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Scared of social media? Read this.

We get questions from people almost every day asking us what "books" are good to read to learn about social media. So this week, Bridget and I wrote this column to help these folks out:

The questions have been picking up since practically every media outlet jumped on the Twitter Train in the past couple months. Even Oprah got on Twitter two weeks ago. (Shaq had to end up helping her out, click here to see the conversation.)

One recent e-mail we got is from a publicist who wants to learn more about using both Facebook and Twitter for work purposes. The question: ``Can you suggest the best resources, books and sites that I can use to quickly come up to speed so that I can offer my clients additional ideas on building their brands?''

We know it's scary, but our answer to everyone is always the same: Just dive in. No book or blog can help you understand social media until you sign up and use the site. Seriously. Click around. Don't worry! We know it's awkward, but trust us -- you're not going to break anything.

Picking a username is a great first step, but it doesn't count as diving in. That's just a toe. If you want to learn anything, give your clicking finger a workout and spend at least 15 minutes a day on the site. On Twitter, there are plenty of folks happy to help newbies and answer questions.

Here are a few basic pointers we can offer when it comes to building a personal brand on Twitter:

• Use your real name as your user name.

• Don't auto-follow back people or use a program to send auto direct messages. (If you don't know, ''Following'' is Twitter lingo for connecting.)

• Be active in your network. It's not social if you don't have conversations.

• Mix up tweets about personal interests with business topics. You don't want the only messages you send out to be plugs for your website -- totally lame.

• Use the search tools to find people with the same interests and shoot them a message or follow them to catch their attention.

For folks who want to build a community using a Facebook fan page:

• Build a personal account on Facebook (and be active for weeks) before you even think about starting a fan page. How will you know what fans want if you don't know how to use Facebook?

• It's more effective to engage members by sending out messages rather than posting news on your own wall.

Be creative -- use the status message or find cool multimedia to draw people to your page.

What tips do you have for social networking newbies?

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I would say that there are some books out there that will help people learn more. If they feel a book will help then direct them to some. Although the social web changes much faster than any book can predict. I am reading Dale Evans "Social Media Marketing: An Hour A Day" and in it he talks about how MySpace has 80% of the market share while Facebook had only 15-20%. Things have certainly changed haven't they and that book isn't too old.

I think books are a good way to go to supplement your experimenting. Reading blogs is another way to go. But you can learn extra things from those that you might miss doing it yourself.

I think the point about the book you are reading touches a bit on what we were intending to say with the column: the major point is that social media I think is learned best by doing. But also, I do think things are changing so fast that unless you're writing about general principles things can get dated quickly!

Isn't there someone who reviews books in Business Monday?

OK. Sorry.

That wasn't helpful, so let me make a few suggestions and provide some review links:

Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success. Dan Schawbel. Kaplan Publishing. 256 pages.

Reviewed here:
http://www.richardpachter.com/2009/04/brand-yourself.html

Smart Networking: Attract a Following in Person and Online. Liz Lynch. McGraw-Hill. 208 pages.

Reviewed here:
http://www.richardpachter.com/2009/01/smart-networking.html

and

I'm on LinkedIn — Now What??? A Guide to Getting the Most out of LinkedIn. Jason Alba. Happy About. 124 pages.

Reviewed here:
http://www.richardpachter.com/2008/07/are-you-linkedin.html

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