The Educator's PLN

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I wrote this article for my state technology association newsletter back in the fall. I think with the surge of people new to social/professional networking it is important to share it here as well. Sometimes it is hard to know what to include when creating a profile. Hopefully this article will help with those questions.



How often do you think about your social networking profile? If you are like most educators your answer is to that question is probably "never." Whether we care to admit it or not, most of us have profiles that could be improved in one way or another. If you are just starting out in the world of social networking and have yet to create a profile anywhere then the following tips will help you get off on the right foot. This article will help you determine what information you should include in your profile as well as what you should absolutely not include.

Your social networking profile might possibly be the most important part of your online identity.  It gives the world a snapshot of who you are and what you are about. Fair or not people will make snap judgments about you based on what they read on there. Your profile will also give people a sense of whether they can trust your or not. Think of your social networking profile as the digital equivalent
of that all-important first handshake. You have one chance to get it right so it is imperative to get it right from the beginning. Your goal should be to reveal as much as you can without making yourself feel uncomfortable. But how do you know what you should or should not share?
Let's take a look at some guidelines.

A great profile needs to have the following items:

  • A photograph of yourself. There are some who argue that an avatar (cartoon picture) is just as good as a real picture, but I could not disagree more. Sharing what you look like is not only a huge piece of establishing a terrific profile, it is an important step in establishing online connections.
  • A consistent user name. Put some thought into selecting your user name because it will be with you for a long time. Try to use the same user name each time you sign up for a new social networking site. This will help eliminate some of the confusion that goes along with managing your online profile.
  • Your real name.  Most social networking profiles allow you to include your real name in addition to your user name. While it is not necessary to include your last name, sharing your first name will definitely help people make a deeper connection with you.
  • A concise biography. Your biography should include professional information such as your position, number of years teaching, and any other information that people might find interesting. 
  • Your location. It is always nice to know where people are that you are communicating with.

Some optional things you might want to add to your profile:
  • Contact information.  If you are comfortable sharing your information such as your email address, office phone number or Skype name then do so.
  • Personal information. Simply by sharing information about your interests, hobbies, and family life you are giving people more opportunities to connect to you. There might even be people outside of education who discover you based on this information. Remain open to the idea of allowing people into your network who are not educators. These people will help add some variety to your network. 
  • Links to your other networks. If you have a blog or belong to multiple social networks then tell people. If you are a member of a Ning you can add your Twitter feed. You can also add badges from Nings to your blog. The idea is to overlap your networks as much as possible.

Some things to never include on your profile:

  • Your home phone number. It is just a rule to not
  • Your address. Another thing that is common sense, but you might be broadcasting your exact location without even realizing it. Some social networking applications that are used on mobile devices will automatically include your location to within a few thousand feet.  It
    is a good idea to shut this feature off to make it harder for someone to pinpoint your location.

  • Names of people in your family.

These tips should help you get started on the right foot when creating your social networking profiles. Remember that these are just guidelines and that there are no hard and fast rules in the world of
social networking. Look for more articles soon regarding where you can begin your social networking journey as well as how to start building and growing your personal learning network.

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Thanks Beth! This is good advice for all of us.

Mark

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