Every day we see new information about social media marketing, networking and other new forms of marketing online. Just what is social media, and how are educators using it?

The online technologies and practices used to share opinions, ideas, experiences, perspectives and insights with other people, social media is changing the way we learn, teach, and interact with other people worldwide. People everywhere are having conversations online. The world of education is included; parents, teachers, lawmakers, and students alike. There is a new wave of influencers out there online, and it is powerful.

It all started to flourish around 2007 when social networks began to gain traction. Now memberships are in the hundreds of millions. For the latest trends authors like Paul Gillin began talking about these new influencers several years ago.

Here’s a quick rundown of a of the activities involved in social media:

1) Websites need to be properly optimized – so people can find them via search engines.
2) RSS feeds, or Really Simple Syndication – people can now publish online.
3) Optimized article submissions linking back to your website.
4) Blogs and Vlogs – to share content and videos (e.g. YouTube or Google Video.
5) Webcasts/Podcasts/Videocasts – Another way to share information from a desktop.
6) Social networks (MySpace, Flicker, Stumble Upon, etc.)
7) Socializing web content (tagging and bookmarking) – it’s a library online.
8) Communities online – niche groups according to interests and topics.

Many businesses are already using social media finding these benefits:63 percent are using social media to build and promote their brand;61 percent are using social media to improve communication and collaboration; and 58 percent are using social media to increase the engagement of consumers.

The implications of social media are huge, and in education it is very big. Blogging is an enjoyable way to share information, learn from others and also to make professional acquaintances. Podcasts or videos can help others learn anytime and from anywhere.

Younger people have adapted very quickly to the concept of social media. MySpace is a huge congregation of sharing among kids. Now Twitter is catching on.

Anyone can use social media tactics for one of the following goals:
1) Conversation Mining. Research and mine consumers in vertical and horizontal networks and communities.
2) Invite influencers (customers/teachers/parents) into the circle to learn and share.
3) Choose the tools. Assign people to watch and listen to online conversations about education.

Social media tactics in education provide the ability for virtual classes. There’s a group at Second Life called ‘Real Life Education in Second Life.’ It is made up of people who are wanting in the educational possibilities of the program. According to them, there are more than 400 universities and 4,500 educators participating in the Second Life Educators List (SLED). And this group is studying how to leverage the benefits of learning in a virtual world in order to assist the students of today.

Social media also allows students to interact across cultures, both directly and virtually. It also allows intercultural researchers to create new forms of study abroad via co-seminars helping to transform approaches to international education.

here are any social media networking sites for educators, networking and sharing information:
Education Futures – exploring the rise of innovative knowledge societies.
Twitter.com – a place where people can share in real time.
Facebook.com -(Sign up; review groups; use Friendster).
LinkedIn.com – ask “Questions” and “Answers” on Linked-In. Squidoo.com – a place to post and share topical information.
Gather.com – where you can post educational content
Skype – for instant messaging using audio/video.
Second City – for virtual teaching and conferences

Social media today is blending innovative technologies with social interaction, and the co-construction of new knowledge into popular social media outlets for online interaction that are centered around Web 2.0.