Read our January 2012 cover story about the changes to communication that social media has brought to local life.
Read about how the Advocate is using social media.
What’s a friend and a follow? Click here for a glossary of basic social media terminology.

Remember when mailing newsletters was the most efficient way to update your neighbors, members and customers? With a stamp and paper and everything?

Now it’s easier than ever to reach out, inform and stay connected, fast and free (or, at least, cheaper than printing and postage), and the options just keep coming. We featured Far North Dallas groups in our January cover story that use a variety of online media get out their messages and stay in front of their audiences, and your business or group could benefit, too.

If you’ve yet to delve into social media and other online tools, below is a general overview along with links to learn more. If you’re already a seasoned social media-ite and have extra tips, share them down below in the comments section.


Remember that you need a Facebook page, which is for businesses, celebrities, brands, organizations, causes, and public figures; not a Facebook profile, which is for regular people.

Facebook is king and is an important place to establish an online presence. Note: Having a page is almost as important as having a website, at least for the foreseeable future. It’s a flexible platform and helpful for companies, restaurants, artists, churches, clubs — just about any entity that wants to reach its members or a customer base. If you don’t have one yet, get started here.


This micro-blogging site is really pared down but still offers a great way for your followers to stay updated on specials, sales, meeting dates and times, and other quick items you need to share with your followers.

But you don’t only have to post housekeeping; share relevant quotes, daily highlights, blog links, photo uploads, and have short conversations with your followers, as long as it’s in 140 characters or fewer. A good example of a local business reaching out and interacting with followers? Cafe Brazil.

Twitter is flexible, simple and good for individuals and biz alike; get more information here on the latter.

If you have both a Facebook page and a Twitter profile, there are several services that help you easily manage both at the same time, like HootSuite.


Users check in to shops, restaurants, events and other locations with this app through the GPS function on their smartphones to let their friends know where they’re shopping and hanging out. It’s getting friendlier for businesses to use, too. For instance, you can create a Foursquare Special to entice nearby Foursquare users to choose your shop or eatery over another. Best for businesses like restaurants and retail.


Web users go to Yelp for basic but important information about restaurants and businesses, but the user reviews of these places are the big draw. Join the conversation and put your establishment’s best face forward with a Yelp business account.

Image-sharing apps

If you’re like us, you like looking at pictures. We use the iPhone app Instagram (coming to Android soon, too), but that’s just one option. Another smartphone app-based photo-sharing option is Picplz, and a popular web-based photo-sharing site is Flickr.

A photo-sharing profile is great for businesses with attractive product shots to show off, but that’s not the limit. Upload pics from events, conventions, meetings, but especially shots with a personal side like your organized-chaos of a desk, fellow colleagues enjoying a networking happy hour, an employee’s birthday cake from the office celebration.

Organizations and churches have a lot to share visually, too: Take pics at fundraisers, trips, special services and other events, or better yet — take pictures of the last-minute chaos of planning and set-up before the event.

You don’t have to be a professional photographer. Most smartphones now are equipped with cameras that are more than capable of grabbing a good, quick shot. And besides — candid, quirky and unpolished sometime make the best pictures, anyway.


Smartphone video capabilities have also come a long way. If you’ve got the interest and your business or organization involves a lot of action and movement, create a Youtube or Vimeo channel and capture a minute or two of video at a time to upload from your phone.


Just about everyone has an email address, so it’s hard to beat a good email newsletter to reach everyone on your list. Constant Contact, MailChimp, and Emma are popular free or low-cost options. This is a great way for neighborhood associations and school parent groups to stay updated. But for businesses, organizations or churches that seek to grow their base or ranks, remember: An opt-in email list, where your subscribers have chosen to receive your newsletter, as opposed to you buying or renting a list email addresses, is the best way to build a strong, clean list. With most newsletter services, that is the only way you can build a subscriber list, so don’t waste your money.

What does your neighborhood organization, house of worship, business, club or group use to keep connected? We’d love to hear about it; let us know below.