YOU Magazine - January 2009 - Don't Wait a Whole Year to Catch Up With Friends and Family Staying Connected Using Social Networks and Blogs
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Lyn Bankowski     Lyn Bankowski
AVP/SR. Mortgage Loan Originator
Alaska USA Mortgage Company
Phone: 360-679-5633 / 360-969-5550
Fax: 360-279-1198
License: NMLS#304060 / CL-157293
Alaska USA Mortgage Company
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Don't Wait a Whole Year to Catch Up With Friends and Family
Staying Connected Using Social Networks and Blogs

Don't Wait a Whole Year to Catch Up With Friends and Family - Staying Connected Using Social Networks and Blogs

The holiday season has once again come and gone. And while some of us may be mourning the end of the large holiday feasts and seemingly bottomless platters of treats, many people may also feel a little melancholy about being out of touch with friends and family. After all, one of the best things about the holiday season is spending time with family or reading holiday letters about what your friends did during the past year.

The good news is, you don't have to wait an entire year to reconnect with friends and family members. That's because social networking websites like and as well as sites like and even blogs are ideal for establishing relationships and staying in touch with your friends and family members. The ages of people on these networks range from computer-savvy high school kids to middle-aged professionals. That means there's a good chance you can connect with a number of your friends, family members, and even acquaintances you haven't seen in years!

How to Decide Which Option Best Suits You

With so many ways to connect with people, it's hard to know which option best suits you. The key is to understand some of the basic differences...and to focus on which option(s) will allow you to communicate the way you want to communicate. To help with the decision, the following list breaks down some of the most popular options and how they can help you stay in touch.

Short updates...without the hassle. If you're just looking for a way to share short blurbs about what you're doing, you may feel like a blog or social networking site is too overwhelming or time-intensive for you. The good news is, there's an option that's perfect for you. Social messaging or micro-blogging sites like are designed to deliver short messages or updates. For instance, the longest message you can post on Twitter is only 140 characters long – yes, characters, not words. So there's no pressure to write a long story or upload pictures. You simply type a sentence or two and hit send. You can even send messages via a text message from your cell phone. And when you log into your site to see what friends and family members are doing, you get the same short messages in return. No worries about linking to multiple pages or reading long posts. Just concise blurbs...all posted on one convenient screen for you to read. And best of all, it's free to set up and use!

Show photos, post updates, chat online, or send emails. For a more full-featured way to stay connected, you may want to sign up for a social networking site like or These sites are free and allow you to write regular updates like a micro-blog site, but they also enable you to post pictures as well as send emails to a special inbox on the site. You can also use the site like an Instant Messaging program, so you can see which friends or family members are online at the same time as you and chat instantly! And, most social networking sites allow you to control some aspect of privacy, so you can set parameters determining who can see your content. Of course, the numerous social networking sites aren't exactly the same. For example, some sites like MySpace offer greater customization, so you can really make your page fit your personality. In addition, you may find that most of the people you want to stay connected with are already signed up on a certain site. So talk to your friends and family members before choosing which site – or sites – you want to use.

Share longer stories and post pictures for the world to see. If you want to share more than a sentence here or there, you may want to start a blog. Blog sites such as and allow you to set up a blog for free. With these sites, you can write longer articles and even post pictures. The software walks you through the process, so it's easy to do...even if you're new to the whole "online communication" concept. Another nice benefit of blogs is that your friends and family members don't need to be members of a site to read your updates or see your pictures. They just need to know the URL so they can type it into their browser. So, it's convenient for everyone.

Set up your own social network. You may want to have a social network set up just for a specific group. For example, you may want to have one place where all your family can come together to communicate. Or, you may want a special network set up for a work group or class reunion. Regardless of what it's for, setting up your own social network is actually easier than you think when you use sites like With a Ning site, you can invite only the members you want to have access to the site, so it has an added element of privacy. In addition, each member can update their own profile...and you can even include a calendar of events and a discussion forum that everyone can access. With these added benefits, your social network site can truly become the one place that your entire family comes together...just like the dining room table during the holidays, except it's online!

Getting Started

Facebook, MySpace, blogs, and other social networking sites like Ning offer somewhat different services, but they all have similar features. The nice thing is, getting started on a social networking site or blog is easy and can often be done in as little as 15 minutes. Here are some things you'll want to have handy before you begin:

Write a profile. Social networking sites are all about getting to know each other and keeping people up-to-date on what's going on in your life. If you don't have a profile, people can't get to know you. Start by writing a few lines about yourself and what you're interested in.

Pick a profile picture. People like to see who they're talking to. Select a picture that is fun but also somewhat professional. Remember, in addition to your friends and family members, you may end up communicating with co-workers or future employers. So make sure you maintain a public image that works for all situations.

Get some content ready. Start by making a list of items you can add to your page today. You'll want a variety of information: some fun interests and hobbies, along with some insightful details like where you went to school and when you graduated. If you're starting a page on a social networking site, you may even want to get a few pictures of your family or a recent vacation ready so you can share them with friends.

Gather usernames from friends. Many social networking sites have features that allow you to search for former classmates or to check your email address list. But, it's probably a good idea to gather a few usernames of friends so you can connect with them as soon as you set up your page. If you plan on starting a blog, you may want to gather the URLs of your friends' or family members' blogs as well. That way, you can add them as links on your blog for easy access by you and by your blog's visitors who may be interested.

After you get the content ready for one site, you can use that same information to register on other sites if you want. This way, you can manage multiple sites with relatively little work.

Once you have your page up, you may want to take a few minutes to see what other people put on their pages. What ideas can you use on your page? Remember, it's not all or nothing. Your page or blog is an ongoing work in progress. That's part of the fun!

License AK# 157293 Washington Consumer Loan Company license# CL-157293 California Residential Mortgage Lending Act, License# 4131067

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