By Danny Brown
For anyone entering the minefield that social media can be for the very first time, the excitement and eagerness can soon turn into fear and uncertainty. Fear of not knowing where to start and uncertainty of which social media sites and tools you should be using. Don't worry, we've all been there (and in a way, we're all still there as well).
Yet like anything new, social media is just another "stumbling block" to overcome if you haven't used it before. If you take time to think of all the things you've successfully overcome in your life already, you'll see that social media should be looked at as just another stone to step across. Perhaps the best analogy is to compare social media to your time at kindergarten.
First Day at School
Remember the fear you felt when you first arrived at kindergarten? Unless you were a mini-Rambo, of course, and feared no-one. Yet if you were like me, the fear of feeling alone and not knowing anyone was a difficult one to overcome. All I wanted to do was stay in the car and go home.
The first time dipping my toe in the social media world elicited similar feelings in me. I knew I was meant to be there, but I was thinking it'd be just as easy to not be there. Yet just like that first day at kindergarten, it's all about taking that first step.
Just like you ended up stepping through the doors to the kindergarten building, so you can step though the barriers to the social media world. All you need to acknowledge is that it is new to you so it will take a little time to feel comfortable - but it will (and does) come.
Stay Out of the Sandpit
Once you got used to the new world that was kindergarten and you started making some friends, life became easier. Yet I recall this one kid that wouldn't mix with anyone - he stayed in the sandpit at breaks and refused all attempts to make friends. Rightly or wrongly, every other kid thought he was strange because of this.
Don't be the sandpit kid when it comes to social media. The best way to feel comfortable is to make friends and introduce yourself. Whether it's via a blog to share your voice or a short exchange of messages on something like Twitter, communicating is key to enjoying the full social media experience.
The result of communicating? Apart from making new friends and opening up your network, people that have been using social media longer than you can help you make informed decisions of which ones will work best for you.
Listen to Teacher
While at kindergarten, one of the strangest things I had to get used to was listening to the teacher. I say strange, because although I had been told that I should listen to my teacher by my parents, it was easier said than done. My line of thought was: "You're not my mom - why should I listen to you?"
Of course, I soon overcame this way of thinking when my mom banned me from any toys after kindergarten until I started listening to what my teacher was trying to tell me.
In the social media world, there are some excellent teachers that you can learn a lot from. People like Chris Brogan and Jeff Pulver are just two names that spring to mind yet the knowledge that these two, and other social media visionaries like them, can impart to you is invaluable.
If you need to know anything about social media and the wonderful world it can open up to you, signing up to Chris or Jeff's blogs is one of the first things you should do. After all, if you can't learn from these guys, then maybe social media isn't for you.
There's a whole new world waiting out there for you. While it may appear daunting and confusing, just remember - you navigated through kindergarten and beyond. You can navigate through social media as well - just keep an open mind and open ears, and don't be afraid to speak.
Danny Brown is the owner of Press Release PR, a boutique PR agency specializing in search engine optimized press releases and promotional campaigns for the Web 2.0 world. He is also a guest author on Web Analytics World. You can read more of Danny's articles and opinions at his PR agency blog.