Monday, 21 September 2009

S*cial St*ff

Have you been noticing the shift in social media and networking?  I've watched as (90's) the personal web page flourished and was replaced with blogs and content management system backed sites.  I watched as ICQ and MSN Messenger converged on blogs and suddenly became systems like Jaiku and Pownce and Twitter.

Blogs are still popular today, I skim over literally hundreds of articles every day.  But I'm seeing the popularity of blogs waning, and I can see why.  So why am I writing this in a blog article?  It's a slightly long story.  And that's part of the reason.

I've been noticing people whose status updates read something like "I really need to give [Twitter|Flickr|my blog] some attention."

And I've resisted the urge to say anything to those people, and just watched...  Some work it out, some don't.  For instance, I watch that person and see them tweet twice, then go silent on Twitter, their picture updates dry up on Flickr. And with that, their social network loses an arm or a leg.

The problem is that microblogging, photoblogging, videoblogging, podcasting, and lifestream apps are each just one facet of one's network.  And sites like Facebook are alluring because of their integrated approach, so many people end up on there, or on whatever the latest and greatest aggregated SN site is, and stop using the others, other than on a sporadic basis.  Now, I figure across all my social networks I might know 2,000 - 5,000 people.  Many of them are in multiple networks, because I (like the majority of us) look up the people we already know when we first join a new medium.  But quite a few - not so.   They are on my Twitter and my Flickr, but not on Facebook or Friendfeed or Plurk.

I find that I'm shunning the blogs I write, because a short paragraph and a link on FB is so much easier, and reaches about the same audience.  Most of the time that paragraph is too short to becoem a decent article, and too long to fit in Twitter's 140 character limit. Yet I want my friends on all the networks to see it.  What to do?

Disambiguate.  Long word, means don't let people guess who you are.  I'm "teddlesruss" across all my networks.  People can see my name and my avatar picture and they become familiar with that, no matter what site they find it on.  It's a bit like brand recognition.  If you can't get the exact same userID on every social networking site, consider either getting as close as you can to the same across all sites, or else perhaps re-branding yourself with a tag that you can use uniformly across all the sites.

If you're "ace@venturapetdetective.com" on one SN site and "JimboC" on another and "VenturaAce" on another, then I'm not likely to connect the dots without a great deal of help.

Integrate. I find that by letting my different updates on different sites also update the other sites, that informs a lot more of the people in my contacts lists.  There are mechanisms that let you rebroadcast your updates from one medium to the other.  You may need to look for them and figure them out, but it's worth it because your message will go out to more of the people you know. (Or are trying to reach - so there's your lead, Big Company Wanting To Use Social Networking To Our Advantage...)

I use a variety of inbuilt and third party tools to make sure my status updates propagate nicely.  Something to look out for is to avoid "loops" where a service (say, for example) tweets a status message, then posts a status update to facebook, which promptly publishes another tweet containing the exact same text.

Discriminate.  In the sense to discriminate between the purposes that different social networking tools are designed for.  Hence (finally!) the reason for this blog article.  Blogs are suited for longer articles where there's a lot of ground to cover.  My blog posts get picked up on facebook and posted as Notes.  People get the first few hundred characters, and can either read it as a note on Facebook, or follow the link here to the blog. Meanwhile, a third party app announces the blog post on Twitter, with as many characters as will fit.

And Friendfeed and so forth each have their own mechanisms to pick up the new blog article and publish it to my stream.  And so forth.

That leaves just one thing. Obviously I can't make a blog article shrink enough to fit in one tweet, and I don't want to publish the whole lot as a 140 character serialisation.  Luckily, the answer here is just plain good news writing.

Intrigue.  In the first 140 characters, you have to plant the hook you want, the one that will pull people into following the link in there. Good newspaper practice was to make the first paragraph the "hook," but now thanks to modern technology, we have considerably less space than that to make our pitch for attention...

- - -

And that's about it. Don't abandon Twitter or Flickr just because facebook has status updates and a photo album, don't forget that your videos should still end up on YouTube and Vimeo, that your Friendfeed friends who aren't on Twitter would still like to know if you published a blog article.  And try and work in each medium live and exclusively at least several times a week.


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