Why is social media really nothing new? Why is Twitter king and LinkedIn boring? How do you deal with trolls on social media? What on earth is vaguebooking?
To get some answers, I spoke to Susie Boniface, journalist and author of "The Bluffer's Guide to Social Media". Have a listen to the interview on iTunes, Soundcloud or keep reading for a summary of our conversation.
Is social media really something new?
"It's simply communication. It's not difficult. We've communicated by cave paintings, we've communicated by quill pen and ink, and we now communicate via Facebook, and Instagram, and Snapchat. The thing to remember with all social media, whether you're intimidated by it or trying to understand it or trying to make money out of it, is that it's fundamentally just human interaction. That's it. There's no difference between someone painting a picture of the bison they killed on the cave wall and someone tweeting a picture of their lunch. It's exactly the same thing."
Is Twitter the king of social networks?
"Twitter is...not in terms of making money, or in terms of the amount of people that are involved in it. It is, probably at the moment, in terms of the level of interaction and socialisation, and the fact that news tend to break on Twitter, and that's where people do tend to get a lot of their immediate information about the world around them.
But Facebook is the one that makes all the money. But it's arguably the one that's got the most adverts, and it's got slightly more conservative reactions to things. For example, the difference between Twitter and Facebook is that on Twitter, you only see what people say, you don't see all the responses from everybody else."
What about the professional network, LinkedIn?
"LinkedIn's difficult for me to talk about on the basis that I, long ago, spammed all the invitations to join it. Basically it's an online Rolodex. It's not interesting enough to be banned in China like most of the other social media forms are. It's basically just a place to put your online CVs, and for marketing and recruitment professionals to go and find people and say that, "We will find you jobs. Upload your details to us". There's a huge amount of users on it - it's inexplicably popular in terms of just the sheer number of people. And it does make some money. It's very successful, but it's incredibly dull. You're not going to be on there very much really, just sort of chat or interact with people on a normal human basis. You might be looking for work, or trying to find an employee, that kind of thing, or if you do it very wrong, as was the case a little while ago with a female barrister and a male lawyer, you're trying to chat someone up or give them a compliment on LinkedIn, it tends to backfire."
How do you deal with trolls on social media?
"There are general rules for anybody on social media, what I call the "bus-stop rules". And this applies whether someone is asking someone out on a date, whether someone's a troll, whether anything else. In normal human interaction, what would you do if, at the bus stop, if this happened to you?
Just because it happens on your computer immediately and in front of your face, and you can't see the body language, and you can't see whether someone is being sarcastic or not, or trying to make a bad joke, if this was said to you at a bus stop, would you call the police? Would you get this upset? Would you decide that this is the person you want to marry? And if you would do that at the bus stop, that's the way you should behave. People like trolls, for example - if someone comes up to you at a bus stop and says, "I'm going to come in your house and blow you up at 10pm tonight". Would you actually call the police, or would you just move further away from the bus stop, or get the next one as it came along?"
Tell us about citizen journalism on social?
"Well, there's no such thing. There are citizens and then there are journalists. Journalists have formal training, normally. And part of that, when you're at a news event, is to see what everyone else has to say about it, try to get their photographs, and their named spelt correctly, etc., and it's got nothing to do with you, as a journalist. You don't put yourself in that story. Citizens, however, when they are at an event, they blog it, or tweet it, or Facebook it, or take pictures of it, or video it, and they go, "Look at me. I'm here. I'm in the middle of everything". That's not journalism.
The best example, probably, of why citizen journalism isn't journalism, is the Sydney siege a few years ago. People were tweeting and blogging pictures of themselves, selfies, outside a siege where an ISIS-inspired gunman had people held at gunpoint. Now that is not what journalists would do."
Social media glossary
- FTW: For the win. This means that you are promoting one particular thing as being the likely to win. So you might say, "Trump for the win, FTW," or you might be using a more sarcastic fashion and saying, "Eighteen slices of chocolate gateau for the win." Depends on the context.
- H/T: That's a hat tip. So particularly on Twitter if you are trying to share what someone else has tweeted, and you want to attribute what you're tweeting to somebody else to say, "This isn't me saying this, but I've seen this somewhere else," then you just, "Hat tip to," and you include the other person's handle.
- Vaguebooking: Vaguebooking is just updating your Facebook status in a vague way, perhaps in a way to try to encourage other people to ask you if you are all right, or, "What are you talking about?" kind of thing.
Follow Susie on Twitter @FleetStreetFox.