Brad Rourke's Blog

Entries categorized as ‘social networks’

Would You Attend a Bootcamp to Get Online?

May 22, 2010 · Leave a Comment

Lately I have been considering developing a one-day (or perhaps half-day) “boot camp” for people who are interested in getting their online lives set up. This would be a session for people who have no online presence, or who have one but aren’t happy with it.

My Mode of Transport by Flickr user Jim Legans, Jr.

"My Mode of Transport" by Flickr user Jim Legans, Jr.

At the end of the day, participants would have a fully set-up and tweaked set of online “identities” and would have a clear sense of how to go about using these tools.

You could walk in with nothing, and walk out with a complete online presence.

(Or, you could walk in with an online presence, and walk out with a cohesive strategy and set-up.)

So far, I’ve been thinking that this is what would go into it:

  • OMG I’m Lost: What matters, what doesn’t
  • Get Ready: Planning out your system
  • Your Assets: Preparing materials for your online identity
  • Core Work: Your blog
  • The Big Two: Facebook and Twitter
  • Don’t Stop Yet: Other social media identities
  • The System: Connecting everything up
  • The Back End: Monitoring and maintenance
  • Now What? Daily workflow and strategy

My question: Is this something you would be interested in? What value would it have for you? Let me know in the comments!

Why am I asking this? It’s exactly the kind of thing people ask me about more and more. As it becomes clear to people that they need to have a serious online presence, they feel a sense of urgency. The early adopters have already acted, but now the rest of the world knows they need to jump in!

I do know a little bit about this — especially when it comes to personal branding and online presence, but also when it comes to nonprofit organizations. I’ve been blogging since before the word was coined. I’ve initiated and been architect of a number of online and interactive products such as Everyday Democracy’s Issue Guide Exchange, the launch the Institute for Global Ethics’ renowned Ethics Newsline newsletter (we called it Business Ethics Newsline back then), Rockville Central (a hyperlocal news source and top five local blog in Maryland), and more.

Bottom line: I’ve been at this for a long time and I’ve got a lot of lessons. I would love to share what I’ve learned with folks.

Are you interested? If there is enough interest, I’ll think about setting it up!

Categories: social networks
Tagged:

Some Contrarian Bullets

May 12, 2010 · 2 Comments

Just a few contrarian bullets . . . thoughts, complaints, and predictions:

  • There is a difference between a “brand” and a “label” — many label when they think they are branding.
  • There is a difference between “being online” and “having a brand.”
  • Young professionals tend to overvalue their intelligence, and undervalue others’ experience.
  • Few people want to have a “conversation” with a business or institution.
  • Twitter will fizzle out because it requires too much insider knowledge (e.g., using the @ sign to address people), but it may remain a useful platform to publish into other streams.
  • URL shorteners must go away, they are an open door to abuse and rely too heavily on user’s good will.
  • MySpace should not be counted out, if only because Rupert Murdoch knows how to make money.
  • Now that it includes just about everything, I would pay a yearly fee for Facebook.
  • AOL was ahead of its time and could have been Facebook.
  • Facebook does, however, need to fix its email system.
  • Much as I am a fanboy, I can’t imagine Google succeeding at anything in the social space.
  • In five years, geeks will say, “Remember Wave?”
  • Linux will always be the future of operating systems.
  • The government will try to regulate Facebook like a utility.
  • Too often, leaders address poor execution with new systems (e.g., the “Homeland Security” department).
  • Many organizations do not need to exist in their present form.
  • We will look back on the oughties as “the decade of the police procedural.”

Got a contrarian bullet? Let me know in the comments!

Categories: contrarian · social networks
Tagged:

Are you going to turn off your Facebook? Not me.

May 11, 2010 · 2 Comments

A lot of my friends are complaining about some of the recent changes Facebook has made to their terms of service and their privacy policies. People are upset that the changes were rolled out in an opt-out way. That is, you had to take a specific action to get out of the changes.

This has got a number of folks saying they are going to delete their Facebook accounts. Me? I am not planning on doing that — and not just because I happen to like Facebook. It’s because I find Facebook essential.

And, when you get down to it, I think a lot of people feel the same way. Here’s why:

Categories: social networks

My Three Dashboards

April 20, 2010 · Leave a Comment

Over the last few years, like many Internet users, my day-to-day online life has coalesced around three methods of interacting with the world. I’ve developed three “dashboards,” if you will, that each work within a different activity context. Throughout the day, I am constantly shifting from one dashboard to the other. They are separate in important ways, but at the same time, they all work together.

mini cooper dashboard by Flickr user w00kie

mini cooper dashboard by Flickr user w00kie

This system hasn’t developed because of any special planning on my part. It’s just how things have shaken out. But, looking at other people’s online activity, I know it is common and it has important implications for people who make decisions about their own organization’s online presence.

Three Dashboards

My three dashboards are: 1) My email reader; 2) My social media stream; and 3) My RSS reader.

Email. This is the dashboard that has the most power, because it is the most intrusive and demands the most. Email is where I receive messages from other people that I need to act upon, or respond to. It is where messages specifically for me appear. It’s almost a “to-do” list.

Social Media Stream. I am active on Facebook and Twitter, under multiple accounts. I collect all these accounts into one place (I use Seesmic) and so I see all of the status updates of all my “friends” in one long stream. What do I use this dashboard for? To keep up on what people are up to and what they feel is important to share. This is an important source of unexpected information, as well as an important way to maintain loose connections.

RSS Reader. Time was when I would surf around the Web, to a handful of favored sites, mostly newspapers and news aggregators. The advent of RSS (which stand for Really Simple Syndication) changed all that. Now I am able to grab the content of all of those sites and have each item appear like a message, as part of a stream. I use my RSS reader (I use Google Reader) to keep up on “news,” and also to keep up on friends’ blogs, possible new business postings, and to monitor my various brands (by setting up Google alerts for various search terms).

I ordered the above dashboards in descending order of . . . well, I guess “intimacy” is the word. Send me an email and if I know you I am for sure going to read it. (Although I have strong spam filters and a fast delete trigger if it looks like something unimportant.) I care about my social media stream but the connections are looser. There is no obligation to read every last thing everyone posts, but if I don’t keep up I feel like I am out of touch with the folks who matter to me. Finally, the RSS reader is like my newspaper. If I miss it for a few days it is not the end of the world and when I come back I can mark everything new as “read” without feeling like I am necessarily dissing someone.

The Line Between the Inbox and the Stream

I have written before about how much of our online lives has shifted from being driven by an Inbox to being driven by the Stream. Note that the social media and RSS dashboards are both Streams — which means that not everything necessarily gets read and acted upon. The Inbox, on the other hand, carries with it the assumption that everything in it must get processed in some way.

One consequence of this is that I am trying hard to make sure that only must-process things appear in my Inbox, by shifting subscriptions (for instance) to RSS or deleting them entirely and relying on the fact that interesting items will naturally surface in my social stream.

Lessons for Leaders

My own choices about what is important — what belongs on which dashboard — are not the same as yours. So your organization needs to make sure it is easy for your content to be ported into all three dashboard types. You need an “email” button, a “share” button, and an “rss subscribe” button.

In fact, this article was spurred by a conversation with someone about their desire to add a “subscribe by email” button to their blog. Me, I don’t want to use my Inbox dashboard that way. Others, though, have a few things that they want to make sure they see and so they want them delivered to their email. So it is imporant to make sure you are covered.

Another lesson is that sharing is important. If your content cannot appear in one of these dashboard types (or all three), it can easily become less relevant. A good example is the Drudge Report. Back in 1998, when Matt Drudge broke the Monica Lewinsky scandal, people “surfed” for their news. They would go to websites that had news in order to get it. With the adventage of RSS, this is less common, yet (I believe for ad revenue reasons) the Drudge Report stubbornly refuses to implement and way to view content other than on the site. While it is by no means irrelevant, it has been eclipsed by a range of other, dashboard-friendly sites.

A third lesson is that people don’t want more dashboards. Many organizations, especially those with deep content, get the urge to create their own dashboard of sorts (remember the fad of everything being “my” this or “my” that?). That might have worked well two years ago, but now people have pretty much settled on their dashboards of choice, ignoring other offerings. Think again of the Drudge Report. It is actually a news dashboard, with pointers to other news articles. I now get the very same thing on my RSS reader, without having to go to the Drudge site. (For an important caveat to this lesson, see below.)

Limitations

Writing this, I can think of one blog that I religiously make sure hits my Inbox (not a Stream): Seth Godin’s blog. I see it every morning because I subscribed by email, and each time I think to switch reading methods, I hesitate. I don’t want to miss it — it is a “must-process” for me.

This illustrates one important thing to keep in mind about the three dashboards. Even for one user, the lines between the dashboards can blur. Try as I might to have some rigor about what goes into where, there is overlap. For instance, in addition to the Seth Godin example, there are elements of my social stream that make it into my Inbox, and I am loathe to change this. I still get Facebook notifications emailed to me — and each time I think about turning them off (because I check my social dashboard frequently enough that I shouldn’t need them in the Inbox) I stop myself. I want to make sure I see these interactions, so the dividing line gets blurred.

And one more limitation, or caveat, to this new dashboard regime. When I say that people don’t want “new” dashboards, I don’t mean that there is no room for innovation. Twitter, for instance, has become a key dashboard for many, many people and it did not exist a few years ago. Even though I myself lump it into a more generalized social stream, some people use it singularly as its own dashboard with attached ecosystem. So, if you are considering building a brand new dashboard, don’t be totally discouraged, just make sure it’s compelling!

Looking Forward: New Dashboards

No one knows what other information sources will rise to the level of being a dashboard. Seven years ago no one would have thought the social stream would be as important as it is. So I am hesitant to make any predictions.

However, I will make one. I think that location will develop into a dashboard. It will coexist with the social stream, but it will also be a separate dashboard — where (physically) are the people I care about? Where am I? Where do I like to go? Where do they go? This location-dashboard will be integrated tightly to mobile devices like smartphones (iPhone, Android, Palm) and slate computers (iPad).

This is an emerging space (e.g., Foursquare) and it may fizzle, but I do not believe it will.

Categories: social networks

Social Preening And The Fine Line Of Self Promotion

March 23, 2010 · Leave a Comment

As the status update (Twitter, Facebook) becomes more firmly embedded into people’s professional lives, it’s interesting to watch how different people make use of this tool differently. Some use it to share good work by others. Some use it to connect. Some use it to pass along aphorisms and motivational comments. Many people appear to have made a strategic decision that they will use their status updates to burnish their reputations and grow their “personal brand.”

Male Peacock With Feathers In Full Strut by Flickr user respres

Male Peacock With Feathers In Full Strut by Flickr user respres

This is understandable. Why spend time goofing around with social media unless there is a payoff? In fact, there isn’t a good reason, so it’s important to make sure you are meeting your goals. And one legitimate goal is personal brand building.

In the compressed, 140-character world of Twitter updates, every word (literally) counts. It makes sense to make sure each one is working for you. However, a word of caution: As more and more people enter the social media space, the rules and nuances shift, and you run the risk of backlash.

There’s a fine line between brand building and bragging.

#SXSW and #fakesxsw

Here’s a case in point about the backlash. The South By Southwest Interactive conference is a tech confab that runs just before the popular music and film festival in Austin. It’s a tech Mecca (and where Twitter got its biggest boost in 2007). Throughout the year, you saw a number of people adding the “#sxsw” hashtag to their Twitter updates as they talked about it — for instance, there was a period where people could vote on what panels they wanted to see at the conference so you’d see a lot of “Vote for my panel at #sxsw!” updates. The hashtag helps people find what they are looking for.

But it also serves a reputational purpose. It says, “Hey, everybody, guess what? I am going to South By Southwest!” Certainly, if I am going, I want people to know about it. But this year, with so many new users of Twitter — it seemed everyone was adding the hashtag, getting on the bandwagon. It became silly enough that a facetious anti-hashtag was born: #fakesxsw. The non-attenders began adding the antitag to tongue-in-cheek descriptions of panels that never existed.

The cool tag of 2009 became the wannabe tag of 2010. (And lest you think this is just me being cranky, I’m an offender myself — used the #sxsw hashtag to promote a panel I was trying to get accepted and used #fakesxsw to poke some fun at those who were attending.)

The lesson? Be judicious when latching onto popular and prestigious events. There’s a fine line between what will come off as legitimate discourse and just plain preening.

The Fine Line

That fine line is the one professionals who are using Twitter and Facebook have to walk all the time. You want people to know about the cool things you are doing, but you do not want to go overboard. No one likes a braggart — and the temptations are all around in Twitter and Facebook-land.

Here are just a few areas to watch.

  • Keynote. Are you giving a talk? You might be tempted to call it a “keynote.” Scanning people’s Twitter updates, you get the feeling that everyone’s “keynoting.” People are beginning to see through this, and it’s not so cool to be keynoting anymore. Save the term for when you really are keynoting — that is, opening or closing the main plenary session of your event.
  • RT @aplusk @me. Has someone praised you on Twitter? Or “retweeted” you? Is that someone influential? (@aplusk is Ashton Kutcher.) It’s quite tempting to retweet their update so everyone knows they noticed you. I’ve done it. One time Craig Newmark linked to one of my articles. I was excited and wanted to share. But it’s a fine line between sharing and looking silly.
  • False interactions. It’s also tempting to try to engage in conversation with the cool kids on Twitter, responding with “@” replies to their updates. “Hey @aplusk, I agree.” This applies to retweeting famous people too. If you really think you have something to add, then OK. But too much of this comes off as desperate.
  • Follower goals. If you are near some milestone in followers, it might seem like a great idea to let people know, and challenge them to get you “over the top.” “I’m at 498 followers — who will push me to 500?” Once in a great while, this can be a good idea. However, choose numbers that all would recognize as real milestones: 100, 1,000, 5,000. Doing this every hundred or two hundred followers is the opposite of cool.

I know there are lots more similar strategies. What are your favorite “self-promotion in disguise” Twitter  and Facebook techniques?

More important: How do you stay on the right side of the line? Let me know in the comments!

Categories: social networks

Facebook's Stream Moves Closer To The Inbox

January 19, 2010 · Leave a Comment

If you are a Facebook user, you may have noticed a recent, quiet change. When someone comments on one of your posts, links, or other content, you get an email, as you always have if you keep the default settings. Only now, you can reply to the comment simply by replying to the email.

Streaming by Flickr user makelessnoise

"Streaming" by Flickr user makelessnoise

This is an important change for Facebook, as it is an implicit acknowledgement that, while the Stream is an important place to share information, it is not the only place in which people want to share. Email remains, for just about everyone, the most indispensable communications tool. One of the pioneers of online civic engagement, Steven Clift, has long been almost a lone voice calling on organizations not to neglect their email strategy as they implement fancy social-networking strategies. He points out:

[N]ow that Facebook and Twitter have become so popular, they are now “streams” rather than reliable ways to reach the people who at one point said they wanted to “follow” you. People dip into the stream created by their friends and those they find interesting when they are thirsty
… often in their scarce idle time. They feel no obligation to drink from the end of the fire hose they have friended and followed.

He is absolutely right. This is the logical next step as people get used to “streams” as being a part of their digital life. In an earlier post, I’ve described a few of the nascent guidelines that people are beginning to follow when it comes to the Stream and the workplace:

  • When you are sharing something, if it is interesting but not critical, add it to the Stream (by sharing on Facebook or Twitter, for instance).
  • Don’t get upset if someone misses something you put in the Stream.
  • Try to reserve emails to people’s Inboxes for things you really need them to see or act on.

Facebook’s move to make elements of their Stream more usable form within email are thus a very good idea.

While I do not necessarily want to see every last thing all my friends and others have posted into the Stream, I do want to see if people are interacting with what I have posted or adding comments after me. Those actions are worth seeing in my Inbox and I do want to be able to act on them from within it.

Our workplace (and other) norms are shifting as we get used to the ubiquitous Streams in our lives. For instance, it used to be assumed that you saw all of your friends’ status updates. Now, as people have more friends and as the Facebook newsfeed has gotten a little more selective in what it shows, people have begun to call attention to the shared items they think are noteworthy. By the same token, more people are sharing ephemeral trivia in the Stream rather than clogging people’s Inboxes.

I wonder, in five years and some of these norms have established and settled, what they will be. I am also curious to see how pervasive the new norms will be — will Aunt Edna begin to use the Stream for LOLcats?

Only time will tell.

Categories: social networks

New eBook: How To Promote Your Blog On Twitter And Facebook

January 12, 2010 · 2 Comments

(Click here to purchase this eBook for just $9.95)
Add to Cart

Click the image to order

Click the image to order

If you are an author, or any kind of content creator, you need to look at social media as a series of channels through which you can do promotion. Social media will not do your work for you. It’s really just acommunications mechanism.

You can’t just “Tweet” your blog post and have it “go viral” and then sit back and watch your traffic counters start spinning.

You need to have a plan.

But there is good news:

If you are willing to do a small amount of work in building good habits, social media will help you amplify the reach of your work and position you for the most exposure.

Over the years I have written many how-tos and tutorials on how to do various things in social media. Now I have revealed my day-to-day social media practices and created a new eBook for just $9.95 that describes it all step-by-step.

Here’s a description:

The tips in this eBook are based on long, hard experience. I am using the well-respected e-Junkie system to handle fulfillment, and payment is through PayPal. All very smooth. I am a real person, I am not selling a get-rich-quick scheme, and I am not overpromising.

A lot of people ask me for advice in promoting their work in social media. Sometimes, it’s is pretty clear that people really are just looking for a magic bullet – they want something or someone else besides them to do their promotion for them. This eBook is not that. It is a daily plan of action with the exact steps you need to take.

Follow these steps and you will have good basic social media work habits . . . where you go from there is up to you!

Just click here to order:

Add to Cart

Thanks so much.

Categories: reports · social networks

How I Use Different Social Media Services

January 5, 2010 · 4 Comments

blob_marketing

A number of people have asked me lately to help them “figure out” social media. One problem with that is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Social media is really a dynamic ecosystem that contains many, many disparate parts. Some are interconnected and others are more standalone. The key, I think, is to figure out what your overall goal is and then try to make each part add up to the whole.

I am pretty intentional about how I use each of my social media channels, though I try to leave a lot of room for experimentation and change. (For instance, the way I use Twitter has changed from entirely personal to a mix of professional-personal). I try to always know why I am sharing something, where it is going, and how.

If you follow me in more than one channel, you may not necessarily see the background structure – it may seem haphazard. Even that is by design! It is all part of my Blob Marketing theory.

I thought one good way of explaining it all would be to catalog all my main social media outlets and talk about how I view them, what I use them for, and how they connect with other parts.

This list is incomplete, I am certain I will think of new connections between content areas that did not come to mind as I first wrote this. However, these are the essential items.

Think about your own social media footprint. What does it consist of? How do you use each piece? How are they connected? How intentional are you as you work it day-in, day-out?

My Blog – Main, daily source of all my key content

Orientation: More professional than personal

What I use it for:

  • Post daily articles (when I can manage it) containing thoughts on public life, leadership, new media, ethics
  • Main source of personal branding material
  • Archive for key ideas

How it connects with other channels:

  • I use Twitterfeed to automatically turn each blog post into a Twitter update
  • I use Networked Blogs to automatically pull each blog post into my Facebook Public Profile
  • I send a weekly, manually crafted email to a subscriber list using Emma for the mailing services
  • I use LoudTwitter to automatically turn each days’ batch of Twitter updates into a blog post
  • RSS feed
  • Use widgets to link to Facebook Public Profile, encourage email list signup, link to recent Twitter updates, link to friends’ blogs

Twitter – My chief day-to-day content stream and publishing infrastructure

Orientation: Mostly professional with some personal mixed in

What I use it for:

  • Sharing items of interest with colleagues
  • Sharing work of (and items found by) colleagues
  • Finding news and current events of interest
  • Watercooler chat with colleagues
  • Promote my own content
  • Use as a mechanism for getting content from one place to another

How it connects with other channels:

  • I use Twitterfeed to automatically pull my blog posts into Twitter
  • I use Selective Tweets to send some Twitter updates to my Facebook Profile
  • I use Twittercounter to keep track of some basic metrics (followers / following, etc.)

Facebook Profile – To get to know me on a more personal basis

Orientation: Much more personal than professional

What I use it for:

  • Share news and items of interest that don’t have a professional component
  • Keep up with family and friends
  • Update family and friends on what’s going on
  • Goof around
  • Share personal goals and accountability statements (e.g., personal plans and objectives)

How it connects with other channels:

  • Items posted using Posterous get pulled in automatically
  • I use Selective Tweets to publish some Twitter updates to my status
  • I manually share some of my blog posts using Facebook’s “share” feature

Facebook Public Page – My main public presence on Facebook

Orientation: Almost entirely professional

What I use it for:

  • Professional branding within the Facebook space
  • A way for people in Facebook to connect to me whom I don’t necessarily know
  • A place to share items of interest as an alternative to Twitter

How it connects with other channels:

  • I use Networked Blogs to automatically pull in blog posts into my Public Page
  • I occasionally will take a link I shared on Twitter and share it to my Facebook Public Page

Posterous – The spot where I host my fun and lighthearted resources

Orientation: Mostly personal

What I use it for:

  • Because it is so easy to post to, I use it as the main spot for my fun on-the-go photos and videos
  • Sometimes I will post a brief note (e.g., a recipe)

How it connects with other channels:

  • All items posted on Posterous automatically get turned into a Twitter update and get shared in my Facebook Profile
  • Sometimes I will re-share a Posterous link by going back to the original Posterous post and grabbing the link again (most of the time I just let it run automatically though; that is its beauty)

Picasa – Main place for photos I create and that I plan to use elsewhere

Orientation: Slightly more professional than personal

What I use it for:

  • If I write a blog post for which I am creating a photo, I use Picasa to host the photo
  • I use Picasa’s free desktop software for lightweight image manipulation (brighten, resize, sharpen, etc.)

How it connects with other channels:

  • There are lots of ways to automatically pull Picasa contenti into other streams, but I keep it manual – I just use it as a hosting place for my images that I then manually grab for blog posts

Flickr – Resource for Creative Commons images for blog posts

Orientation: Mostly professional

What I use it for:

  • I almost solely use this as a source for images to accompany blog posts
  • I always use the Creative Commons search to find photos which it is OK to use

How it connects with other channels:

  • Image resource for blogs
  • I used to be more active, but have found Picasa to be easier for me to use for day-to-day image work. If I were more of a prosumer, I might think differently, as Flickr has excellent high-end capabilities

YouTube – Main place for hosting video

Orientation: Slightly more professional than personal

What I use it for:

  • Host videos I make and plan to embed in a blog post
  • Host videos I plan to share on Facebook
  • Keep up on what others are viewing
  • Research key elements of pop culture (bands, movies, lowbrow lifestyle)

How it connects with other channels:

  • Lots of ways to automatically connect, but I keep it manual and just use this as a hosting

Vimeo – Alternative video hosting spot

Orientation: Mostly professional

What I use it for:

  • I almost solely use it to host videos that are longer than 10 minutes (YouTube’s max)

How it connects with other channels:

  • This is just an archive; I manually pull from it for blog posts

LinkedIn – Background-level professional connection

Orientation: Almost entirely professional

What I use it for:

  • Means of staying connected to people who are clearly business colleagues
  • Keep tabs on a handful of subject groups (e.g., nonprofit strategic planning) in my field
  • I use this rarely, as most of my connections are also on Facebook and Twitter

How it connects with other channels:

  • Twitter updates automatically get pulled into my LinkedIn status
  • My blog posts automatically get pulled into my LinkedIn profile

De.licio.us – Research repository

Orientation: Almost entirely professional

What I use it for:

  • When collaborating on a project that involves research, I will use de.licio.us to tag links and organize them

How it connects with other channels:

  • I used to have an RSS feed of some of my de.licio.us links that I ran as a widget on my blog, but I don’t anymore

So, there you have it. I know that’s a long list. In fact, it was a nontrivial job to collect it!

I am not saying my way is the only way, or even the best way. It is the one that is working for me. There are different, and better ways to use some of the tools. For instance, Chris Brogan collects interesting social media “case studies” and collects them under one de.licio.us tag.

How do you use your various social media channels? Let me know in the comments!

Categories: social networks
Tagged:

Reviewing How I'm Doing With Twitter

December 22, 2009 · 3 Comments

I was just reviewing things as 2009 draws to a close. One thing I was curious about was my Twitter usage. Like many of my friends, 2009 marked a year of significant ramp-up with all forms of social media and especially Twitter, which I first started using in March 2007. So, how do things stack up?

First, I used Tweetstats and Twittercounter to get some basic analytics:

  • Average updates per day: 11.8 (pretty good)
  • Most updates in day: Friday, followed by Tuesday
  • Time of day with the most updates: 10am, followed by 5pm and 9am (I need to work on more early afternoon updates, when more people are using Twitter)
  • Perecentage of “retweets”: 3.8% (I really need to increase that)
  • Percentage of “@” replies: 17.3% (pretty good)
  • Followers: 1,360, was 1,202 three months ago (pretty good)
  • Twitter lists I’m on: 42

All in all, I am pretty happy with these numbers.

I do need to make progress on retweeting others’ material more, I was a bit disappointed to see such a low percentage. What does that mean? It means that, according to the analytics program, I do not share others’ work as much as I could. (Admittedly, it undercounts because it only counts instances of the phrase “RT” which is the convention on Twitter — but often I share material without using the RT term instead opting for “via” or “by” which I believe does not get counted.) As I have said many times, the essence of social media is sharing others’ work, so I need to work on that.

Tweetstats also gave me a rundown of the terms I use most often in my Twitter updates, which I plugged into Wordle to generate a nice word cloud. I was happy with what I saw:

What I Tweet About

What I Tweet About (click to enlarge)

See? The person I mention most is @andreajarrell — those who know me know why this is important! And those words “Thanks” and “Today” give me a nice sense of carpe diem.

Interested in getting ramped up yourself on Twitter? I have written a few how-to’s that might help:

  1. How to get set up
  2. Tips for newbies (what to do once you’re set up)
  3. Tips for intermediate users

Some tips appear on more than one list, as I wrote these all at different times.

How are you doing with your Twitter usage?

Categories: social networks

11 Things To Help You On Twitter

December 21, 2009 · 3 Comments

I have been working on some simple tools for nonprofits and other organizations to use to get set up with social media. (You’ll see more on that later.) As I do that, I’ve been making lists — checklists, resource lists, and more. Some of those seem like they might be useful to share on their own.

Twitter me this 119/365 by Flickr user SashaW

"Twitter me this 119/365" by Flickr user SashaW

Lots of organizations get set up with a Twitter account and then say, “Now what?” So here are eleven things your organization can do to use Twitter effectively. These aren’t necessarily “best practices” and they certainly aren’t the only things. But, if you are hitting these bases, you can be fairly confident that your Twitter account is at a minimum at “respectable beginner” stage. From there you can grow it even more.

So, without further ado:

  1. Use an avatar with a face or logo. This is the first and most important thing you can do once you sign up for Twitter. No one trusts, likes, or pays attention to a Twitter user who uses the stock “bird” image. Here’s what I mean. Use a logo or a head shot? It depends. If the account is the main account for the whole organizations, use its logo. If the account is for a manager of the organization, and there is also an organizational account, consider using a head shot. (Make sure the head shot has a “snapshot” feel and not a professional feel.)
  2. Create a Twitter background with key information including Twitter names of staff. Under settings/design you can upload an image to use as your background. This can be worthwhile. Use an inexpensive image editing program (like Paint Shop Pro) to create a background that includes key contact information. Amber Naslund (@ambercadabra) has a great example.
  3. Create a Twitter list for your organization. If there are other staffers at your organization, create a Twitter list that lists all of them. For instance, here is the list of all writers for the Chronicle of Philanthropy who have Twitter accounts. That does two things. First, it lets people know who’s in your organization. It also encourages the followers of those people to click on the list (“Huh, Joe Blow is on this new list. Who else is on it?”) and find your organization’s Twitter stream.
  4. Create and use a hashtag. A hashtag is just a word that begins with the pound sign: “#word.” In Twitter, people use them to mark subjects. For our blog about Rockville, MD, we created the #rkv tag to denote news about anything happening in (natch) Rockville. Now other people are using it too. This has created a community on Twitter, and also gives us something to monitor to find new and breaking information.
  5. Find and monitor relevant hashtags. By the same token, in your field there are probably already hashtags that others are using. (For instance, #philanthropy.) It is useful to monitor those to keep up on what others are talking about.
  6. Reply, retweet, answer – don’t just publish. Do not, do not, do not just use your Twitter account to publish blog posts or press releases. You will find it very difficult to gain followers that way. People want a human feel, they want interaction. Use the “@” symbol to reply to other Twitter users, add in light hearted comments here and there. “ReTweet” the posts of others. Social media rewards sharing, and it penalizes selfishness. How to retweet? Just add “RT @name” to the beginning of someone’s tweet!
  7. Make your tweets retweetable. It is to your benefit when others share your content. Make it easy on them! Make sure your updates use punchy headlines, and are no longer than 120 characters, to leave room for others to add their own info when retweeting.
  8. Create a spreadsheet to track over time, weekly or monthly: Followers, following, references, @replies, retweets. This can help you stay on track. It’s really easy to set up. It’s also useful to use Twittercounter to keep track of stats.
  9. Use Tweetgrid to monitor your organization and space. There are lots of monitoring tools available, but Tweetgrid is my favorite and it’s free. Dead simple to use. You pick your layout, and then put a search term into each window. Tweetgrid creates a little real-time search on that term. Look for mentions of your name, your competitors, and keywords related to your space. For instance, here’s a grid I set up for myself.
  10. Use keywords to decide whom to follow. Using the Tweetgrid you set up above, you can see who is using the terms you are searching on. Consider following them. Eventually, you will be following too many people to keep track of easily. Create Twitter lists of people who are the real influencers you need to watch.
  11. Use URL shorteners. When you share links in Twitter, don’t use the full link. Shorten it first by using bit.ly or another url shortener. Why? Two reasons. First, it saves space (see suggestion #7 above). But — just as important — people tend to frown on full links because they are the mark of a newbie.

Watch this space for more tips for other types of social media, as well as more information on my upcoming eBook wrapping it all up.

Categories: social networks