This is a simple 5-step recipe for using the leading social network services currently available. It's all in the preparation, once you get to step 5 you'll see how easy this really is, promise!
You're going to need a few ingredients:
1. User name - in most cases, it is highly recommended to adopt an anonymous identity, both to protect yourself and your friends or family, and to give you some separation between your private and "public" life. It is always a personal choice, but worth noting that doing the "big reveal" of your real identity after being anonymous is much easier than trying to sink into obscurity once your name is "out there". In any case, I suggest you run your name through a couple of search engines, and see what and who comes up. Bear in mind that FaceBook and some other sites will reject names that their software can recognise from the dictionary as "unlikely" - so calling yourself "Steering Committee" is out. I recommend going for the shortest possible name, as it will be more memorable, leave more of Twitter's 140 character limit for your message, and less likely to be spelled incorrectly.
Check to see if your chosen name is available as an email address (by trying to create a new email account) and also on the majority of social network sites - use http://namechk.com/ - before you commit.
There are no solid rules about which email service to use. I stick with Gmail for convenience (eg it links to YouTube, Picasa & Blogger) and out of habit, and would never use Yahoo or Hotmail as I know them to have proven less reliable in the past. However, in China and possibly some other countries, Gmail is regularly hacked. A less well-known but otherwise reliable email service might be a safer bet. If you or a friend has a secure web server with email then that would be preferable. I also use text encryption for personal messages or anything containing confidential or sensitive information. I haven't used encryption for tweets or blog posts yet but I am considering it for the future.
If you already have serious security concerns, make a second free email account to use as your "alternative" contact, which Gmail for example will ask for. Then delete that account and make another, changing it in your new main email (not your personal email). Do not give your personal email address to any service you intend to continue using even when initially signing up, especially not for email or FaceBook.
2. Avatar for Your Profile Picture- At least to begin with, think about selecting a simple, recognisable image that you can use on all your accounts. Again, take care with using your actual photograph, it will make you much easier to identify, and also for really determined counter-activists to clone. Later, you can toy with it all you like but when you start out, people need to see your pic to know it's "you". This is because people are far more likely to use visual clues than text. For the same reason, do not go with default avatars like the "Egg" on twitter - in general those are only used by spammers and you are likely to be ignored or even blocked! If you can't create your own picture, you can use an Avatar Generator.
3. Create your accounts ( use http://namechk.com/ for some other site suggestions )
Email first, then use that email for the rest:
FaceBook - Your shiny new email account will help you avoid the horrible invasiveness of FB and other applications wanting to "find your friends" for you
Twitter - You'll want to uncheck the "Tweet Location" box under Settings and also check the "HTTPS Only" box but don't check the "Protect my tweets" box or no one will be able to read what you post unless you grant them permission one by one. Do some reading and searching for lists of people to follow, and you might want to try using an application like
TweetDeck to access Twitter if you start engaging with a lot of people, because their own web front end for users is pretty but fairly basic.
FriendFeed A kind of love it or leave it alternative to Twitter
Tumblr Basic blogging - not much happens here, think of it as a back-up
Blogger Major blogging platform where you can connect with and follow other blogs
WordPress The other major blogging platform where you can connect with and follow other blogs
Flickr (use with caution - they are not always activist-friendly)
Vimeo Good insurance against videos being taken off YouTube unexpectedly
YouTube (use with caution - they are not always activist-friendly)
Posterous - do this last, because you are now going to add all your other sites to the Auto Post feature in Posterous
Why more than blog, image or video gallery? Because there are times when one service might reject your image or video content, or be temporarily unavailable, or could be blocked in some countries either short or long term, and also to give you more opportunity to spread your news. These risks make Twitter a single point of failure so I also have a site on http://status.net linked to my Twitter account and have usually found that when Twitter is having technical problems I can still post from there. go to https://global.status.net/main/register if you want to set this up..
4. Set up AutoPost
Sign in to Posterous and click on Manage, then on the AutoPost tab, and add each service you've signed up for, reading and following any instructions that appear as you add each one. if you run into difficulties with adding one or other service, leave it until you've had time to get more familiar with everything, then try searching for help on that service's website. you really should check out user guides and help for sites you sign up to, anyway.
If you don't like Posterous for some reason or just can't get on with it, take a look at Amplify.com, which offers pretty much the same features.
5. Start posting!
Go to your new email account and email your first post. If you want to add hashtags to the automatically generated tweet, make sure you include them in the Subject of the email along with the title using exactly this format ((tags:firsttag,secondtag)) - replace "firsttag,secondtag" with the actual tags you want to use and leave the brackets and that important bit at the start "tags:" as shown above.
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