Beginner's guide to social networking

Energise your social web
Get more out of your social network with less effort

Can you imagine a time before social networks - a time before the latest news story broke on Twitter ahead of the major news outlets, and before we had the ability to set up events on Facebook?

It's even becoming tough for us to imagine the days when we followed our favourite bloggers through news readers and RSS feeds because, increasingly, Google+ does that job for us now.

As for LinkedIn, it's fast become the place to go to hear the latest career buzz, get a drop on jobs first and stay in touch with work colleagues, old and current. But, like the human brain, much of the potential of social networks goes unused.

There are several reasons for this. Twitter, Facebook and even newcomer Google+ add features all the time. Few are fully publicised, with tech savvy users latching on first through corporate blog posts and back channel rumour.

Then there's a category of features that would more properly be classed as workarounds - ways to add useful tool and functions that are otherwise missing from the site in question.

We've been using the big four social networks, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, since they launched, and have picked up some good habits and handy tricks along the way. In this feature, we want to pass them on to you.

Some are tweaks and some are tips, but many are simply examples of best practice. We talk about the ways you can make your social networking tools work for you, instead of being a slave to the status update or servant of the tweet.