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7 Steps for exploring emerging platforms

Embracing new social media platforms opens the door to exciting exploration. Here's your guide to undertaking this adventure with confidence.

Social media and technology, in general, can be intimidating, especially if you weren’t born into a world where internet use was the default for life.

Feeling comfortable and competent is challenging when things are constantly changing and evolving. What was true yesterday in social media may not be true today.

The arrival of Threads has many heads spinning as the online community grapples with navigating yet another platform. The standard advice: Just go play around with it and have fun.

Sure, that sounds easy, but how does one play around?

Here’s an easy guide to confidently getting familiar with any new app or platform.

Step 1: Do some light research (and read the fine print)

This is the most important step, as it will help you protect your privacy and data online.

Chances are, by the time any of us are made aware of a new social media platform, there are already people on it and using it, and at least someone online has talked about it and the privacy concerns. Take some time to Google the new platform and see what others are saying about it.

For example, Threads is connected to an existing Instagram account. To delete the Threads account once it’s created, a user must also permanently delete their Instagram account, too. While that’s unlikely to be a deal breaker for most, it’s certainly something to be aware of.

Pay attention to anything talking about how data is shared. For context, all social media platforms are sharing your data — all of them. So never put something on social media that you don’t want to be put into their data pool. Some are, indeed, worse offenders than others, but they are all guilty. Ensure you are OK with how they handle your data before downloading the app.

Step 2: Download the app

This step is simple, go to your phone’s app store and download the app for the new platform. Most new social media platforms are app-first platforms now, so even if there is a desktop version, the app version will have more features and often function better, too.

Step 3: Create your account and take the tour

Once the app is downloaded and launched, a guided tour will prompt you to create your account and show you around the app and how to use it. Common things it will go over are how to post and follow people and where to find your settings. You can even import your friends and connections from other social media platforms or your phone’s contacts.

Step 4: Start pushing buttons

Once you’re past the tutorial and you’re hopefully following a few accounts, it’s time for some fun. Pretend you’re a kid again with a new video game and start pressing buttons.

Don’t worry that you’ll break something or do something strange; you’ll never know what that button does if you never push it. You can always go back and delete a post you made by accident. Be sure to learn all your posting options. Wherever you can post, try everything: Post a picture, a video, or a gif, and use any fun filters there might be.

Be careful in your settings; some platforms have fun options (like changing the color of your layout, perhaps), but you don’t want to accidentally change your username or delete your account without knowing. Often, you will get a warning before deleting or changing anything important, and you have to click to save changes in your settings. Have fun, but take your time.

Step 5: Spend some time

The best way to get familiar with something is to spend time with it and use it. Like riding a bike or driving a car, after learning the basics, the only way to not feel nervous doing it is to practice. Using a new social media platform is no different; it’s simply an online tool. The more time you spend with it, the more you will understand it and the more confident you will feel using it. So spend some quality time scrolling.

Step 6: Engage!

Once you’re feeling confident, engage with the other users. Social media is meant to be, well, social. Most users only lurk and never post, and honestly, they miss out on what makes social media powerful and fun.

You’ll also learn more about how the platform works by engaging with others. You’ll learn how to have conversations and how to follow responses. That may seem very fundamental, and it is, but for platforms like Twitter and Instagram, where hashtags are used, it takes a little more savvy to follow some topics and conversations.

Step 7: Take a break and come back

The quickest way to frustration online is to forget about taking a break. We aren’t meant to stare at screens for too long, so once you’ve gotten started and spent some time playing around, take a break. Come back a few hours later or the next day. Repetition will help you learn, so keep coming back, and before you know it, you’ll be navigating a new platform without even thinking about it.

Repeat steps four through seven as many times as needed. And one more tip: Don’t be afraid to Google any questions you have; chances are someone else has had that same question, too, and the answer will be waiting for you to find.

By Jessi Healey

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