Learning the Social Networking Ropes
When I first learned about PROpenMic in class, I was absolutely fascinated. The site was created by Robert French, a professor at Auburn University, and is aimed at public relations students, faculty and practitioners. I think it is so cool that a social network can be so narrowly focussed towards one segment audience. I think part of what makes this site successful is the time and dedication that French puts into it. He comments on almost every member’s wall and actively participates in almost every discussion (although that might be getting harder since membership passed the 600 mark).
PROpenMic was created through a Web 2.0 site called Ning, which allows users to created their own social networks. I couldn’t help myself but create one of my own site. It’s called Equine Enthusiasts and it is a network for people who, ride, train, own, or are involved with the horse industry. I had originally named it Horse Space, but I decided I don’t want Tom, you know the “Tom,” suing me when my site gets to be as big as Myspace.
Launching Equine Enthusiasts has been a great exercise in networking. After I launched the site, I emailed everyone that I know who is involved with horses, which is about 30 people. I asked that each person check out the site and tell everyone they know who might be interested. I also posted a Myspace bulletin, and personally invited my horse-riding friends on Facebook. By about 11:30 p.m. last night, two hours after it began, I had four members. I considered this a victory in itself, because most of the horse-related networks on Ning only have one or two members. Following French’s example, I welcomed each member and tried to engage them in conversation by asking them a question or commenting on something they wrote in their profile. By early this evening, our membership was up to twenty-two. French must be an extremely busy man because I am already spending a lot more time on managing the site then I ever intended too, and I have only a fraction of the membership! Not to say that I’m not having fun, for I’ve met a lot of people who are interested in the same things I am, and have made a few good contacts with local barn owners.
If any of you out there are looking to practice your social networking skills, I would say starting a Ning social network is a great way to do it. The pages are easy to set up and manage. Plus, I bet it would be a good thing to put in an E portfolio because it demonstrates the following skills: leadership, management, technical and public relations.