Week 8: Social networking sites

Well we have made it to Week 8 of the programme – this week we will be learning about and trying out social networking sites.

What is a social networking site?

Social networking as a broad term can refer to the entire ‘Web 2.0′ phenomenon, but what we will be focussing on this week are usually referred to as social networking sites.

Many of you will already using sites such as Facebook on a regular basis.  Basically, they involve you setting up an online account, and then building a profile to reflect your interests.  You then add friends or contacts who can see your profile and interests and vice versa.  The next step is to add various applications and join various groups if you are interested in doing so.

Check out this Commoncraft video for a quick overview of social networking sites.

Features of social networks

1. Choose your social networking site

This often comes down to what your friends and/or colleagues are using.  However each does have different features/strengths, for example if you are really into music then Myspace is more relevant.  Facebook has a more generic appearance, where as Myspace enables you to customise your pages.

2. Sign up for an account, build your own profile, personalise your pages (depends on the service as to how much control you have over this)

As with most of these tools/services – you go to the web page of the service you want to use and sign up for an account (another password to add to your learning 2.0 collection).

3. Add friends/contacts, join a group and add any applications you like.

Some people like adding applications, join every group they can possibly find and send lots of invitations to you.  Others just have their basic profile and don’t do much more with their account.  It is completely up to you.

Each site has their advantages and disadvantages – if you are not using any of them at the moment, it’s worth taking a look at  a couple to see what you think.

The major players are Facebook, Myspace and Bebo.  Others out there include: Ning, LinkedIn, Elgg and 6pages (created by Imperial students).

For a comparison of Myspace, Bebo and Facebook, see: Myspace Vs Bebo Vs Facebook – the Ultimate Showdown of Internet Domination

How libraries/universities are using social networking sites

There are loads of examples of libraries and higher education institutions using social networking sites in various ways.  This could be to set up an institutional network, such as the University of Wales at Newport who have a Ning site up and running as do the University of Bradford, or creating a library catalogue search option, such as the World Cat search for their facebook application.

See the Imperial College Library del.icio.us account for more examples, try the tag socialnetworking or facebook.  Or do some searching of your own and tag some good examples.

Further reading

Social networking software on the Library Success wiki

See Brian Kelly’s blog for a post on: Revisiting UK University pages on Facebook for more local examples.

Social Network Sites: Public, Private, or What?

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