Keeping Social Media in its Place

Over the last five years or so, there has been an explosion of social media offerings, and many have unique value. There is enough content and enough potential connections for most people to easily spend 40 hours a week maintaining/monitoring all of them.

The way I use these networks takes about 10-15 minutes a day and is more benefit than cost. On Facebook, I read my friend feed about three times a day, until I’ve read to where I left off. Anything that makes me laugh or that I particularly enjoy, I “like” or comment on. I should post more than I do, as often as 1-2 times per day. However, like everyone else, I lurk, reading far more than I write.

In order to have networks improve my life and not detract from them, I have developed some policies to keep them in their place and keep them optimized.

First, some general guidelines for how I manage my online presence:

  • No whining. If you must whine, do it to someone who cares about your venting and helps you feel better after getting it off your chest. If your social network is your support group, you’re in trouble.
  • Curate your posts as a log with a purpose.
  • Don’t clutter your network with off-purpose posts or irrelevant contacts.
  • Delete contacts who add clutter.

Twitter

Twitter is the most misunderstood social media channel.

Twitter is for hype. Share what you want people to know about you, and if they care, it is available to them. There is not an easier way to allow people to opt in to learning about you.

Essentially, it allows you to subscribe to a stream of communications from many different sources that do not need to be read. I can get up to 200 emails a day. Most are not just to me. Many are marketing communications. Twitter allows me to subscribe to the marketing messages I care about (buy.com/mwave/politicians) all in one feed, without worrying if I am reading all the messages, and now communications are no longer hitting my inbox.

Sure, people could tweet every time they go poop. They aren’t doing it in a way that I’d be interested in following. Unless it’s the co-worker prank where they tweet his toots.

A great aspect of Twitter is that it is so casual. Following/unfollowing people generally doesn’t require any reciprocation or permission.

Who/What I Follow:

  • Friends/Neighbors who I’m interested in following
  • Thought leaders – People who research and stay up on topics, and share highlights from their research and also their thoughts about topics
  • Funny things: the onion, shitmydadsays
  • Hot deals: MWave has hourly Specials. Buy.com highlights “What’s Shakin” items.
  • My elected leaders. Sheffie Kadane is merely squatting. Angela Hunt does it right, highlighting her actions and what is driving her policy decisions.

 Facebook

Facebook is probably over 50% of all social media traffic. When used correctly, it enhances real, offline relationships. It’s much easier to meet up with your friends and not have to go through the “so how have you been”, and cut straight to the “So how did your costume end up? Did that wig really stay on?” 

Facebook defaults to private and relationships are required to be reciprocated.

It extends your network by showing you content about your friends when friends that are not in common posts something about them. Because of this, you have to think of your least presentable state that you may ever be photographed in, like drunk at a costume party when you are in drag and hugging strangers. If you get tagged in someone’s picture, all your contacts will be pointed to that picture. Now, what contacts do you want to see you in that state?

That said, here are my Facebook policies:

  • I do not “friend” co-workers or clients. That’s what Linked-In is for. 
  • Drive traffic to my other networks: this blog, Flickr, anything else I want to promote
  • Think about my contacts and post things that I think they would be interested in.
  • Only friend people that I would want to sit with and have a conversation. Personal threshold: If I see them out, I would want to go talk to them, and if it was at a restaraunt, invite them to sit with me.

Linked-In

Linked-In is a professional networking site. It’s a good way to find people to hire, and find connections to jobs. It’s one of those places that are not that useful until you need it, and then it is indispensable.

There is almost no deterrant to growing a giant network.

Myspace

Myspace let their users ruin the presentation of Myspace. However, they did get the band presentation right, and still have a value there. Any band will have a Myspace page with concert dates, songs, news and pictures. The Polyphonic Spree has a hard to navigate official site and I get what I want from their Myspace, so will rarely go to their official site.

Others

For me, other social networks are

  • niche (goodreads)
  • an aggregator (tumblr, maybe)?
  • redundant: orkut, tribe.net…

The above categories are optional, and useful to some people, but will never have the universal applicability of Facebook/Twitter/Linked-In.

Ancedotes:

  • In early 2009, a web design company made huge buzz by giving away some computers for mentioning them in tweets. They took all tweets that mentioned them, and drew from that. They were one of the top trending topics for days and days, above Iran, which was having a huge feed due to their goofy election. Two of my contacts started cluttering up my Twitter feed with posts just to enter. Thankfully, I was able to unfollow them easily for a couple weeks until the marketing campaign ended. I told them that I was un-following them due to them spamming. After following them since, they have not done this again.
  • A colleague of mine who I am fond of sent me a Facebook friend request. I let him know that I don’t let work onto Facebook and wrote him a LinkedIn recommendation instead. He did not reciporcate the recommendation, but did write a nice note about understanding the different use cases.
  • I tweeted how a good use of Adobe Flash is one that doesn’t look like Flash, and referenced samsung.com. Within 30 minutes, SamsungUSA was following me on Twitter. That was cool.
  • Facebook allowed me to go see Mates of State with a friend who had a late cancellation.

Conclusion

Social networks require management and enforcement of policies to keep them from being valuable tools and keep you from turning into one.

I say things like “Did you hear Bob went to Germany?” and not “Did you see that Bob posted on Facebook pictures from his trip to Germany?”  I’d rather talk about my impressions of it with them than have them visit Bob’s page to see it for themselves.

Some people don’t seem to care when their virutal interactions actually get in the way of their real interactions. As for me, I aspire to make the most of real interactions, and therefore will wrap this up and go hang out with my in-laws.

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