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Are You a Digital Landowner or Sharecropper?

Social networks are great for business. They allow you to connect with a wide audience and interact with them in ways that websites don’t always allow.

Brands from Coca-Cola down to local bakeries are using them to interact with their customers. It is understandable, then, why business owners are flocking to set up shop on social networks and sometimes forgoing the building their own websites in favor of a social network presence.

Is this the smart way to go though? Is a Facebook page really worth more than your own website?

Read my entire post, Are You a Digital Landowner or Sharecropper?, over at waxingunlyrical.com.

Being on Facebook Does Not Make You Social

The mantra of today’s social media mavens is that you have to be on Facebook.

Some will tell you that to market your widget, you have to get involved on Facebook and be a part of the conversation. That works wonderfully for many companies. If you sell pest control,however, there might not be that many people that want to talk to you on a daily basis. They don’t want to talk to you unless they have a problem. And therein lies the crux of the problem. For a lot of companies out there, both B2B and B2C, social media marketing may not be right for you.

I did a highly un-scientific study recently to discover how people interact with brands on Facebook; I asked my kids. (“Kids” is a relative term, they are late-teens and early twenties.) I asked them “Which brands do you interact with on Facebook?”

Read my entire post at startYourOwnSmallBiz.com

Social Media Strategy Guide for Busy Developers

Dear Reader,

My friend Bill Seaver wrote a post on his blog titled “Why I Don’t Believe LinkedIn Recommendations”. It’s a good post, and while I always enjoy reading Bill’s blog, I don’t always agree with his conclusions. Such was the case with this post. So I left a comment. In the conversation that ensued, Bill laughingly pointed out that “I’m not normal.” His comment was addressing the way I use LinkedIn, but I’ll take it as a general statement of truth.

Bill was right, though. I don’t use social media in the ways that a lot of people do. I have developed very specific rules that I live by for Social Media. I do not claim that these work for you, but they do help me regulate it and keep it form being a timesink. I am sharing them here with you; not to say you should do it this way, but in hopes of sparking an idea. Also, if you have a plan already, please do share it with us so we can all learn.

Twitter

Twitter is by far my biggest Social Media tool. I use it often and check it more often than I should. However, to keep it in check, I have adopted the following guidelines.

Amuse me, inform me or marry me

I have a hard and fast “I don’t autofollow” rule for twitter. My rule of thumb is that you have to amuse me, inform me, be a close friend, or be my wife for me to follow you on Twitter (technically, @kateva is also a close friend as she is my best friend.) That’s still a very wide group of people, but it’s a question I ask myself before I hit the follow button each time.

I really appreciate everyone who follows me and try to be respectful of what attention they give me. However, for twitter to be useful to me, I have to keep my Following list manageable. In the early days I had a 10% rule: I kept my following at roughly 10% of my follower count. However, at a certain point that too becomes unmanageable. Now I have a cap at a specific number and will routinely cull the list and move people that aren’t tweeting much or tweeting relevant stuff into lists.

It makes me sad when I see someone following 20,000 people on twitter. I know they aren’t reading all of them and engaging with them; their timeline looks more like a fire-hose. They are just collecting people like Pokémon cards. So I try to keep it manageable.

Just because I don’t follow you doesn’t mean I don’t follow you.

If I am interested in you but don’t fit the above criteria, I’ve probably got you in a list. I glance at lists about once a day to see what gems I can pull out. I have one list that routinely gives me 3 new blog posts a day to read. It’s a great list, but I don’t actually engage with these people so they aren’t in my timeline. There are a few exceptions, and those exceptions make the list and my timeline.

Ignore all email

I have a email rule that immediately deletes any email coming form twitter. This means all my follow notices, all of my retweet notices, everything goes into the trash. Since I use Gmail for my mail hosting, this is the same to me as putting it in a folder that it empties every 30 days. I do occasionally refer to the trash to find an email, but the longer this rule is in place the less I do that. Since I don’t use the “Are you following me” criteria for who I follow, the “This person is following you” emails are pretty much useless to me.

Facebook

I’ll say it right here knowing that, while I have some friends at Facebook, none of them read my blog: I’ve never found Facebook useful. I am a facebook friend-whore. I don’t really care who you are, I’ll friend you. Since I don’t really use Facebook for anything, it doesn’t bother me who follows me.

I don’t often post statuses on Facebook, either. What you see there is just my twitter feed re-purposed. This allows me to keep in touch with those who use Facebook regularly without any actual effort.

The only time I actually bring up Facebook is when I get an email telling me someone has commented on my status. At this point, the conversation has moved off of Twitter, and I’m happy to oblige by responding on Facebook.

I realize I am an outlier in this respect, and it’s not because I don’t like Facebook. I just don’t find it useful (it’s ok, I don’t find G+ particularly useful either). Some people do use it heavily, and I respect that. It’s just not my tool of choice.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a special case for me. I’ve been on LinkedIn since it’s very early BETA phase. LinkedIn is my professional resume. My LinkedIn profile is my professional persona. So, like Twitter, I have a few rules.

Linked!=Twitter

I turned off Twitter integration with LinkedIn. A lot of my tweets aren’t very professional. When I say something on LinkedIn, it’s because I want my professional network to be aware of it, not because I’m excited because I’m going diving.

Hand-shake rule

Currently I have 424 connections on LinkedIn. With the exception of about 5 of them, I have met each one in person and shaken their hand. I can’t say that I am friends with each of them, nor can I say that they will remember me. But at some point I’ve met almost all of them. This is important to me. Since LinkedIn is all about recommending and referring, I want to make sure I know these people.

Recommendations

Many ask, few receive. In my years on LinkedIn, I’ve written glowing recommendations for a handful of people. Everyone I can think of have been people I’ve worked with and known well enough to make a judgement on. I don’t write recommendations on people I don’t know. I also don’t require them to write one back for me, although several have. In short, what you see in a LinkedIn recommendation is what you would here from me if you called me for a reference check on that person.

Yearly culling of the herd

There are people I meet and add to my LinkedIn network that are good business contacts for a while. However, everything in life changes, including my job. Once a year, usually in December, I go through the entire list and make sure they are still valid for me. Some people have life-long value, and I try never to remove those. However, there are some people that, for whatever reason, I just don’t want to associate with anymore or don’t find their relationship of any value. Yes, I’m a bastard. I put a value on business relationships. It has nothing to do with whether I like them or not (usually) and has everything to do with business. I catch a lot of flack for this one, and I am sure a lot of you won’t like it but it is a rule that has served me well over the years.

fClose()

Final productivity tip for social media: turn off all alerts and notifications. I’ve turned them all off. Email, twitter, Skype, IM/irc, everything. Anything that pops up is interrupting me from what I need to get done.

Social media is a great communications tool. I stay in contact with a lot of friends, new and old, using it. But it can be a serious productivity killer if you aren’t careful. Whether you adopt my rules or come up with your own, thinking through your strategy beforehand makes lite work of decisions later.

Until Next time,
I =C=

Are Tivo and LinkedIn run by the same idiots?

Dear Reader,

DISCLAIMER: I have 2 Lifetime Tivo subscriptions and have been a member of LinkedIn since it was in beta.

I know a lot of you out there right now are scratching their heads and wondering what a Networking site and a PVR/DVR have in common. Here is what they have in common, ranks of upper management with closed minds.

Tivo

I was out at tivo.com yesterday and the first thing they did when I hit the page was ask if I would answer a survey after I finished my business. I of course agreed (I’m just that kind of guy) and so when I finished, I filled out the survey.

I gave them the usual answers anyone visiting tivo.com would.

  • 30 seconds is too long to wait for a page to load
  • Your site navigation is goofy
  • Your documentation is incomplete

However, the question they did NOT ask me is “What could we do to make your Tivo more useful to you?” See that’s a question I could write a book on. However, I won’t here, I’ll boil it down into a single concept. “Open it up and let me discover new ways to use it.”

I’m a programmer, when I look at a box like that (or my XBox 360) where the mfgr has obviously gone to great lengths to make sure that I can never run “unapproved” code on it, it just makes me sad. Open it up a bit. Let me build services that can interact with my Tivo. I understand your issues with copyright and I’m not trying to steal content. but hell, it’s a Linux box. Let me write a service that feeds a widget on my blog that shows what I’m watching at the moment. Let me suck down the data on what it’s recording and slice it and dice it myself. Who knows, maybe I’ll find a better way to recommend new shows.

There are hundreds of thousands of ideas for product enhancements that you don’t have to write, we, the hordes of hobbyist programmers and 21 Century tinkerers will make the Tivo an indispensable piece of equipment if you quit locking us out and realize that the Tivo can be so much more than an appliance, it can be a platform.

Oh and it’s ok if you don’t make any money off of each and every service written…make your money on the stuff you do and don’t try to charge me for the privileged of making your device better. Get it together Tivo, if you open up and let us help you, then Hollywood can’t stop you. You can either be the big dog, or stay a whipped puppy.

LinkedIn

These guys still don’t get it. (This is getting to be a regular topic for me.) I’m on LinkedIn and FaceBook both for very different reasons. However, I’m on facebook 3-4 times a day and linkedin 1-2 times a week. See the difference LinkedIn? Pictures in my profile aren’t enough, I want to actually DO SOMETHING with the data I’ve been giving you all these years. We’ve had this discussion before, “Why LinkedIn Sucks (and why I’ll keep using it)”, “LinkedIn Rant – Part II” and you’ve even promised progress but so far…nothing. Open up, let me do what I want with my data and all of a sudden you are useful enough for me to start paying for your service. Have you ever stopped and wondered why you aren’t growing as fast as facebook? It’s not the teens and tweens on facebook, it’s the fact that on facebook, people have freedom to experiment. On LinkedIn, I still can’t write a program that allows me to simply figure out which of my friends know each other…hell on facebook it’s a game!

If Facebook ever wises up and decided that it wants to be the big dog in your yard, you are so toast. Don’t wait for OpenSocial, give me an API and give it to me now. Anything I can do via a web page should be doable from an API. Do that and do it NOW and it’s a good start…it’s only a start but it is a start.

To both tivo and linkedin, I write this post, not because I’m a disgruntled user but because I really like both of you. Both of you however, need a swift kick in the ass to get you moving before you are relegated to the pile of other services I liked once but are now gone. (anyone remember GEnie? I LOVED GEnie!) Come on guys, closed is so last century, open up, let us into the playground and I guarantee that what we create will do more for your bottom line than any overpriced CEO will ever do.

Until next time,
(l)(k)(bunny)
=C=

Flock: FireFox on Steriods? Or just FireFox with Junk in the Trunk

Dead Reader,

Flock, the “Social Browser” built on Fire Fox. It’s now in release 1.0 so I decided to try it out.  I have to say, if you use any of the “Social” website, you are going to like Flock.

Social, All in One Place, Instead of All Over The Place

The main feature of Flock is it’s tight integration with social web sites.  As i write this, I have Flock open  with a side bar with tabs for FaceBook, Twitter, Flickr and youtube. As usual, LinkedIn seems to have managed to screw themselves out of another great opportunity by refusing to create an API. Their loss not withstanding the integration with the other sites is awesome.  The sidebar allows me to see the status or changes that I would normally have to visit the site to see.  Additionally, in the case of FaceBook I can change my status and in the case of twitter, I can tweet, directly from the sidebar. Additionally, there is an “All” tab that combines all the feeds into one. Great way to get a birds eye view of what is going on and what has changed.

The handling of media is great also.  When my daughter uploads pictures to her facebook account, the word “Media” under her facebook picture turns orange.  Clicking on it doesn’t open up another web page though, it opens a tab at the top and shows me her pictures. Flock truly integrates with these sites they feel like part of the browser, not just an add on or afterthought.

As much as I like my friend Ed’s AIR application Spaz, Flock has become my interface to twitter.

A Better FireFox Than FireFox?

One of the things that originally drew me to Flock was rumors that they had improved FireFox’s memory management.  Possibly because I’ve not yet installed all of my extensions that I use in FireFox but Flock is snappier, uses less memory and can stay open for days at a time without leaking memory. With FireFox, I routinely have to shut down all browsers after more than 4 hours because it starts to pause between page loading, field switching or tab switching…it gets really annoying.

Blogging Friendly

Another great feature of Flock is the blogging tool they integrate into it. I’m writing this post from the “Blog Editor” It easily integrates with any of the major blogging sites or, as in my case, WordPress. However, no matter what page you are on, your blog is just a right-click away. The right click menu contains a “blog this” menu item that brings up the blog editor ready with a link ot the page already pasted in for you.

Summary

I live in a browser, it’s just the world I work in, so browser performance is very important to me. Add to it the fact that I actually save RAM by not having to run a separate twitter client as well as time and bandwidth by not having to check the sites I participate in regularly to keep current and I have to say that Flock is really a winner. If you participate in any of the socal networks mentioned or you have been having performance issues with FireFox, I highly recommend you take a look at Flock.

Until next time,
(l)(k)(bunny)
=C=

Tags: flock, firefox, youtube, facebook, flickr, blogging, linkedin, review, browsing