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Social media for expats: Social networking

Most people associate the term social media with social networking sites, such as Facebook and Linkedin, which bring together people via similar interests, backgrounds, or real-life connections.

What to share
Facebook and other social networking sites such as Twitter and Google Plus make it easy to keep up to date with the lives of your friends and family you’ve left behind, as well as your new social circle. While the purpose of social networking is to keep your followers updated on your life, don’t share overly personal or private information. It’s not the place to air your dirty laundry or discuss bathroom habits.

Instead, use social networking to keep everyone updated on major events in your life: Discuss the process of acclimating to a new country with funny and embarrassing stories of your cultural mishaps. Your friends from home will find these amusing and it will give you something to commiserate about with your new friends. When you have friends spread throughout different time zones, it’s hard to inform everyone individually that you got a new job.

Also, post about the things you care about. If you’re an art buff, then discuss the latest showing by your favourite artist or the gallery you went to see. This will help you stay connected to your like-minded friends who are far away while giving new friends something to bond over.

And if you aren’t feeling particularly witty, share your geographical location by "checking in" with Google Plus, Foursquare, or Facebook to show your friends your latest hangout. This is an easy way to make everyone feel welcome and make it easy for people who aren’t connected to find each other on their social networking site.

Best social media practices
 Bad behaviour on social networking sites is so rampant there are entire websites devoted to bad behaviour on social networking sites. Think before you post to avoid becoming a social media mockery.

 Check your updates for spelling errors before you post. Frequent errors or extensive use of internet-speak can make your updates difficult to read.

 Updating too often can be annoying for your friends and not enough is boring for them.

 Use the subscription and customised groups features wisely. Rather than stirring up trouble in the family, just unsubscribe from updates from your cousin who is always posting about politics. You can also customise who sees your updates so, just as with real life relationships, choose the topics you share. You can exclude your religious grandmother from your updates about your enthusiastic social life and only include your parenting group when discussing your frustrations with a teething toddler.

Popular Sites

 Facebook
Facebook is the mainstay of social networking. An estimated 1 in 9 people on the planet has a Facebook page. Learn about Facebook’s (ever changing) privacy settings and find your own personal balance between sharing too much information and closing people out.

With unlimited photo storage, Facebook can be a great way to share your photos with family and friends. You can also upload videos, so it’s an easy place to share all of your experiences.

Most expat-related companies and organisations have Facebook pages that you can follow or "like" to keep up to date on the news and events going on in the community. Many of these pages encourage conversations and postings from their followers, so get involved.

 LinkedIn
LinkedIn is the social networking site for professionals and acts as a job hub where you can look for work and network with other professionals. As an expat, you’re probably facing a much more limited professional network than you had in your home country. Use the "People You May Know" feature to expand your network.

Be sure to fully complete your profile. LinkedIn has a great profile completion feature which lets you know what you need to do to get to 100%. Double check your profile for spelling errors and make sure the information matches your CV.

LinkedIn Groups are a great way to interact with people with similar interests as you. There are plenty of expat groups where you can discuss expat life, get advice, and simply chat with other expats. But keep in mind that LinkedIn’s primary function is as a professional environment. Share only those things that you would be comfortable discussing with a recruiter.

 Google Plus
Google Plus is relatively new to the social network scene, but it’s attracted a lot of attention from people in the technology industries. If you’re in one of these industries or are tech-savvy in your personal life, you will likely find a lot of great information from Google Plus.

For expats, one of the best features of Google Plus is called Hangout. Hangout allows multiple users to video chat simultaneously. Unlike Skype, where you must pay for multi-user video chat, Hangout is free. If your entire family is spread out, this is an easy way for everyone to get together to celebrate a birthday or other holiday.

The mobile app for Google Plus allows you to see users who are posting publicly nearby. See if anyone else on the train is complaining about the delay and let them know that you’re sharing in their misery.

Do you use one of these social networking sites? Do you find them to be a good way to connect with people?

Molly

Author

Molly Quell

I'm an American expat living in the Netherlands, working as a social media consultant and writer. When I’m not working, I cook, bake, play softball, and hang out with my...

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