  We have had the fortune of meeting many other facilities like ours using these methods so that we can inquire on services and programs and allow them to do the same with us.  We’ve talked to nationally known people that we would not have normally been exposed to.  The internet opens a large door.  It’s up to you to open it.

We’ve left a few pieces of information out - and on purpose.  We hope that those of you with experiences on the sites we’ve discussed can fill in the gaps.  Have you used any of these sites before?  Were they good experiences?  Did you meet others similar to your child’s diagnosis?  Would you recommend other sites not listed?  Please share any and all experiences in the comments section below.  We’d love to hear from you.

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Comments (10)

  1. Jim Tome wrote:

    I’ve been keeping a carefully attentive eye on Twitter over the past year and noticed that it seems to truly be, as you say, the Web 2.0 “darling” at this time. Smart healthcare organizations (Children’s Care being one!) are using this tool very well to communicate and promote themselves and their institution’s interests.

    There are some inherent things I personally don’t like about Twitter (the lack of organization of messages, for instance), though I like to think about this medium as being comparable to an overhead PA system at a mall — you constantly hear things, but every now and then, there’s something broadcasted that is relevant and interesting to you.

    Posted 29 Oct 2008 at 3:47 pm
  2. Children's Care wrote:

    Thanks for the comment, Jim and your kind words. You make a good point about Twitter. It does get a bit chaotic at times, but there is some relevance to that chaos that I think many will find of interest as we have.

    Posted 29 Oct 2008 at 4:06 pm
  3. Jennifer McNamara wrote:

    Really enjoying your blog. I think it’s great to see you on twitter, sharing your work with a larger field of people. So many parents turn to the internet for help / information, it’s nice to see a Sioux Falls institution providing it.

    Posted 30 Oct 2008 at 1:05 pm
  4. Bonnie Sayers wrote:

    I dont really like myspace, facebook is confusing and I have been doing more on linkedin. Last year I was very active on cafemom, but many post copyrighted material, some groups were too demanding in their rules and people play music and all these bright shiny things on their pages and left on profile pages, making it really more liike myspace but for Moms. They all turned me off. I went to Cre8buzz earlier this summer and that was confusing as well.

    I just started writing for more sites, via twitter contacts. I also now belong to numerous ning groups as a result of twitter.

    Posted 30 Oct 2008 at 2:40 pm
  5. Tammy Lessick wrote:

    I love Twitter. I also like some of the groups that can be found on Ning. I signed up for your newsletter and look forward to reading it. I have found a lot of support and resources through Twitter and Ning about Autism.

    Posted 30 Oct 2008 at 3:30 pm
  6. Children's Care wrote:

    Thank you Tammy, Bonnie and Jennifer for the comments. It is true that many sites can be confusing, even for those savvy in the computer world. As time goes on and as conversations like this occur, we’ll continue to things becoming more user friendly.

    Posted 30 Oct 2008 at 3:40 pm
  7. Adonya Wong wrote:

    I created a MySpace page because I was told it was the place to be. But the flashy pages, comment graphics, and music players have decreased the number of times I log in.

    Facebook is similar as I am constantly being bombarded with silly application or friend requests from people who are only looking to add nonsense to my “wall” and nothing more.

    Twitter, once I figured it out, has been really great! It’s a lot easier to maneuver and I get the feeling that I’m part of a never-ending yet awesome conversation. I’ve also been introduced to some really great folks.

    Also with Twitter, I’m able to quickly move to someone’s profile and see what interesting people they’re “tweeting” with. If I like what I see, I can opt to follow that person or persons.

    It’s been a great tool!

    Posted 30 Oct 2008 at 4:08 pm
  8. Mike Billeter wrote:

    While I’m all over the board on social networks (partially because it’s my job, partially because I’m a social butterfly), I have taken a strong liking to Twitter. It’s great to see you guys on it and I’m glad you are using it the right way. You’ve clearly grasped that it’s not about strictly pushing content (as many do), but, more importantly, it’s about engaging in the conversation. Also, when you do put content out there, it is relevant and engaging content, which makes a huge difference from just pumping out link after link (as many do).

    As more and more people use Twitter to find answers and get information, it’s good to see that companies such as yours will be in the lead and making people feel welcome, even if they aren’t the most internet-savvy of folks. This is the way the world is starting to turn, and it’s refreshing to see companies like Children’s Care take the first step in turning with it.

    -Mike

    P.S. - No kids of my own that I would use you as a resource for, but I do have a little brother with cerebral palsy and mild autism (if you can describe it that way). The family has things pretty well in hand, but it’s good to know you’ll be available and accessible if I have any questions for you!

    Posted 30 Oct 2008 at 4:09 pm
  9. MizzouGlen wrote:

    Great info. Blogs are great tools but they don’t have the ease and accessibility that Twitter has introduced. Twitter is quickly moving up the ranks of top Web 2.0 marketing tools.

    Posted 30 Oct 2008 at 4:14 pm
  10. Children's Care wrote:

    Adonya, Mike and Glen: Thanks for the input and advice. Twitter appears to be a consensus winner for all of us. Hopefully those reading will give it a chance. If you follow Twitter, you will certainly never lack from information as there is always lots to learn.

    Posted 30 Oct 2008 at 9:34 pm

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"I'm so impressed and happy with the lessons Lisa and Jamie have provided in Adaptive Aquatics. They are by far, the best lessons the girls have ever received. I am very grateful."
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