Social Media – Getting Started Guide for Old People (30 and up)


Collage by Chris Bell, frame creative commons: Temari


Targeted at social-media novices 30 and up, here’s a getting-started guide for social media for us crotchety old folks who haven’t really dived in so far.

Short Version / Super Quickstart:

It’s worth trying out social media if only to see what all the rage is about. No guarantee you’ll “get-it.” It may not be your thing — sort of like how Justin Bieber may not be your idea of good music, but it’s at least satisfying to know what’s going on. That said, I’ve seen graphics  that show that Facebook’s largest population is 45-54 year olds, so maybe Facebook, at least, is more Rolling Stones than Ke$ha. Jump in. Give it a try. Here’s a start:

Get a Facebook Account

  1. Go to
  2. Give them your real name so others can find you (that’s the point).
  3. Tell Facebook a little about you. High School, College, age, all help make connections.
  4. Find your friends who are already on. FaceBook will step you through this. It wants you to make connections. Go for it. Make ’em. That’s the point.

Get a Twitter Account

Twitter is crazy popular but folks who don’t get it worry about inane posts such as “I’m getting a haircut. ”  That’s not really the case. Give it a try. Start out by reading, later consider tweeting:

  1. Go to
  2. Sign up with a handle/username — probably something recognizable by others in case you want to later choose to post/tweet.
  3. Find people you want to follow. Click “Who to Follow” at the top right and browse the categories. Once you find an account to follow, just click “follow” on the person’s twitter page. From now on, any posts/tweets from that person will appear on your twitter page. Do this for a few others and you’ve got your twitter feeds running well.
  4. Visit Twitter later and see what’s up.
  5. If you’re so inclined to up the ante a bit, post your status any time you’d like. Share your twitter name with your friends so they can follow you.

Live with those two big-players for a month or so. Visit the sites frequently to catch up. Visit more often if you would like. Ask yourself if you “get it.”  If not, keep trying. Connect to more people.

Be Smart

As a person new to social media, it’s easy to forget that you’re really not just sharing with people you know. At some point you may be followed or friended by folks you don’t know. Your privacy is dictated by what you share.

  1. Careful of what you share. Although there are decent privacy settings in Facebook, they can get reset to wide-open quite easily. You should assume that everything you put on the web will be found by your family, boss, mom, kids, neighbors, and strangers. Whatever info you share, do so with that in mind.
  2. Things you just shouldn’t share on Social Media sites:
    • address
    • phone numbers
    • names of other family members
    • personal or financial information
  3. Don’t sell out your friends. Facebook will ask you if you want to send your non-facebook friends an email inviting them to join. I suggest waiting on this move. I don’t think anyone likes form-letter invites to join in on something.

A Bit More – The Real Getting Started Guide:

What is Social Media?

Social Media is an umbrella term for web sites that let people write or upload things and share them with other people through the web site. You can share things like how you’re feeling or a funny photo and your friends can see it on the site. Or, you can pay attention

The Number of Sites Can be Overwhelming

A few years ago in the course of my work at Colorado Law, I saw a graphic that blew me away. It came to my attention from a presentation given by Gen-Y interns to their staid and presumably out-of-touch supervisors about how to get smart kids being interested in NASA again. The graphic was about Web2.0 technology and sites they used on a daily basis. The crazy part for me is how many sites there were and how many I wasn’t using:

Source of the above graphic: I’ve tried to find it elsewhere to give appropriate credit, but I couldn’t find it. If I later find the reference, I’ll update it.

Achieving the same overwhelming effect several years later, here’s a 2010 infographic showing another crazy amount of social media sites — this time organized according to type:


As overwhelming and massive as these graphics show Social Media sites to be, you really don’t care about all the little or specialized social media sites. You’re not trying to be the first on them. You just care about the big ones. That means Facebook, Twitter, and maybe a few others.

Why Do It?

Not to get famous.

Not, as Descartes, to proclaim your existence by tweeting and updating your status on Facebook.

Everyone has their own goals, of course, but I suggest that you have one of two overarching reasons to jump into the social media world:

Reasonable Social Media Purpose 1:

See what it’s about; Make connections with existing friends and family; Even make new friends based on common interests.

Reasonable Social Media Purpose 2:

Follow through on a specific purpose such as promoting a restaurant, sharing information on a given topic, or another predictable and consistent message.

I’m sure there are other reasons, but the key here is that it is not a place to get famous or prove your existence. But it could be a place for targeted communications or connecting/reconnecting with friend and family.

No, let’s get to it. Get ready, I’m suggesting that you jump in and sign up right now. Here’s a quick guide:

The Big Ones

As described above in the super quick-start section, getting on Facebook and Twitter are really all you need to experience most of what Social Media has to offer.

Facebook – connect with friends, family, and people from your past

This is the #1 most popular web site in the world. People come to and they stick. There is a lot to do. The coolest part is connecting with folks you may have lost touch with or have common interests with. I have Facebook friends from high school and others who connect over mutual fan-worship of Poi Dog Pondering.

Twitter – Real-time News Feed from Folks All Over the World

This one is a bit harder to grasp, but I like to compare it with an old ticker tape machine where rich business men would watch news of stocks and perhaps other news as it rattled off the wire. Twitter can function in the same way. This is your live feed from people you find interesting talking about things you like. You never need to post anything to get a lot out of Twitter.  Use the “Who to Follow” link on the Twitter web site to choose a few people’s posts to monitor.

Once you get comfortable with watching Twitter feeds, you may want to expand or enhance your reach by starting to tweet yourself (quite easy, just do it). And if you like Twitter, as most people who use it do, look at the huge number of tools to enhance your experience in all sorts of ways.

I use HootSuite as recommended to me by Bill C. Berger and have been quite happy with it. It works on the iPhone and makes reading and posting quite easy. But HootSuite is just the beginning. Want to be overwhelmed by another infographic? Take a look at this amazing graphic of the Twitterverse.

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Quora – Ask Questions, Answer Questions, Read the Conversation

This is the trendy site of the moment. It’s the next big thing. Questions and answers. You can ask questions or answer them. You can follow questions or people. It’s really a terrific concept. Search questions, post your own questions, and because it’s trendy and folks are pouring in as members, your questions get answers. I asked “What makes a good IT department” and got several very helpful answers.

The Specialized Ones

Flickr – Post and share your photos. Find other photos.

This old-standard is really terrific for putting photos up for your friends and family to view. Flicker not only lets you share your photos and see others’ photos, but you can find lots of wonderful shots that you can use — just remember to check the copyright notice and look for Creative Commons.  Flickr also integrates with other sites quite well.

YouTube – Post and share your videos. Find other videos.

Most people think of YouTube as a place to watch funny videos. Well, I guess that’s mostly what it’s about. But you can treat YouTube as the Flickr for your videos. Sign in, create an account. Share away. Other can follow your YouTube “channel” so when you share your videos those following you will be notified.

FourSquare – Use GPS phone features to tell your Twitter Friends your location, play the FourSquare game

I should admit that I just don’t get FourSquare. I am not into announcing my location all the time on twitter. But some folks love it, and it was the big thing just a little while ago. The thing that does seem kind of fun is that you can “check in” from your favorite cafe location over and over and eventually be dubbed “king” of that location in the FourSquare game. Check it out or not.

The Ones You Can Ignore

LinkedIn – Business networking

I’m on LinkedIn, and while I do believe in the power of business contacts, I’m not sure if this accomplishes it. LinkedIn just feels not that worthwhile to me. I think this is mainly because there aren’t enough people on it. It doesn’t feel like a big deal. Still, it might be worth joining to see if there are connections that you can make worthwhile.

MySpace – Skip It, just use Facebook

‘nuf said.

Delicious – Social Bookmarking Site is Dead

I think Delicious is actually dead already — they’re pulling the plug on it soon. But I include it because I loved Delicious as a universal bookmark set. I didn’t care so much about sharing those bookmarks with others. I think that others may have felt the same thing. (By the way, for bookmarks I use XMarks now).

The Ones I Missed

What did I miss? Tell me in the comments below.

Back Ups – A Glorious Blog Post!

What is more exciting and cutting edge thLost in the excitement of backupsWhat is more exciting than talking about backups? If you said “Nothing!” you’re absolutely right! It is enthralling! Yippee! Here we go:

Short Version

  • Set up your backups to run automatically.
  • Do an Everything Backup. Back it up to an external hard disk (or two in rotation). Use Mac’s Time Machine or Windows 7’s Backup and Restore.
    • This allows you to recover from a broken hard drive or computer.
    • Such backups do not adequately protect your data for the long term since the backup programs may change.
  • Copy your data files to another location.
  • Windows and Mac both have very good mechanisms for the Everything Backup.
  • Get your data off site either via the cloud if it’s not too big, or by copying to another external hard disk that is stored elsewhere.

General Strategy

Whatever you do, it needs to be automatic. Work a bit at the beginning and then feel confident that you’re protected. If you need to press a button or remember something every day, your system will fail. We’re looking for a set-it and forget-it approach that you might check once or twice a month just to make sure things are going well. The routine is sort of like changing the oil in your car.

A full back up is successful if you can buy a brand new empty hard drive, or even a different computer and restore all of your data and programs to it from that backup copy. Having such a process in place will save days of work and frustration in getting everything installed and setup again in the event of a hard drive failure. Think of this approach as a creating a full copy of your computer and all of the applications and settings.

In addition to this full-fledged save-the-day backup copy of your computer and all of its programs and data, you should also have a separate approach to backing up your data. This is the stuff that, if lost, is gone forever. We’re talking about documents you write, family photos, etc. This is the work you produce. Think of this data-backup approach as storing copies of all of your hard work in a safe-deposit box so in a catastrophe, at least you haven’t lost your work.


The Everything Backup:

Get an external hard drive. This is your dedicated drive for backups.  Choose one that is at least as big as your computer’s hard drive. Attach it to your computer.  Now, set up your built-in backup program. There are instructions all over the web on how to do this, but here is a bit to get you started.

Mac – set up Time Machine:

  1. Apple menu > System Preferences, Time Machine.
  2. Slide the switch to ON.
  3. Click “Change Disk.”
  4. Choose a disk where backups will be stored, and click “Use for Backup.”
  5. Now go through the settings and make it just right. Set it up to back up once a day at a certain time of day.

Windows – set up Windows Backup:
(These steps assume you’ve upgraded to Windows 7 – which you should)

  1. Start > Control Panel > System and Maintenance > Back up and Restore
  2. Click Set up Backup and follow the on-screen prompts

Getting Fancy (not necessary for basic, good enough backups):

So, now you have a full back up on your external hard disk. Awesome. You’re home free. Call it done. Relax. Ahhhh. But, if you want to be extra super careful, you can also control for your backup disk being damaged. To do so, get a second external hard drive and alternate them. (At Colorado Law, we actually have 5 different disks in rotation, with at least one stored off-site at the Business School, but that may be overkill for your stuff). Or you could get a nifty device that has more than one hard drive. I have the Drobo at home and love it since it grows with me by just replacing hard drives, but it’s a little pricey at $500 without any drives – I got mine on a huge sale.

Risks of the Everything Backup: Progress Makes your backup unreadable

With the Everything Backup, we could replace our current computer and restore the backup to have all programs and data on the new one.  This is very helpful and will be your main tool if your hard drive dies. I used it just a week ago to great success and celebration after a hard drive crash. Back up programs work by making a complex databases of your files. If only a few things change on the next back up cycle, the database records just those few changes – very cool technology! But because it is this complex database, you can’t open up the backup file and in Explorer or Finder and grab your files. You need the program to restore your files from your backup. What will computers 10 years from now know about Mac OS X Time Machine or Windows 7 Backup and Restore? Nothing. They won’t care. They’ve moved on to dealing with holographic memory, flying cars, and 3D displays! Today’s complex database of your files will be impossible to get at without the help of a museum curator. You need a simple copy of your most precious files.

The Data Backup:

This is your most important information. But even with an everything backup it’s still important to protect your documents and files in another way as well. With cloud-based back up services, you’ll have the added benefit of accessing your files from other machines and the ability to share files with others.

Use Drop Box for a Reasonable Amount of Data

If you have just a couple gigabytes of data, use Drop Box. It’s free, syncs to any other computers you set up, and stores your files in the cloud. There’s no thinking about it. You just put your files in the drop box folder on your computer and it sends it up to the cloud.

Even if you have lots more, as I do, I suggest using Drop Box for your current work and your most important documents.

Look at Other Cloud Back Up Services If You Have a Bit More Data

This is going to cost you $5 to $20 per month for under 10 gigabytes of storage. Here are some popular ones:

JungleDisk – pay as you go easy online/cloud backup.

Mozy – One of the first and still very popular and quite reasonable in price.

iDrive – Cloud storage.

Windows Live Sky Drive – A whopping 25 Gigabytes for free. Backing up to it is not automatic though. You’ll need to do something manual to make it worthwhile.

If You Have Lots of Data, Just copy it to an External Hard Drive (or 2 in rotation)

If your data consists of documents and stuff you created by typing, you’ll be fine with the above services, but even 25 gigabytes isn’t enough when you count years of photos and videos among most important data. For this solution, services will cost too much. You have to go to the next best thing: I haven’t found anything better than a semi-manual external drive solution.

With this solution, we’re going old-school. We’re going to copy files from your normal storage location, presumably your internal hard disk, to an external hard disk … but we’re going to use software to do this automatically on a schedule. You still set it up and (almost) forget about it. On Windows and the Mac, you’re going to buy a piece of software that makes this job incredibly easy.

Also, with this solution, you can backup media files such as music. Just add your music folders to the backup routine, and they’re copied over too. A tip: Don’t get hung up on needing to back up your music files. You can always get those back. It’s not the same as your data. But if you have a nice big external hard drive and an easy way to copy the files, there’s no harm in doing so!

One key point: You are copying files directly to an external hard drive. This should be a different hard drive than the one you are using for your Everything Backup.

Windows – Use secondCopy

SecondCopy is an old horse, but it does its job so well that it’s the one to use. Set it up to copy everything from your data folder(s) to an external hard disk on a schedule: every night or so, or whenever you start up your computer, or both.  SecondCopy has some fancy features that will do things like delete a file on your external hard disk if you deleted it on your internal one. I say, skip those features and just do a simple copy.

Mac – use ChronoSync

ChronoSync is a very popular and easy tool for setting up file copies from one hard disk to another.


Rotate Your Drives and Store Some Off-Site

I talk about backing up your computer to an external drive for your Everything Backup and a different external hard drive for you Data Backup. But I really think you should have those drives in rotation with others that match. So now we’re up to 4 external hard drives, 2 connected to your machine at any time. I know this is starting to sound crazy, but what if your house burns down? You should have a copy of your data off-site. The easiest way to do this is to simply have matching hard drives and to switch them every week or so. Have a shelf at work or at a friend’s or relative’s house where you store drives. Every Wednesday, for instance, switch the drives out. Put tape or paint on them to determine which is which. If you buy matching drives, it’s really easy to unplug one drive and plug in another.

My Hope: You Really Do This

My laptop’s hard drive crashed last week. I survived for three days on just my iPhone. And I was calm because i knew that my data was safe. i had an Everything Backup, my most important files stored in the cloud with DropBox, and I even had a couple hard disks with all of my data. During the time i didn’t have my laptop, I still accessed a number of files via my data backups. No prob! My laptop came back with a new hard disk. I restored from my Everything Backup and was back and running. Ahh. I wish this same pleasant experience for you.

3 Days, No Laptop – Great Apps Make It Work


I just went three days without a laptop while it was is in for repair. I normally live on my laptop, but these three days weren’t so bad! The first two days were on the weekend, so I just wanted email and web which I could get from my kids’ computer via a web browser. The next day I managed to stay in my office all day , so the desktop computer worked for that.

As IT Director, I use My laptop all the time in meetings and consultations. I use it in personal life for note taking, the constant research the job requires, And general web/twitter/facebook browsing. But not for those 3 days! Instead, I used my iPhone. Here’s what I used:

iPhone Apps Used in my three days without a laptop:

    • Mail – no prob. I even wrote a couple lenghty ones (filled with typos, but I digress)


    • Calendar – no prob again. Just like email, my calendar is all tied in with Exchange at work so update something on the phone and it updates on my work calendar.  Exchange works similarly to Apple’s MobileMe account. Google Calendar is also a good option that gives you these features and more.


    • Evernote – Note taking and lookups – not as easy a typing a mile a minute, so I just reverted to shooting pictures of everything I could rather than writing things down. Visual notes — they work really well! I’m going to do it more.


    • LogmeIn Ignition – Remote connect/control computers at work and home. This was my crutch. If I really needed the power of a computer, I could use my phone to connect and control my work computer from my phone’s teeny screen. I did this twice and it worked like a charm both times. LogMeIn is awesome. There is a free version for comptuer to computer remote-control. Ignition is an expensive iPhone at, but I’ve found it very useful.


    • Docs2To – Edit a Word document – Docs2Go is the standard for this sort of thing. I think I used their software on the Palm way back when.


  • Reeder – absolutely wonderful RSS reader – I read lots of news via Google Reader. You can do this on the phone as Google Reader has a nice mobiel web site, but this Reeder app is really worth the $3. It’s my favorite new app.


A couple notes in conclusion:

1. I didn’t really go three days without a laptop. I borrowed one for day three. I love typing and iPhones stink at it.

2. My laptop’s hard drive crashed. It was a big deal, but I had good backups. Watch for an extensive post on backups in the next few days.

3. Android phones are very nice as well and can do everything I described in this post.

Grand Opening: A New Tech Advice and Info Blog

 Here’s how I think you should do a blog about all things technical:

  • Give clear information and advice on technology and computer issues.
  • Base advice on research and informed opinions.
  • Offer succinct information. Expand on it where needed.
  • Keep it light.

Why do this?

We get asked questions all the time. Why not share the answers with a wider audience?

Aren’t there competitors out there? Does the world need another blog about technology?

The web is full of geeks and opinions. We hope, though, that this is a good place for friendly, easy-to-understand information that may make your life with technology a little easier.

Is this for Casual Technology Users Only?

Not at all! Certainly some posts will be strictly for beginners, but others will Look at the links on the left under “You Are…” Some posts here are for those who are gung-ho technology buffs. Others are for folks who just want the basics. And others are squarely in the middle. The tone in all cases though, is that you don’t have to love computers. We’ll do that part for you.

We are:

Chris Bell

Chris is the Director of Information Technology at the University of Colorado Law School. An English major with an MS in Higher Education Administration, he is an accidental techy. Before coming to Colorado Law, he spent 13 years as a Technical Lead, Developer and a Chief Operating Officer of a small software and training company. Way back when, he also was a semiprofessional comedian having opened for the now-kinda-famous including Rosanne, Paula Poundstone, and Judy Tenuta among many others.

If there’s just Chris, why all these “we” references?

Only because we, er I, anticipate that there will be guest bloggers as the site develops. Once that happens, we will all be happy.

(A version of this post is on our “what is this site” link as well)