For many of us, the words ‘social media’ are enough to make us run a mile – even if we’ve mastered most digital basics. You may feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of options that it can seem easier to just opt out. But we think it’s worth getting to grips with what’s what, so read on and have a go…

TWITTER

Shepherdess Amanda Owen, 41, lives in Yorkshire with her husband, Clive, and their eight children. She tweets under the name of YorkshireShepherdess.

‘People see farming, and agriculture generally, as very old-fashioned and stuck in its ways but that’s wrong. Twitter has a very big rural following because it can be quite isolating living out in the sticks, it’s also a great way for farmers to keep in touch with what’s going on.

‘I like the fact you are limited to 140 characters so you have to be short and sweet. I also like the visual aspect; a picture really can tell a thousand words. My aim is to give people a behind-the-scenes snapshot of what happens on a working farm, with all its ups and downs.

‘It’s a bit strange that I have so many followers because I’m very ordinary. I just happen to live in an extraordinary place, off the beaten track – and I’ve put myself onto the beaten track with Twitter. I always wish I’d given myself a bit more of an original name than YorkshireShepherdess. But I never had a great game plan: I basically spend the day with sheep and sometimes it’s nice to go on Twitter and have a conversation with people who do other things.’

What it’s good for: Keeping up with breaking news; hearing people’s views and connecting with people in similar fields; links to opinion pieces and recipes.

Get the most out of it: Search to find relevant hashtags – these are used to group conversations around a certain word or topic.

How to get more followers: Use your biography to define what you’ll mainly be talking about to attract people with similar interests. Use hashtags to attract people searching for particular themes.

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FACEBOOK

Maria McTigue lives in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, with her husband, Joe. They are both teachers at the international school and have two daughters.

 

‘Before we left England, I didn’t use Facebook at all. But then we both got a four-year teaching post in Egypt and it was the perfect way to stay in touch with family and friends. In both Egypt and Vietnam, where we now live, the postal system hasn’t really worked, which means that Facebook is even more important.

‘One of my sisters and her husband moved abroad and by looking at her feed, I could read little bits about their move progressing, which made me feel connected without necessarily speaking to her. Or I saw from photos on my brother’s feed that he was visiting my mother so I took the chance to Skype them together. And my family uses the group message function all the time – it’s free and means that my mum, sister and I can have a conversation together.

‘My mum, who is 70, really loves seeing what the girls are up to and seeing them grow. But I try not to overpost or overshare because I don’t want to be tedious. Facebook has become a part of our daily life. We also use it for local information, so it’s integrated us into our new community as well as keeping us in touch with our old one.’

What it’s good for: Keeping in touch with friends; sharing photos and information; group invitations.

Get the most out of it: Lots of people use it as a way to coordinate meeting with friends or finding out who’s going to an event. You can also hide or ‘unfriend’ people.

How to get more friends: View it as a way to gather all your friends under one roof. You can send friend invitations to up to 5,000 people – but they have to accept in order for you see their posts.

INSTAGRAM

Chef and writer Eleonora Galasso lives with her partner between Rome, Paris and London.

 

‘I started using Instagram a few years ago when I was a chef in Rome doing pop-up restaurants and cookery classes. Posting pictures of my food with a catchy caption was the perfect way to keep in touch with my clients.

‘Instagram is also a great way to connect with other people with shared interests. I got to know a woman called Nicolee, an American photographer based in Rome whose account, Cucina Vegetale, had a very loyal following of 100,000. We met for coffee and came up with the idea of a shared Instagram project. It was all about Rome and Italian cooking and food and we called it Romanity. Nicolee would take pictures of me in locations around Rome that told stories of historical Rome, incorporating food in a funny way.

‘That project led to me becoming an Instagram ‘suggested user’, so new users would be shown my profile. I developed the hashtag ‘food happiness’, which is now widely used. It also led to me writing my book, inspired by my Instagram feed.

‘Through Instagram I have collaborated with many brands. And if I visit a city then I will likely get in touch with a food-based Instagrammer who will show me around or I will cook for them, and from that new projects and friendships often arise. For me, Instagram is like another home; a sort of unending address book.’

What it’s good for: Photo sharing and photo editing (there are multiple filters you can use before publishing).

Get the most out of it: Hashtag your pictures, and be specific, to attract people with similar interests. Follow online retailers you like, who may share exclusive Instagram-only offers.

How to get more followers: Use a combination of niche and broad hashtags and ‘like’ other people’s.

PINTEREST

Kate Shooter runs an upcycling business called Humblesticks and lives in Monmouthshire with her husband and two young sons.

‘I heard about Pinterest from a friend with a similar interest in design and it sounded right up my street. I did a fine art degree and was a visual artist before having children so I loved the idea of collecting images of things I liked in an ordered way and also being able to share them.

‘I’ve always enjoyed renovating furniture and found objects and looking at the visual direction of my Pinterest pages gave me the confidence to see that I could turn my hobby into a design business.

‘I started Humblesticks in 2013 and it’s gone from strength to strength. When I’m starting a new Humblesticks project I do a lot of browsing to collect ideas. I tend to organise images into categories – like ‘colour’, ‘pattern’, and ‘fabric’ – so they’re easy to find.

‘I follow an eclectic mix of artists, DIY enthusiasts, interior designers, bloggers, makers and people with a similar aesthetic vision, which is very inspiring. And Pinterest has introduced me to other designers who I now chat to on a regular basis and even a collaboration with an online shop, so it’s been an invaluable tool as far as Humblesticks is concerned.’

What it’s good for: Pinterest helpful if you’re researching a project, from a wedding or a house renovation, to revamping your style or meal-planning. It’s all about inspiration.

Get the most out of it: Think of it as a virtual pinboard. Being as specific as possible when searching helps as it can be easy to get lost.

How to get more followers: Once you start following people they often follow back and you become part of a community of people who have similar interests.

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About the author

Victoria Young