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Teaching Family Members to Use Social Media Platforms

For the millennial generation, social media is one of the significant technological achievements during our short lifetime. We take it for granted that we can communicate with anyone in the world in real time. The simplicity of networking on LinkedIn and connecting with companies online can be vital to securing a position. Advertising for a small startup on Facebook and Twitter is affordable and can have major results. In spite of the advantages of social media, a sizeable portion of our population is not taking advantage of it. According to a Pew Research study, adults over the age of 50 have the smallest presence on four of five major social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Factors such as education level and affluence are major concerns, but a lack of mechanical understanding is also to blame. More and more people are using social platforms every year, but, as a younger member of the family, some of you are in an important teaching position for family members who are ignorant of social media. Here are some tips on teaching family members how to use social media.

Teaching Basic Mechanics

As part of the millennial generation, you know how to use social media. You understand social sites like the back of your hand because you grew up with it. It is second nature for most of us at this point, but it can seem like alien technology for those that grew up without it. Basic mechanics can be one of the biggest barriers to overcome when teaching others about social media, like logging in and sending messages.

The key is patience on your end as a teacher and diligence from whoever is your student. Help them create a Facebook profile and show them how to log in. Make the profile private so that they do not expose any early mistakes on their feed. Explain the importance of logging out and what personal information Facebook receives as part of having a profile. Teach them the UI (user interface) and inform them what each button on the dashboard does to avoid confusion later. Even if it seems like common knowledge, remember that this person knows next to nothing about the platform. If it seems like a chore, then take a break and come back to it later.

Basic exercises like logging in and sending messages will help them get acclimated to whatever platform they want to join. This simple step may seem like a tedious task, but essential functionalities are necessary to teach early. If Facebook is not the site they want to get acclimated to, then educate yourself on their preferred site before you teach them about it. Two people just winging the whole process helps no one.


Just like in face to face conversation, etiquette is important with any virtual correspondence. Qualities like courtesy and patience are transferrable from reality to social media, but some nuances might not be apparent.

Punctuation is important for professional conversation or messages between acquaintances, but less so for casual conversation among friends. Signing off on each message as though it were a professional email is also not necessary, but sometimes apply. Sending multiple messages without receiving a response is frowned upon as well. Another lesson to teach is that not everyone will be friendly online, and some use it to lash out without reprisal anonymously. As a regular user, you know these things inherently. Try to phrase them in a way that connects with whoever you’re teaching.

Another crucial piece of the learning process is to teach your protege about the laws that apply to internet conversations. Virtual threats or online harassment can be prosecuted with the same severity of criminal punishment as in reality. Some states approach this differently than others, but federal laws are in place for several examples of online harassment.

Ideal Site

Each person has a purpose for connecting with social media. Some want to network, date, or simply have another way to stay in touch with loved ones. If a family member approaches you to learn about an individual site, then you know their goal. If they don’t, then try to work with them to determine their purpose.

LinkedIn is used to connect professionally. If your family member is looking to find employment, or connect with colleagues, this is a safe pick. Some job boards like Monster and Indeed also have minor functionalities with profiles and resume builders.

Facebook is, of course, the jack-of-all-trades social site. It is great for networking, connecting with friends and family, and advertising. Twitter is another great example if the person you are teaching wants to dip their hands in a little bit of everything.

Instagram and Pinterest are generally about promotion or sharing photos rather than connecting in a traditional sense. They are also ideal for those trying to share an artistic portfolio.

Remember first that all things take time, especially teaching someone about the vast opportunities within social media. Be patient, stay involved, and your loved one will reap the benefits of the Social Media Revolution.

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