Social Media: It’s Not Just Business Any More

by Julie on January 25, 2010

knitting

Guest Post by Deb Boyken

Ron and Julie have been doing a wonderful job explaining the ins-and-outs of some of the established social media outlets, and there’s no denying the usefulness of Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook in building your business.

However, the world of “social media” does not stop at just a few sites.

The “big boys” of social media are huge and cover every topic, interest, and type of person under the sun. You can always find people to talk to, but there are many, many more who could care less about your freelance writing skills, or how fascinating your business conference was last week. They’re just there to talk about skiing, or turtles, or raising sea sponges for fun and profit. They don’t care about what you care about. Sure, you don’t have to listen to them drone on about the mating habits of box turtles, but why can’t they find their own place to play?

Which is exactly the point.

For just about every interest a person can have, there’s a social media outlet just waiting for them.

Let’s say you have some other interests, like, say, knitting. (This is a particularly easy example for me, because I am, in fact, very interested in knitting.) You’ve found other knitters on Twitter, and you have joined a LinkedIn group or two, but it’s not satisfying. You want to talk to people about your favorite hobby, and the “generic” sites just aren’t cutting it any more.

You can think of the big sites like a nightclub–busy and crowded with people from every walk of life. You might be lucky enough to find a couple people to talk to who have similar interests, but it’s not going to be the same as, say, a convention FILLED with people. This is exactly why the world has Star Trek conventions, and conferences for web designers, or women in media. They bring lots of people with similar interests together in one place to share ideas, learn new things, and just hang out.

Trust me, a knitter cannot blather on about different methods of turning a sock heel to a non-knitter for more than about 22.7 seconds before eyes start glazing over. But, if you get a bunch of knitters together? You can go on for hours.

Knitters have Ravelry.com for their most pressing social media needs.

ravelrypeople

Sure, there are lots of sites out there devoted to knitting. (You would be amazed how popular it is these days.) Knitter’s Review is one of the older sites and has a great forum for talking about knitting and spinning. But Ravelry is totally unique. There are message boards devoted to just about everything a knitter could possibly be interested in–from knitting topics to Green living, favorite tv shows local yarn shops, to cooking with crock pots. It also has a database of patterns and yarns so that, if you’re interested in any of them, you can see what other people have done with that yarn, or what the pattern looks like when NOT worn by a professional model. You can keep track of what yarn you have, and offer unwanted skeins up for trade or sale–and find extra skeins if you need just one more to finish the sweater you’re making.

Actually, Ravelry is kind of amazing. I’ve never seen a site quite so thorough, quite so perfect for its target audience. It’s more amazing when you consider that it was started by a knitter and her programmer-boyfriend, and is run now by a total, paid staff of four people (and lots of unpaid volunteers). The place is HUGE … but it’s all about knitting, spinning, yarn, and crochet. You can always find someone to talk to.

The point, though, is that special interests have websites and message boards just for them.

This means you can find lots of other people to talk about box turtles, car repair, baking, archery, or pretty much any hobby you have–but it doesn’t stop at hobbies. Are you starting a business? Want opinions on what a professional photographer should carry in his camera bag? Wondering how other bakers built a clientele? Social sites devoted to special interests have a wealth of information for people who do whatever-it-is professionally, as well as the hobbyists.

That also means that–by being a member of the community–you have access to potential clients, partners, collaborators, or customers. I can share links to my knitting book reviews on Ravelry to get traffic to my site. I can advertise, ditto. I can share knitting tips with other people to show my expertise and to demonstrate to potential clients that I know what I’m talking about. I can send messages and build a network with people who make their livings by knitting to make sure they know who I am … making it easier to sell my freelancing services. (With a light touch, of course, so as not to alienate anyone.) All while having fun talking about one of my favorite subjects.

Deb Boyken spends an inordinate amount of her free time baking, knitting, spinning yarn, reading, and playing with her dog, but mostly, let’s not forget, she writes. She writes about knitting at www.knittingscholar.com, writes about writing and freelancing at www.punctualityrules.com, and writes about more or less everything else at www.chappysmom.com.

Image credit: joathina

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