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Friday, 2 September 2011

Postcards from Facebook: So, what is Social Media? and should we care?

I suffer from MS myself and have just completed a Facebook page for the Samson Centre ( "The Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Group" in Guildford, Surrey)
I was asked to write something about facebook for the newsletter.
I grew up in the 50s & 60s. A time when people wrote letters, sent post cards and birthday cards and some people, including myself, still do. Later, in my business life, I scrapped my typewriter and I started to use the internet more. Visiting websites and sending emails seemed to take over from sending off for brochures and price lists etc. My generation seemed to adapt to this phase of the evolution of the internet quite well although I still have a few reservations.

Is Facebook just for Teenagers?
My first impressions of the new social media was not very favourable. I had come across websites called Facebook, Twitter & YouTube and thought “That’s not for me!” However, over the last few years, I have changed my mind. In our family, the two generations of children and grandchildren behind me now see these social media websites as the modern day equivalent of sending postcards, letters and, sadly sometimes even birthday greetings. My daughter never buys writing paper, envelopes, postcards or stamps. Thankfully though, she does buy birthday cards

The Generation GameWith a free Facebook account, you first start by joining up with other facebook users with some connection to you.. You chose if you want to restrict this to a family group, a group of friends or specialist community pages like the MS Society or the Samson Centre. Pretty soon, other people start inviting you to Join up with them and your connections start to grow. When you have something to say or wish to comment on something someone else has to say, you "Post" your news & views on Facebook and just share it with either one person or with everyone you're connected to. It's just like sending everyone a postcard except you can now attach a link to an article, website or video you think they might be interested in,.

What to Say?
I once heard someone say “It is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool rather than open it and place the matter beyond all doubt”. There is a lot to be said for this approach for certain people! Having joined Facebook though, it’s nice to be “In the loop” and be kept updated by the people or the groups you linked to. You obviously have to filter out some rubbish but you do get some interesting updates from everyone. It's worth a note here that, like in other areas of your life, If people waste your time, you remove them from your social group. This is much easier on facebook than it can be in real life!

What use is Facebook?
A websites is an excellent way to show the world who you are and what you are doing. The Samson Centre website is no exception to this. You can go and get all the latest news, updates and events and it is the centre piece of the organisation. You can register for this newsletter and leave your email address to receive any email updates. All of which works fine and this is probably enough for most people?
I did notice though, when I joined MSTG(G), that it had no links to any of the main social media sites and that the MS Society alone had over 11,000 of it's members linked on Facebook. I thought, perhaps, that I could help in some small way to raise our profile a bit and help contribute to a wider awareness of MSTG(G). Notice that I said 11,000 of it's members were connected.

A Community of Interested Followers
With Facebook you just have that extra option of joining in and contributing to the community experience. The Samson Centre, like the MS Society and many others now do have a Facebook page. It’s a place where MSTG(G) members and others can ask a question, guide others, comment or contribute ideas. Our community is small right now but growing. Join the community by signing up to Facebook and then just press “Like” when you visit our page. If you already have a Facebook page, you know how it works, so start to spread the word to others that might care about MS and the work we are doing in Surrey?

Food for Thought
It is not unusual these days for an individual to have 100 or 200 facebook connections. If the MS Society puts something on facebook, it goes to 11,000 people. If they ask each person to press the "Share" button to share the message with all their contacts, the message could reach upwards of 1 million people. If they then all share the message, that's what's called "Going Viral". 100 million people! If the message is "You are all welcome to come to our Christmas Party you might have a problem. If the message is please donate £2/month to MSTG(G) then hey!
Join the MSTG(G) Facebook Community at