So many choices, but really, only a few matter.
Too much media? Maybe. More like too much noise and not enough sound.
Since I consume vast amounts of noise and sound, you might wonder what I consider to be the best media and how I take it all in. Or not.
Anyway, media power users have their own methods of choosing, consuming, and digesting media. It’s probably not the same for most people.
Here’s most people: I use Facebook. Also, I check my email. And if I’m savvier than 3/4’s of my friends I Twitter. And Skype to call the kids. Sometimes, if I remember, I use Foursquare. And if I’m kinda diligent, but if I’m the majority (92%) I’m not, I use LinkedIn.
Clearly, that’s not me. Please know that I haven’t actually audited my life. This is just a survey of how I perceive my own use. Reality might have different percents of time, but this is how my mind works when choosing my media.
So, most mornings, I check my email–usually in fear. I hate email. There’s too much of it and no matter how many Gmail filters I create, there’s too much crap. The “Mute” feature has been helpful for all the chains of email I get.
While I’m packing my kids lunches, getting them ready for school, I might check Twitter and fire off a couple RTs of good stories. Because of the news cycle, many journalists have their stories go up early on East Coast Time which is an hour before me. So, if I check things at 7 am my time, it’s still 8 on the East Coast. This is all done on my iPhone, unless I am printing homework or something for the kids at the computer.
Aside: I own a Mac i7, MacBook Air 11″, iPad 1.0, iPhone 4G.
By about 8 most mornings, I’m at my desk. I throw on my Microsoft LifeChat LX-3000 Headset
(doubles as back up microphone for podcasting–I’m looking to buy some sweet cans) and fire up Spotify. I don’t effectively use Spotify–a social music sharing app. I haven’t got my full music library uploaded from iTunes yet. It takes some time that I haven’t made for it. I have followed a couple friends who also use it, but haven’t explored their music choices nearly enough. I get into music ruts and play stuff to death depending on the mood I’m in. Still, Spotify has better sound quality than iTunes (yes, I can hear it). No, I don’t use a media player like this. I don’t even open iTunes, really, unless I want to buy something or upload something, etc.
A note about Spotify. Sometimes I spam my Facebook followers and sometimes, I don’t. Set your listening session to “private” if you don’t want to share it with Facebook, or just don’t link the two.
I check my email again.
I check Twitter again. Speaking of Twitter, I don’t use the native Twitter, I use old-school Tweetdeck v.038.1. No, I haven’t updated. Twitter, who now also owns Tweetdeck, seems intent on committing user interface suicide. They hate their users, especially their power users. I find this irritating. The new Tweetdeck is native and not based on Adobe Air. Air is definitely a resource hog. Still, I’ve heard nightmares about the new version. Other power users use Seesmic. Again, I got in a tech rut and like it.
For those who don’t follow too many people and who like seeing a stream of tweets, but like a pleasant UI, download Echofon Pro for your desktop.
It’s important to keep in mind that with all the customization, we’re limiting our own point of view. If keeping the big picture is your priority, make sure you follow diverse people and keep your interests broad. If you don’t care about having tunnel vision because your social media intake is purely for pleasure, just be self-aware. There’s lots you are not seeing.
Speaking of new versions that suck: Skype did the same thing with their upgrade. So, I roll old-school with Skype, too. I’m using Version 126.96.36.1991. Skype is a free internet-based phone and messaging app. I use it almost daily but almost exclusively for my podasts.
After email and Twitter, I hit Pinterest and reluctantly, Facebook (this is variable as I can go days without checking it). On Facebook, I’m still slowly whittling away at acquaintances and trying to only follow people I actually know. This has caused some heartburn, but when I had “friended” 5000 people, I was hating everyone and couldn’t keep up. Am I missing some networking opportunities? Maybe, but at this point, people can find me all sorts of places, so Facebook is going back to its intended purpose for me: keeping up with actual friends.
Pinterest I’m still exploring so I’m spending more time in it. I kind of use an emersion therapy on myself to learn the language of the new media. Pinterest speaks to my OCD, my desire for categorization, and my desire for more relevant search.
For everything but news, Pinterest beats Google and even Twitter by a mile. I don’t like Twitter’s search. Pinterest is visual–humans are visual. It is easier to find a product or something I’m interested in by scanning pictures. Now, my friend Robert Scoble says Storify is better. I haven’t used it yet, but have downloaded it and am starting to play, so I’ll let you know. Pinterest does have some limitations but that’s one of its strengths–simplicity.
If I have clients, I’m checking their stuff everywhere too and monitor it via Tweetdeck. There is no multi-user monitoring device for Facebook. That’s irritating. I’m doing word searches. I’m getting Google alerts. And of course, I’m also making phone calls. Phones: the original technological social media!
If I’m focusing on blogging, I write a blogpost. I use WordPress. I still have my Blogspot blog for backup. I have plugins for YouTube, Facebook and Pinterest. Writing takes uninterrupted time. I try to get my post done and then go check on socmedia stuff again.
If I see patients, well, everything is on hold until I’m not with them.
Google+, the socmedia that Twitter fans love to hate, is still my favorite social media to learn and grow as a person. It all depends on who is curating the content and because I’ve been choosy and kinda anal about how I organize the people I follow, Google+ continues to be my “breath of fresh air” social media platform. It is where I learn new things, therefore I love it.
When I go some place and happen to remember, I check into 4Square. Meh. I check in as I’m leaving because it’s all so stalkerish. It can be helpful when I travel, though. I just don’t care to know that someone is at CVS, nor do I care to share such mundane details.
Perhaps the biggest shift in my new media consumption is to ignore most blogs unless I find the information through another media like Twitter or Pinterest or more rarely, Facebook. I still use an RSS feeder and through Flipboard on my iPad, it’s truly an enjoyable experience. But really, I read blog posts via Twitter or not at all. I am too harried to go from site to site. Ben Domenech, Jim Geraghty (and of course mine) and a few others have good wrap up emails that make my life easier. Most of the time, I am beating Drudge now, in my own Twitter feed. So why go there?
After work, if I can wrest it from my youngest’s hands, I get on the iPad and read, play Words With Friends, play cards, and do home stuff like, and play with Pinterest more.
There is rarely a time when my phone, computer, or some form of tech isn’t with me. It’s simply integrated into my life. With family obligations pressing in at certain points and little time, Twitter because a way to stay involved and continue sharing news without a huge time commitment.
So there ya go. Twitter is easiest and most mobile, thus the ubiquity of my use. People ask how I can tweet so much. It’s everywhere with me and easy to use, so why not?
Google added it’s new social network to the interwebs two weeks ago and I considered writing a post that addresses only Google Plus. Then, I reconsidered. Google + needs to be talked about in the context of everything else out there.
First, a couple overarching principles for every social network:
1. Don’t be a jerk. It should go without saying, and yet…
2. Pretend you’re talking to a person face to face.
3. Nothing can ever be taken back ever. It’s the internet.
One big mistake politicians make is ignoring social media entirely.
A good politician will recognize that most public relations now is done through social media. That is, communication from the pol to his constituents happens on a much greater scale and more quickly and directly via social media. Yes, phone calls, hand shakes and kissing babies still matters and it matters a lot. But the fact is, politics is a lot like church: most folks hear the pastor give the sermon and never interact with him. There are a few true believers in the Amen Pew and they talk to everyone. Social media reaches the Amen Pew. Why wouldn’t a politician have a communications strategy for these true believers (and skeptics)? It’s really short-sighted and yet, many politicians still regulate their social media staff to an after-thought.
Here’s the perspective you should have on Social Media from Gary Vaynerchuk:
My suggestion? Integrate social media with communications. In fact, a comms director who is social media ignorant shouldn’t be a communications director. In the political space, a comms director who doesn’t know the major new media players like bloggers (at whatever level the politician is at) shouldn’t be employed, either.
Social media and new media relations isn’t magical, but it requires work just like it requires work to form relationships with journalists. The lines are blurring and journalism has become more democratic and diverse. A blog can be far more influential to the type of people a politician wants to reach to influence who will then influence the people he wants influenced.
Now, to the social networks.
I’m starting with Facebook because right now, it’s the juggernaut. Here’s a couple of rules.
1. Only follow close personal friends and family on your Facebook account.
This is yours. If you’re not into social media, don’t sweat it. Just don’t do it. There is no harm to not having a personal Facebook account. (This will cause some social media folks to howl, by the way, but my rationale is this: there are so many other social networks with which to engage people. A politician needs to have his real life too. Keep your FB account that life.)
2. Set up a public page aka Fan Page.
If you want this to grow, you have to feed it. Facebook pages are not magical wonderlands where followers just sprout out of nothing. Even the biggest named person has to give something to get something. The Fan Page is a good place to put ALL press releases. It is a good place to get feedback on certain pieces of legislation. It’s a good place to explain your rationale for a decision you’ve made.
3. Interact there.
Facebook has some nice tools for social engagement. You can create events there and schedule them that will invite your fans. You can do nice targeted advertising. You can have more inclusive and cohesive conversations then say Twitter.
All this said, Facebook is my least favorite social media application. Why? They don’t let you easily export your data. It’s clunky. But everyone is there.
Good example on Facebook: Sarah Palin.
1. Be honest about your account.
That is, if you have your own Twitter account, fine, but run it yourself. Don’t know about Twitter and don’t care? That’s okay. A Twitter account can be run by your comms director or whomever you trust, but make clear that the account is being run by that person … or a person other than you. You can also name the account @JoePoliticsNews or some such. That way, people know it’s about you but not necessary from you.
Governor Rick Perry of Texas, for example, has a bunch of accounts. His staff runs one. He has his personal account (puppies!). And there’s an election news one, etc. If you don’t know about Twitter, or are a communications person, follow his accounts to get a feel for how a major politician can use Twitter to interact.
Another example is Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, New Jersey. He interacts. So does Representative Thad McCotter of Michigan. These guys use Twitter and talk to their constituents and anyone else who will listen. There are quite a few pols who do this well.
2. Either follow everyone or follow no one.
Either follow the world (highly recommended) or follow no one. I strongly advise against following porn stars, hookers and underage girls. (You’d think some things don’t need to be spelled out and yet they do.) Twitter clients allow for lists so a politician or his staff can follow journalists and influencers without offending their constituents by not following them. So, my ultimate recommendation is to follow everyone. Just because you follow them all doesn’t mean you have to pay attention to them all. It’s just polite to be friendly.
3. There’s no wrong way to tweet. Oh wait, yes there is..
Here’s some guidelines: Be friendly and helpful but not overly personal. Boundary issues? Twitter is not for you. Be honest and engaging. Every once in a while get into conversations with folks. I’ve asked Representatives and Senators questions and Twitter gives them a good forum to give unspun answers. Sick of the media twisting your words or meaning? Well, judiciously use twitter to tell people what’s up. If you are inauthentic, Twitter will reveal you. It is a social medium. It is also a really good way to provide information and to be a news stream. Use it!
Intro: You’re asking, What the heck is Google + and why should I care? Google + is a brand new social network created by Google (duh). It is a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook in some ways and a completely new thing in others. Like Twitter as many people as want to can follow you — millions even. Like Facebook, you’re limited about who you can follow to 5,000 people. In addition, of those 5K people, you can organize these folks into circles. Just like real life, Google + allows you put people into categories and interact with them (and only them, if desired) in those circles.
Why do I love Google + for Politicians?
1. Google + lets you tailor messages to the people you want to reach.
Want to tell the whole world about your new legislation? Make that a “Public” message. Want to share a message with key activists, donors, etc? Create circles for them and communicate with them. Want to send out a press release? Create a circle for the press (I have one of about 500 people right now, myself and include bloggers in that circle, fyi) and send the press release that way. And guess what? Those people can communicate back with you easily.
2. Google + allows for this new thing called “Hangouts”.
Hangouts are like a Skype conversation but for up to (for now) 9 people. I say for now, because a business version of Google + is coming out and I’ll bet that they allow dozens if not hundreds of people on a Hangout. We’ll see. But for now, Hangouts would be a wonderful way for a politician to meet with his constituents without leaving the comfort of his office or home. You know those key activists you meet with weekly? How about having a Hangout? You know those donors in five different counties (states)? Meet in a Hangout. You know those key reporters who you want to talk to and don’t want to repeat yourself ten times? Have a Hangout and talk to them. Have a constituent group who is hopping mad about fill-in-the-blank and so much so you worry about your personal safety? Have a hangout and talk about it with people and be safe.
Details about a hangout. Google makes it so that whomever is talking has the camera on them. Anyone can share a YouTube. So, if you’re on the road and your campaign manager wants to show you the latest ad, he can. Links can be shared. The possibility for this tech and politicians is endless.
3. Google + allows for a great way to share extended thoughts.
More extensive than Twitter. Less static than Facebook. More privacy controls than all of the above. Google + has less limits and yet more controls. This is essential. Newt Gingrich has already had a hangout on Google +. Other politicians are jumping on and trying it out. Early adoption celebrities (who face many of the same security and need-to-connect-with-the-public issues) are really enjoying the medium.
All in all, though it’s early, I feel that Google + has the most to offer politicians. The short coming? While Facebook has 750 million people on it (600 million check it monthly anyway) and Twitter has around 60 million active users, Google + has probably around 15 million … after two weeks. It took Facebook and Twitter years to get that many folks. I predict serious growth right now. Google has 193 million users monthly (as of last November). That’s a lot of people. And even more use Google to search.
Google + integrates with other shared services as well. Unfortunately most government folks cannot use many of these tools, but for real life users they’re valuable and make Google products sticky.
There are other social media too.
Foursquare: Foursquare and Gowalla are location-based social media and useful for politicians who want to tell people where they are.
LinkedIn: Businesses and job seekers use LinkedIn. It’s the mature social network for business types. I haven’t seen a lot of political uses for it other than networking and following people important in the business world.
Are shaking hands, knocking on doors, kissing babies and taking pictures important? Yes. Absolutely. They’re essential especially for lesser known politicians.
Can social media make a huge different in a politician’s scope of influence, connection to constituents, and control of the message? Yes. A million times yes.
Whereas social media was a catch phrase a couple years ago, it’s real life, now. Companies are very effectively using Twitter, for example, to do consumer outreach and conduct customer service. Celebrities are very effectively using Fan groups on Facebook to give followers special deals.
There are so many innovative ways to use social media and yet, at its fundamental level, social media is all about a politician’s stock in trade: influence and talking to people.
Educate yourself. Need some help and training? Worried that the “social media expert” is hosing you? Email me at melissa.clouthier at gmail.com or call me at 713-306-8867.
Social media is a really fun, direct way to communicate from the comfort of your home and jammies. Why more politicians don’t embrace it, I don’t know. But it is a natural fit for the politics business and the innovations that are coming along will make it even easier to be more efficient with your politicking.
Hi Dear Readers!
I’m really excited to share a new venture with you. Over the weekend, Bill Dupray, Clyde Middleton and I rolled our blogging into one site called LibertyPundits.net. It’s a new kind of site which will include everything from politics to culture to religion to Tea Party news. Everything!
I hope you’ll follow my work over there. It’s going to be bigger and better than anything I could ever do alone. And I’ll highlight some posts in my Twitter feed–just to make it easier.
So, if you’re a blogger, I’d really appreciate a link to the site. We’re still working on our blogroll–it will be a very interesting way to do it. If you’re included, I think you’ll really like it.
Anyway, my website will now be a home where all my work will be fed through it. So, you’ll see the podcasts, posts and other content I create here, still, but it will look different once the site is redesigned.
Is Twitter trying to kill itself?
That’s the question I’m asking, because it sure seems like it. Here are a list of things I do not like about Twitter currently and many have to do with “innovations” meant to “help” and by “help”, I mean help Twitter not use as much bandwidth.
1. See Everything: Remember when you could see conversations with people even if you weren’t following both participants? I want that feature back, please. Make it something people can turn on and off. I found the best, most interesting people this way…by watching their conversations with other people. It’s a great way to learn, too.
2. Retweet: I read Evan’s rationalization. Here’s what he said:
If five people you follow retweet the same thing, you get five copies, which can be useful but it a lot of noise. This comes up even more in search. Popular users can get retweeted enough to saturate a search query.
This is a way, Evan, to ascertain the importance of a topic to people. I’m often shocked by what gets RT’d. In fact, some things turn into a trending topic because they touch a nerve. It is unpredictable. I don’t mind seeing 30 RT’s in my stream of the same thing. I like it. Now, I can see Twitter not liking it, because again, it takes up space. And this new innovation is all about saving space…for Twitter.
Then, Evan says this:
The other thing some people will not like is that, unlike organic RTs, there’s no way to annotate or leave your own comment when you retweet something with the new system.
This is a problem. Already, I have followers who think I agree with something because I RT it. Many times, I add a comment. It CAN get confusing. Whatever. People see the content morph and can jump in and question. It provokes conversation. And my comments, my take might make the RT relevant in a way that a random RT unannotated would not.
For example, a simple word | “Snort” after some stupid comment can indicate that this tweet is either stupid and/or ridiculous and/or funny. People usually get which.
Again, I only see Twitter benefiting from this feature, not the users. It makes streams less cloggy. Okay, fine. You know what? Make these “features” opt-in/out.
Twitter can be a messy, difficult to follow mish-mash. Oh well. It’s social. It’s conversation where a person is going in and out of the stream. What’s wrong with that? Why does it have to be “clean”?
Some of the fluff is dealt with in 3rd party Apps anyway. A person can filter. And Evan says that a person will only get the info they want. But that’s just it. People can follow the people they want who give the content they want or don’t want. Some is bunk, but every once in a while, there will be something really good. How do you control for that gem?
What I see Twitter doing is trying to take the humanity out of the Twitter–to make this social media less social and more pure information sharing. Yuck. I like Twitter because it’s like the best, hand picked group of friends I could ever want all sharing stuff but sometimes being amazingly juvenile (like the Star Wars Sex meme). That’s called being social and human. It’s fun.
Streamlining Twitter might be nicer for Twitter, taking less bandwidth and server space, but what of the user experience? I already don’t like missing so many conversations. What if I could just have a way to watch all conversations by the people I chose? What if I could RT w/o comment or with comment (tagged, for example) with a pop-out like the TwitPic–a cloud around the original comments with people’s comments?
The solution isn’t to pare information, it’s to make more information accessible. At least, that’s the solution I’d be shooting for.
I do believe Twitter’s Follow Friday tradition needs to be re-vamped to be relevant. Here’s the problem: People are creating too many tweets filled with “cool” people and clogging everyone’s streams with chum. That is, people have ceased paying attention to the vast numbers of the Follow Friday Tweets so they’re ceasing to be helpful.
In addition, with Twitter’s new “List” feature, people can just follow those who get listed and find that person’s favorites. I have lots of them for different reasons. And in my use of Twitter, while I follow many big name Twitterers I disregard lots of them because they are overrated and not very helpful, really.
What’s the solution? Continue Follow Friday, but everyone could choose one obscure awesome person that other people might not know. Tell people why this person is important to follow–give a personal endorsement. If a person can’t do that, if he just has too many people, create a list.
The internet ain’t no place for the innocent. It’s the wild west around these parts, with infrastructure still being built and social feedback loops yet to fully developed. There is little policing, few laws. At times, it can feel like an ominous town, with bad guys sizing you up from under their ten-gallon hat–just waiting for a moment of weakness.
Bad guys don’t have to be quick on the draw on the internet. They can be stupid, unemployed ner-do-wells with nothing better to do than sit around and hassle people. In fact, a big part of the discourse online is just that. People with too much time on their hands hassling people who actually work and produce something.
I have written before that the internet is a place to share information, not hide it, and I wanted to illustrate that with some examples:
First, the not-so-anonymous blogger. There are many bloggers out there who don a nom de plume to hide their identity. America has a very long history regarding pseudonyms. And many people use them online for professional reasons–they have a job or profession where it wouldn’t do to have their opinion known. But online anonymity is an illusion. A determined person or P.I. can find a persons true identity fairly easily.
Example 1: Congressional staffer boinking Congressmen and writing about it.
Example 2: Hacker terrorizing others. (He’s a professional, mind you, and STILL got caught.)
Example 3: All the anonymous asshats cyber stalking Governor Palin.
In all cases, the bloggers were smart. They knew the internet and they were exposed. Word to the wise. If you’re going to be anonymous, know that a controversial topic will likely uncover you.
Second, social media as a weapon. The above folks were using blogs rather destructively, but some anonymous bloggers are constructive and deserve anonymity. Still, it doesn’t take much to uncover someone. People can also use social media to destroy.
Danny Glover recounts how a not-so-sweet mommy blogger stomped her cyber feet:
Extortion has found its way into the blogosphere — and all for a pair of Crocs. A greedy “mommy blogger” at the recent BlogHer conference threatened to write something bad about the maker of Crocs if its representative didn’t find her a free pair of the comfy sandals.
No doubt about it, that’s low. As I see it, there would have been nothing wrong with said mommy blogger bemoaning her missed opportunity to get good swag at the conference. But threatening to go negative as a way to get a gift she clearly didn’t deserve is completely unethical.
The same is true for anyone who uses social media as a weapon. The blogosphere is an effective check against bad customer service, but customers who abuse it are as bad, or worse, than the companies who mistreat them.
It is as easy as a couple clicks to ruin a person’s reputation–or try to. While the vile creatures who spread false rumors and invective about Sarah Palin are now outed and exposed for frauds, Andrew Sullivan continues on his merry way after being as salacious and evil as his online equivalent Perez Hilton. Cruel language can be devastatingly effective as both of these rumor mongers have proven.
Finally, the internet world connects directly to the real world. It is the real world. The notion that there is a separation is an illusion. People assume that those online are somehow more trustworthy–or, that they’re so far away that even if they are kinda bad, they’re harmless. That is not true. Consider this:
U.K. insurance company, Legal & General, took a survey of 2,092 users of social networking Web sites. Almost four out of ten (38 percent) of those who use social media at places like Twitter or Facebook post their vacation plans. Potential burglars could find this information valuable in seeking targets of crime.
The report titled “The Digital Criminal,” said that criminals could obtain vital, personal information from online users of social media.
It is nigh to impossible to hide my own activities. Someone in my family inevitably gives it away. You’re in Michigan?! Where? Or, in the case of my Australia trip, my family didn’t have to write, tweet, Facebook or say anything. I live-tweeted the whole trip. Still, I try to not give away my activities–exact location. I try to have a house sitter. Those sorts of things to mitigate against the dangers.
The internet should be interacted with rationally. It isn’t a magical place. There are people on the ends of the intertubes. They can be bad, good and as mixed as a real life person can be. They are real live people. Even anonymously. Even remotely.
ugh. twitter is for twits, but only because of the fortuitous syllable synchronicity. In reality, it’s for self-absorbed douchebags. There have always been people who think they need to say every stupid thing that comes into their heads: now we have a means to broadcast it immediately to a group of other smug douchebags.
No one is that witty. No one has that many intelligent, important things to say. And I refuse to believe anyone is bettered by reading any of this useless tripe.
Thankfully, it’s a trope so stupid and useless it’s become risible and passe even as it’s booming. I give it another half a year before the sheer idiocy of “tweeting” your own deep thoughts incessantly is reduced to that circle of people who are oblivious to their own pathetic boobery and the well-deserved ridicule of the rest of us.
Blogging and commenting (not excluding this one) brought writing to it’s least well-thought out, unimportant and retarded level. Well, tweeting has managed to reduce writing to the cyber-equivalent of instantaneously disseminating your brain farts far and wee.
Anyone who sends out twitters is a pathetic douche. Anyone who willingly subjects themselves to twitters is a f*cking idiot.
Who is the bigger douche? The writer of the “retarded” post or the douche who comments on the douche-baggy post? One would think a non-douche bag would have more valuable time than to waste it on an unimportant and retarded blog post.
As to the substance, I recommend watching this video:
Like it or not, blogs and social media are here to stay–well, as long as there is electricity, anyway. And last I checked, there are douche bags in real life too, spewing all sorts of nonsense. They’re called co-workers, guys at the bar, and family members. At least on social media, you can filter and block them.
Many of you still don’t see the point of Twitter. This is why I Twitter: Imagine you could gather 200 of the smartest people in a room and they had access to areas of expertise you had no time or hope of gathering. Those people would sift through information and bring up the best stuff for you to know so you don’t have to do the grunt work. You don’t even have to use Google.
Twitter is like a human search engine. It’s opt in, which means you’re only hassled as much as you want to be and by whom you want to be hassled. Instead of computer metrics, you choose the brains who sift the information. And even more than that, you can become friends with the people sharing that information. It’s not just an information exchange, though it can be just that, it’s a social exchange of people pre-selected for interests that sync with yours.
Twitter: It’s time to do it. Here’s how:
Twitter (Released July 2009):
Mashable (Released Aug 2009):
DAG (Released Sept 2008, Revised + Expanded June 2009):
Start with DAG, first. That’s David All and he’s a conservative consultant in D.C.
Your avatar on Twitter and your picture on Facebook matter. People make judgments based on the image they see. Here are some common weird things people do:
1. You & a buddy: I have a new friend on Twitter. In his tiny avatar picture, he’s leaning against another guy. Finally, I asked him if the picture was of his life partner. He exclaimed, “uh, no!” Well, when you have a picture of you and a bud and it’s shrunk to a centimeter, people think….life partner.
2. You & your husband/wife: You’re married. You’re in a relationship. That’s nice. When a person puts their spouse in their picture, I immediately guess that either one member is insecure or the relationship is in trouble. Whatever. It’s an individual account, not a group account.
You & your kids: Cute. On Facebook not as big of a deal, but on Twitter, the picture is so tiny, my only question is why? It’s not your kid’s account. Soon, you’ll be talking about your kid, so we’ll know you have a kid.
Your kid: Um, why would you use your kid’s picture on Facebook or Twitter? It’s confusing. When the face goes by in the stream, no one knows who is talking. It takes extra time. [Corollary here: Stupid answering machine messages by kids should be obliterated from the universe.]
Your dog: See above.
You when you were 17: Yeah, I looked better back then too. No, I don’t look the same. Neither do you. It’s no fun to have a guessing game–unless there’s a Twitter or FB guessing game as has happened on ’70s and ’80s day. Once again, it wastes time.
Cartoon characters: You’re not Superman. You’re just not.
Famous people: You’re also not Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan or Barack Obama, unless you are, which in that case, it’s okay to use that picture.
What to use:
1. Nice, clear, close up picture.
2. An iconic image associated with you (if you’re anonymously blogging or have an anonymous online presence).
That’s it. Are you hideous? Unlikely. Will people respond better to you if you have a nice picture? Yes. Images are stored in a different part of the brain and a good image will help people identify you.
If you want to be cutesy and obscure, use MySpace. On Facebook and Twitter, clarity is prized and will get you more followers, friends, and more networking connections. The internet is a literal place.
Some of you people still don’t think Twitter is useful. You’re wrong. I’ll write a post regarding the purpose of Twitter later. This post is for those using Twitter and wondering how to organically grow their influence. Here’s five ways to do it:
Interest: Boring is bad. I know that Twitter asks “What are you doing right now?”, but really, besides your mother, no one else cares. That is, no one cares unless you say what you’re doing in an interesting way. James Lileks [@Lileks] is a pro at this. Pithy and incisive, he shares familial travails and makes it interesting. Entertaining and funny is good. Here’s the thing, many people need their day brightened. They don’t need a Debbie Downer–they probably have someone in that role, thanks. People need more fun. Give it to them.
Inform: Share stuff that will help people have a better life. Share it within your interest and outside your interests. Sometimes I pass along things that are boring to me, but I know will be helpful to other people. Tell people clearly in your bio on Twitter what interests you. Make a point of giving information in those areas. I try to deliver on the promise of what I represent. That way, people can’t get mad either that I’m falsely advertising…’cuz I’m not. Mike Lane [@mlane] is one of my happy Twitter accidents. He happens to have a Twitter ID close to another friend of mine Moe Lane [@moelane]. Both men are fantastic Twitterers. Mike, though, brings it when it comes to informative. He is a Unix programmer. Do I care about Unix? No, I do not. But I care about the information Mike shares. He is ALWAYS first when it comes to sharing best design web practices, new fonts, everything web. He informs, informs, informs. Turns out he’s a great guy, too. Be informative.
Instruct: One of the biggest guys on Twitter, Robert Scoble [@scoble] is big for a big reason: He teaches web well. When I was a wee tadpole in the Twitter pond, and had questions, Robert answered them. When I complained more, he sent me links teaching me how to use a tool. There are many teachers like Robert out there. They go one step beyond sharing information, they help you integrate the information in your life. There are people like this who instruct on cooking, mechanics, technology, plumbing… You name it, there is someone on Twitter willing to teach you how to do something better. Be a teacher and you’ll get a following.
Inspire: Entertaining is one thing. Inspiring people to achieve more is another. The first is passive, the second is getting people to achieve simply because your words motivate them to do so. Yeah, yeah. There’s a bunch of coaches and life teachers and gurus and experts on Twitter and in new media generally and most of us ignore them. Still the best Twitterers integrate inspiration into the information, links, or ideas they share. It doesn’t have to be purposeful, even, they just do it. For example, Skye [@Skye820] shares her photography. She’s takes beautiful, often inspirational pictures. Other people share quotes that are meaningful to them. Some share music from Blip or some cool YouTube. People like to be inspired.
Interrelate: Relate, dude. Some people view Twitter as a one-way conversation. That is, they send out links, make bold declarations and then won’t talk to you. It’s rude. If you want to simply share information, it’s called an RSS feed. If you want to have a one-sided opinion fest, blog. Twitter is about give and take. Be generous with others’ ideas too. If someone says something thoughtful, provocative, interesting, informative and inspiring, share it, and give the person credit. Caleb Howe [@CalebHowe] is good at this. He passes along information, converses, interacts and all-in-all puts the social into the medium Twitter.
Bottom line, follow the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you’d like to be treated.
Second unto that one: Be yourself. Pretending to be a bright, happy, shiny person when you’re not, won’t work. Pretending to be an expert, won’t work. Pretending at anything won’t work.
I find myself drawn to authenticity. That means some people swear like sailors, and some people are knobby-headed nerds. Whatever. I like the people who are real.
In my next Twitter installment, I’ll write about those who are resisting Twitter’s charms. Resistance is futile, friends. Resistance is futile.