Joining the Conversation – Where to Share Your Story

Welcome to Part 2 of the ‘Joining the Conversation’ Series. Here I will explore some of the great places you can join this online conversation.

Ok, so I promise that from now on I will be a little less formal with my writing in this series. I just re-read Part 1, and felt like I was reading an academic report 😦  But, online security is a  serious subject, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. So I hope you forgive me for my stuffy approach in Part 1, and bear with me as I lighten the mood a little.

Now lets get on to the fun stuff.

What excites me about the Internet is its diversity and uniqueness. It has something to offer all of us, and there is always a place we can express ourselves in our own unique way. But for lots of us it doesn’t come naturally, and may take a bit more courage and determination than others.

Widgets, Gadgets, and Blogs…are you tech savvy?
I love how our leaders are embracing new media (You are probably tired of hearing me go on about it). But, before going any further, have a look at this really quick video (1.20mins) about the importance of being brave and courageous when using technology (go Elder Perry!).


A Flitter or a Homebody?
To help you decide the best place to share your story, think about the kinds of face-to-face social experiences you enjoy the most.

1. Are you a flitter who likes to move from place to place, chatting and interacting with dozens and dozens of new and interesting people (I have a daughter like this)?

OR

2. Are you a homebody who really loves the comfort of familiar people and places – happy to keep coming back to the familiar (this is definitely me in face-to-face situations)?

Online conversation and interaction is similar. When sharing your story, you want to feel comfortable doing it. If you’re feeling comfortable in a situation then you’re more likely to come across as genuine, and you will enjoy it far more.

Now let’s take a look at some of the online platforms available that can help us join the conversation and share our stories, whether you are a flitter or a homebody:

Social Network Sites

    1. Twitter 

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If you can express yourself in 140 characters or less (that’s characters, not words), then you’ll love this. Twitter is a social messaging platform where you can communicate and share with multiple people in real time.

There are currently around 100 million Twitter users in the world. Don’t let this scare you off tho’, because it’s very easy to locate an audience to share your message with.

Young people love this technology. It’s fast, viral and immediate. But surprisingly, many of my generation (baby boomers) are using it too, and using it very effectively. If you own any kind of smart phone (Blackberry, Android or iPhone) then it will fit right into your lifestyle – it can be used anywhere, anytime, and any place.

It’s perfect as a means of joining the conversation socially, and it’s a great way to connect with people who have similar interests.

For me, the jury is still out on this one. I use Twitter, but I know I’m not using it to its full potential. Not owning a smart phone myself, I can’t get the full benefit of it.

What I do use it for is to broadcast any blog posts I publish, and any requests I might have for comments or contributions. It’s a great support application if you are a blogger.

If you are a flitter, then you will love tweeting. As a homebody, it is better used as a support application.

Here are a couple of quick tutorials on how to set up and use a Twitter account:

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    2. Facebook

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...

One of the most popular social networking platforms, Facebook has grown to over 900 million users since its inception in 2004.

This platform would have to be one of the easiest and least threatening places to join the online conversation. You can begin by adding just family and close friends if you are new to online technologies. And there are several different privacy settings, so if you don’t feel comfortable being too public you can control who does and doesn’t see your profile.

As you become more comfortable with it, you can expand your friend base, and make some great connections along the way. It’s a non-threatening way to share your story.

It’s also another tool that bloggers can use as a support application to their blog. Pages, events and other group settings are there to help direct traffic to your primary source of conversation.

If you are a homebody, then Facebook is a great place to put your feet up and relax amongst friends.

If you like to flitter, then the sky is the limit when it comes to friends (well, actually I think there is a limit). It certainly offers the chance to connect with dozens and dozens of people.

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    3.  Linkedin, Google+, & Yahoo!

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These are all social networking sites where you can publicise information and share your ideas. They are similar to Facebook in that users can post statuses and comments to incite discussion, but are often more centralised within a particular interest group.

For me, the value of these platforms is found more in their supportive nature. Through them I can announce new blog posts and create interest in my primary source of conversation.

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Blogs

Blogs are for those who love to write and express themselves, who want to share experiences, and who feel confident about having a broad, long-term presence online.

They are a fantastic way to extend the conversation around your beliefs, and make lasting connections with people. They offer opportunities to tell your story, in a unique way, which is probably the most effective way of making a connection with like-minded people.

Blog topics can be as diverse as the world we live in. If you have a passion for something then a blog is the place where you can share that passion and connect with other people who have the same passion.

Even if you are not a blogger yourself, there is always the opportunity to leave comments on other blogs, which is a less time-consuming way to join the conversation.

Blogs suit both flitters and homebodies. They are so versatile that you can set them up to suit either social approach.

Tools for getting started with a blog

Blogging Platforms

  • Blogger – A very easy platform for first-time bloggers, and it’s free.
  • WordPress – Similar to Blogger, but for the more advanced blogger. Wholly free to use, but there is also an option to purchase specific templates, and upload your own template, which allows greater design freedom.
  • Tumblr – A cross between Blogger and Twitter. For people who like to micro-blog. It is also free.
How to Set up a Blog
There are multiple guides online that will help you get started. Just Google ‘How to set up a blog’ and you should be able to find lots of walkthrough’s. All the above blogging platforms will have comprehensive guides on how to do it also. But, if you want a quick overview of it all then have a look at this video.

Tapping Into Online Conversations

You might not be very interested in beginning a conversation online right away, but you may like to find ways of keeping up with the conversation. Most blogs and websites will offer multiple ways to follow them without having to contribute:

  • RSS Feeds – Stands for ‘Really Simple Syndication’. These feeds bring new content, from any chosen blog or website, to your desktop. The feed compiles a list of updates from multiple sites of your choosing. Feeds are most often represented by this clickable symbol:

Generally, to receive feeds you need to download an RSS aggregator. But you may find that services like Yahoo! and Google offer internet based aggregators that don’t need to be downloaded.

Here is a simple video on how to set up your RSS Feeds (just skip the ad at the beginning):

VideojugHow to use RSS Feeds

  • Subscriptions –Subscribing to specific sites means you will receive a notification to your chosen email account every time the blog or website is updated.
  • Forums and Email Groups – Most email clients (Yahoo!, Gmail, MSN) offer forums and email groups – either public or private – that cover an endless assortment of interest groups.
  • Editorials – Who needs traditional forms of a newspapers when you can get online, read the latest story, and enter the conversation immediately? The Internet offers interaction in anything from your local rag right up to the New York Times.

Feeds, subscriptions, forums, email groups and editorials are all great for flitters. It is here that you can find multiple networks, and connect to the flow of conversations that weave in and out of the Internet.

However, they are also good for the homebody. They allow you to track conversations within the places you feel most comfortable, without having to make your presence known until you are ready to.

Soooo, are you still with me? Lots here to digest, but I hope you have been able to get something from my discussion on places you can join the conversation.

Next week we get into the meat of it all, and discuss the ways we can enter the conversation: Looking at what kinds of things we can share, and what is the most effective way of conveying our story. Hope you can join me then…

<< BACK – Part 1 – Online Privacy and Identity Protection <<

<< BACK – Introduction – Joining the Conversation Series <<

Joining the Conversation Series

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, as well as on my page ‘About My Blog Topic’, the brethren and other LDS church leaders are increasingly encouraging us as members of the church to join the online conversation. Indeed, it is exciting to hear and see of some of the ways that members of the church are embracing this challenge and harnessing many of these online technologies (see the end of this post for some examples of this).

Elder M. Russell Ballard, in 2007, described these online tools as the modern day printing press. He states, “The Internet allows everyone to be a publisher, to have his or her voice heard, and it is revolutionizing society” (“Sharing The Gospel Using the Internet”). We only have to look at the LDS Church as an example to see the means by which it has harnessed these new media technologies:

When you think upon the printing press analogy, you may recognise the momentous impact that these new media technologies can have on the world at large. I love history, so for me, understanding that these new technologies can assist in bringing many people out of spiritual darkness, just as the printing press did in the 13th Century, and offer something  they have never had access to before, excites me. I see it as a tool for a reformation of many things spiritual.

These new media channels, such as social network sites, blogs, vlogs, tweets, and interactive websites, are now becoming available to use by the average ‘Joe’ and ‘Jane’. At least, we can share ideas, opinions and stories that may be of interest to the world. At best, we can use them to further progress the Lords work here on earth, and help dispel the false information that is being so readily published.

For many of us this can be scary. For me, a student of the Internet even, it is daunting to say the least, but if we are prepared it can offer some wonderful opportunities for each of us to share our story in an honest, personal, and loving way. “…if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.” D&C 38:30

Most recently, Elder L. Whitney Clayton, of the Presidency of the Seventy (see my post ‘Advice on Representing the Church’), encouraged all members of the church to tell their story. In this discussion he recognises that it may not come naturally to many of us; we may need to work on it. Elder Clayton suggests two very important things we can do to prepare:

  1. Be well informed
  2. Be friendly

The purpose of this series is to assist you in being prepared by understanding the in’s and out’s of using the Internet as a means of sharing your story. Part of being well informed not only includes being informed about your subject (the gospel, which is worthy of a series of its own), but also being well informed about the safest and easiest ways of navigating this great space, the best way to share your story, what to share, and skills and ideas needed to deal with different situations that arise.

For this purpose, the ‘Joining the Conversation’ series will be divided into four parts:

  1. Online Privacy and Identity Protection
  2. How to Share Your Story
  3. What to Share
  4. Handling Difficult Situations

Each week, for the next four weeks, I will share a new part from this series. I encourage each of you to explore the suggestions and resources offered here. We can all participate in the work of the Lord in our own unique way.

Please feel free to make suggestions, corrections, or comments where you feel the need. But, for some, this blog may be an opportunity to simply dip your toes a little further into the  waters of the World Wide Web.

So, come on in, the water is fine 🙂

Examples of how some LDS members have joined the conversation:

If you have any other LDS blogs, vlogs or websites, that fit within the terms ‘Joining the Conversation’, that you would like to share then please do so below.