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Podcast Episode: How to Use Social Media to Advance Talent

How do you manage your young person’s social media presence on the Internet so that it helps him on his journey to developing amazing talent?

I discuss with Renee how we have been successfully able to handle and encourage the use of social media for own children’s talent development.

At the end of this episode, we finish with this call-to-action:

Find two types of social media or Internet forums that would could be a good fit to the type of interest or talent that your child is wanting to develop.

How to Use Instagram for Talent Development

Are you still using your cellphone like a bat-phone? No idea how the features on it can start making a great impact on your student’s talent? Enter Instagram.

Instagram is perfect for the son or daughter who has a talent that has a photogenic or interesting visual appeal. Instagram is a great way to connect with other talented individuals in the same field of talent.

And all you need to use Instagram is a smart-phone.

With an Android or iPhone you just download the Instagram app like you would any other application. The application is designed to use your phone’s built-in camera. Before you can use it, you create your Instagram account by creating a profile with your real name and add an easy to remember stage name to help people identify you. For example, my 15 year old’s stage name is “BladesofBelaq” and under that name, you will see his real name displayed as “Caleb Harris.”

(Fun fact: Belaq is his name spelled backward and with the letter “c” replaced by the letter “q”. Blades is included in his Instagram name because his talent focus is around the making of knives and blades.)

You can see what my son’s Instagram profile looks from any computer by clicking on this link:

http://instagram.com/bladesofbelaq

Once your account is created, you are ready to use your cell phone camera to take pictures of what you are doing or seeing. Leave the pictures just as plain as you took them or enhance them with some quick photo filters. When you like what you see, you simply tap on the phone screen and up they go over the Internet onto Instagram’s big computers. This uploading to Instagram makes it possible for anyone in the world with another Instagram account to see your pictures.

If others want to see your pictures on Instagram, they can do it in the following ways.

The first way others can find your pictures is because the Instagram users already know you from reputation. You may have been specifically recommended by other Instagram users or someone may have seen your name recommended in a blog. In such as a case, these users will go straight to Instagram and search for you by your stage name (i.e. BladesofBelaq) or your real name (Caleb Harris). Then they will click the “follow” button that’s available under your name.

By clicking the “follow” button, this tells Instagram to automatically download your photos to your follower’s cell phone for viewing. Don’t worry. Your photos don’t pop onto their cell phone screen willy-nilly. All the pictures coming down are limited in size no matter how big and detailed the original photos were when they were taken. Instagram automatically reduces the pictures to a small footprint on your cell phone screen. This size limitation makes it easy to scroll through hundreds of photos at a time without causing your cell phone to lag. It is a very breezy experience completely different to the one when you try to open picture attachments in emails.

The second way people find your pictures is because the users are searching Instagram for any pictures containing a keyword. At this point others would not be specifically looking for you. The keyword search is one of the things that makes Instagram such a different tool than Facebook.

A keyword is a word in the caption of the picture to which the the photo-taker appends the sign #.  One would do this in the hopes that others would be able to come across that picture if they were to use that word in a search. So for example, someone who is coin collector may want to see all the pictures on Instagram containing the hashtag word “#silvereagle” (do not use spaces). This search will display a set of pictures of American coins known as Silver Eagles. If you had labeled your picture with the hashtag #silvereagle then that particular picture of yours will show up in a large set of pictures from all sorts of Instagram users who also used the hashtag #silvereagle. If viewers see a couple of the pictures they like and those pictures happen to be yours, they might then at that point go to your account and decide to click the “follow” button. Going forward they will automatically see all your photos without having to search for #silvereagle. 

If people want to let you know they appreciated your photo, they simple click the “Like” button and you will see a counter go up as the number of enthusiastic views goes up. This gives you feedback as to which ones impacted your viewers without having to leave complicated messages. In that way the like is used similarly to Facebook. They can also leave a short text comment under the caption of your picture to which you can have short back-and-forth comments with your viewers. But the primary focus of Instagram is to gather around pictures that portray a common interest. There are no re-posts of news articles or re-posts of 3rd party memes. This is why the Instagram experience is so clutter-free.

How to Handle Social Media

Moms driving into a large city is the same kind of danger and opportunity that faces young people when they bring themselves into the wide world of social media.

Mothers can drive themselves into the city to go meet up with friends at restaurants, shop for bargains for the family, and take their children to activities without being mugged, run-over, or assaulted. How is that possible? That is because they are going into the city with a purpose, meeting up with safe friends, and avoiding unsavory dangerous parts of town. Rarely does a mother feel the temptation to get out and go for a walk in a gang-infested part of a town and try to strike up a conversation with someone who has underwear hanging out over their pants. (if you are a mother and you do you feel that temptation, chances are you are not reading this blog anyway).

It is the same with young people on social media. If they engage in communities on the Internet around a particular purpose, there is little danger. The more they engage with the right people and communities early on, with some helpful pointers from parents on how to avoid the danger spots of the Internet, the more they will instinctively recognize good, healthy, and productive environments. They will correctly “socialize” themselves into the right environment. This is the same kind of guidance as you give when you are teaching them to drive on their own.

This is how you should approach the Internet when giving guidance to young people. Older teenagers need to start shopping, taking care of errands, and communicating with people in their talent world on the Internet, just as they would in real life. Just as in real life, you can set Internet curfews, off limits parts of the Internet world, and give instructions about not having certain friends not being allowed to just hang out with you. If you start the guidance when they are still young, they will be ready to handle the Internet all on their own when they are eighteen.

Which Social Media To Use?

bull horn social media

In the case of so many options for social media outlets, where should your young person spend his time to have the greatest impact? How do you link his talent interest to the right community?

My answer: the key to using social media effectively is to understand that social media is NOT a generic medium for broadcasting to the world, but rather each type of social media is best suited for particular types of communications and communities.

This means that if your son or daughter’s talent is primarily visual in nature, then you need a social media that is best suited for visual communication. Twitter in that case is very ill-suited to showing and sharing your knitting projects because the visual part is not its strength. Facebook is also ill-suited for knitting because it is very poor in helping you to connect with other expert knitters. But Flickr or Instagram for knitting is very good because it is very visual AND you connect to other people on the basis of shared interests, not on the basis of a shared past like Facebook.

On the other hand, if your young person is into a talent that is very time-sensitive and event oriented, such as running marathons or participating in kayak races, then Twitter is the ideal medium for communicating quickly within those expert communities with bare facts of statistics that can be read with mobile phones while on the go.

In almost all cases (I can’t think of any exception), a blog is an important component to creating a living portfolio of your child’s talent progress. Strictly speaking, a blog is not really a “social media” medium, but it feeds into that idea of communicating with your talent community. The main point of using social media and a blog is that your talent has something of value to communicate to particular communities.

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Connect with the Best in Your Generation

drone take my pic

I encourage you to activate the social media power in your child’s life. It is not for the sake of “hanging out” willy-nilly in a very wide world wide community, but it is for the sake of learning from great people in your child’s field of talent and for the sake of being encouraged by experts.

The benefit to using social media presumes that the purpose of your student’s talent is to gradually bring value to other people in their lives. If you cannot think of why your son or daughter could benefit from connecting online to other peers or mentors in their field of interest, then there is a good possibility that your young person has too much “hobby-ness” going on in their talent. Find a way to re-calibrate the hobby so that it becomes a valuable talent.

Where can you find individuals with whom your young person would want to stay in contact with via social media? An excellent to find them in the beginning, is by joining dedicated online communities around an aspect of the talent being developed. For example, if your daughter’s intention is to become one of the best household managers possible, then she should easily be able to outpace you in performance in her adult life if she taps into the various online communities where child rearing (for example RaisingGodlyTomatoes.com) and time management (for example GettingThingsDone.com) are discussed in great detail in closed forums. Other motivated individuals will easily be found in those forums and the conversations around the shared talent can naturally continue over time through the use of social media.

If your daughter has nothing worthy enough to share and compares notes with in conversation with peers or far-flung mentors online, then she is probably not pushing herself enough to find the latest tools and methods available to her generation. Healthy cooking alone has made strides in the last few years, in great part because of people like Wardee Harmon of GNOWFGLINS.com who have made advanced healthy cooking instruction so easily available online. And yes, you can connect with her directly online. She will not move to your street, nor you will find someone as good as her abilities living in your town that knows how to cook for families…but you can now peer into her kitchen thanks to the Internet.

Social media allows young serious and talented individuals to connect directly with other talented individuals around a focused interest. Do not let that opportunity for connecting with the best people in the country on that same narrow topic pass them up.

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Fandom Helps the Artist in Your Family

Do you know that “fandom” can be used by your artistically bent daughter to start showcasing her abilities?

Google+ is one of the hottest places today to find a fandom community around which your child can find a pre-disposed and hungry group of enthusiasts who cannot get enough of new artistic material. This is a far cry from trying to get immediate friends and relatives to share your daughter’s same excitement for both her art and her subject material. By interpreting something the fans will love to talk about and admire, your young talented person will have an opportunity to get much needed feedback as to how the current market is wanting to consume art. Your teenager will start developing a good sensitivity to the needs of others. At the same time it is a great way to gradually document an online portfolio that is exciting and interesting for future employers, art schools, and future clients. Imagine if your child could gradually build her portfolio in a manner similar to Karen Kavett , who started college at 16 and finished at 20 with a track record of excellence and focus around delivering on her art?

In her FAQ section about herself, Karen says that her interests started in her young teen years and that she is now in her early twenties. She describes herself as having multiple skills that make it hard for her to have a traditional label as just a “graphic designer.” It doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have a focus, it means that she is getting so good in her service area that she is transcending the standard artist descriptions. Her website and her blog IS her living resume that screams availability and competence. Your son or daughter also needs a blog so that he can blog to his talent right from the beginning.

Would you like your talented teenager to be able to jump-start to that type of focused blogging? Check out my e-course “Blog to Your Talent: Learn How to Showcase Your Talent in 42 lessons

Use Instagram for Talent Building

BladesofBelaq Instagram Profile

Instagram profile for my son’s bladesmithing account

Do you know how to use Instagram for talent building in your child’s life? Go to the TheWiredHomeschool blog and read the article on the benefits of using Instagram. It is a social media tool that has some unique benefits that can’t be duplicated on Facebook or Twitter. The more visual your child’s talent is, the more likely he will be able to leverage his social network connections within that field of talent. I encourage you to start up multiple Instagram accounts, one for each major sub-skill  your child is developing. Each major sub-skill will typically have a different community that your child can connect with and by being very narrowly focused, your child is more likely to really connect with other talented people.

Instagram, Community, and a Relative’s Offer

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Caleb leaving for Europe, but all-the-while remaining connected to his world-wide talent community.

Instagram is a popular social media tool in our household. We also use it so that my older children can network with other people in their respective fields of talent. In fact, one of my older boys has multiple Instagram accounts,  a different account for a different type of skill he is trying to develop.

This month, my 14 year old son Caleb, is on a trip to Europe, thanks to a kind invitation from relatives to tag along. He cashed out a portion of his savings for his plane ticket and has made plans to leverage this trip as an opportunity to meet face to face several European blade-smiths in their private workshops. In addition, because of his Instagram network of friends, old and young, who are interested in knife making and in other supporting skills such as the leather working for sheaths and the woodworking for handles, he is also sharing pictures from Europe with them related to their common interest.

When I peeked at Caleb’s Instagram feed today, he was happily sharing some pictures of wood burls he had spotted that he knew would please an expert in his online network. With social media, he is actively building his community and gaining many friends along the way without having to proverbially “run away and join the circus”. His talent community is cheering him along the way and he returns the love in kind. A life filled with real talent can be a life filled with joy.

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