Here are some time-saving tips from the angels at HootSuite. Everybody’s got a lot on their plate. Not to worry. HootSuite to the rescue, to help you manage all of those little social media bits and bobs that we all deal with, every day.
Make an Influencer List
Or just a list of important folks. Or people who can help you succeed. Whatever you want to call it, use Twitter (or HootSuite itself), to separate the wheat from the chaff. If you’ve only got five minutes to look at your social media streams, populate this list with the people you absolutely, positively must read.
Love or hate it, Klout does make an effort to measure true influence, as opposed to wannabes with a lot of flash in the pan followers.
Curate Content and Auto-Schedule Using the Hootlet
It’s a little Chrome extension, and all you have to do is, click the owl, pull down on the drop-down to select the stream(s) you want to add the content to (just like in the full-blown version of HootSuite), modify the content if you wish, and either schedule manually or click schedule or Auto-Schedule.
Frankly, I’m having trouble envisioning how HootSuite could make it any easier.
Add Content at the Right Time for the Right Network
HootSuite says this so well that I’ll just quote it in its entirety –
“Consider planning your posting to meet these times. For Google+ the highest engagement comes from 9-11 a.m., so maybe you can connect with a follower during breakfast. For Twitter it’s 1-3 p.m. and for Facebook it’s 1-4 p.m., perfect times to engage one or two users during your lunch break. For Pinterest it’s 8-11 p.m., and Instagram 5-6 p.m. —after work hours when you can likely spare a few minutes to interact with your following. When you don’t have time to use social media while you work, it helps to fit it in during quick breaks.”
I would add, make sure to keep these times in mind when auto-scheduling.
Share and Repurpose Great Content
This is what I’m doing right now! In his great book, Optimize, Lee Odden advises, in Chapter 9, to adopt an “Oreo Cookie Tactic”. That is, take content and add your own introduction and conclusion, with the content placed in between and properly attributed, of course (see page 118).
I love this tactic, not only because it is an easier way to add content (particularly when inspiration is harder to come by), but also because it promotes the Rule of Thirds, e. g. one-third of social media content should be about the content creator’s wisdom being imparted, one-third should be the content creator’s personality, and the final third should be the promotion of others’ content.
Evan Page has written an excellent article and I highly recommend that you read the original source material as well.
Beyond networking, education and research, there are just sometimes some forms to fill out. I have filled out – I have no idea how many. And while there are problems with many of these forms, there is also some good out there, along with other aspects of looking for a job these days.
There are all sorts of Twitter streams which showcase any number of openings. Company streams, in particular, can be a good source of leads. Make sure to watch for perhaps a week or so in order to determine whether the content is being updated frequently.
#9 – LinkedIn, Land of Opportunity
For power users of LinkedIn, there are numerous ways to look for work. One good way is to check their job listings, and apply through the site. Some openings allow you to apply directly via your LinkedIn profile. Others send you to a company’s website. But make no mistake; companies are (or at least they should be) checking the traffic sources for the job applications they receive. And so by going to a job application directly from LinkedIn, you are showing that, at least in some small way, the biggest online networking site in the world in important to you.
Gone are the days when most resumes were eyeballed, at least to start. Truth is, your resume is far more likely to be read by a machine before a human. So get your resume loaded up with key words! Why? Because you’ll make the first cut, that’s why.
The good, the bad and the ugly are out there. My own, for instance. Because I don’t tout myself as a web developer or as a visual artist, the look is fine. What’s more important is that the site is completely functional, it comes up quickly, everything on it can be readily found, and it ranks on Google.
#5 – Clarity
Job descriptions can become very precise these days, as employers can (in part, in some instances) select software and versions from drop-downs in order to better communicate their needs to the job seeking public.
#4 – LinkedIn Recommendations
Unlike endorsements, these require a bit of prose. But they can be rather powerful. At the very least, you don’t want to be a job seeker who doesn’t have any. So ask! And not just your boss or former boss – ask your coworkers as well, and offer to reciprocate.
#3 – Blog
Just like this one, a candidate can use a blog to provide more information or get across personality without having to overload a resume. Savvy employers are going to look candidates up on social media. Why not give them something good to find?
#2 – LinkedIn Functionality
For jobs advertised on LinkedIn, for some of them, you can apply by connecting them directly to your profile. What could be easier?
#1 – Being Able to do this Online
Of course, a lot of the job search still has to be done in an old-fashioned manner. Interviews are, for the most part (except, perhaps, for quickie phone screens, particularly where relocation is at issue), going to be conducted in person. A lot of networking is still going to happen at events and not on LinkedIn. But there is a ton that can be done in cyberspace. It makes the search far easier and faster than it ever has been.
You’re doing it. You’ve got your resume up. You’re answering questions. You’re joining groups. You’re even meeting people offline. But you aren’t getting an enormous number of invitations to connect.
Or, perhaps, you’re blogging and tweeting. But you’re not getting a lot of readers in either medium. And you’d love to get some of your LinkedIn buddies to read some of your stuff. Maybe you want to use your writing and social media skills as a part of your overall job search strategy.
The most obvious place to look, and to fix, is your Profile page.
Just like with a resume, a news story, or even if you were trying to sell your home, it pays to spruce up the first thing that people see. Special care should be taken, as this is your first — and it may very well be your only — chance to make an impression. There are any number of things you can do to assure that this impression is a positive one.
And, you can even use it to help you drive a little traffic to your own website and/or blog. Here’s how:
Make sure that you make use of the “My Company” and “My Website” fields. But rename them. Yes, you really can! Just select “Other” and start typing. Instead of calling it “My Company”, isn’t it more interesting to call it “Joe’s Widgets” or whatever your company’s real name is? That way, a person stumbling upon your profile page doesn’t even have to read much. It’s right there. Same thing with your blog, etc. So many people do not do this, yet it is simple and free and you only need to do it one time. No less an authority than Shama Hyder Kabani recommends this little tweak.
Next, look at the applications listings. Using the WordPress application helps to assure that your blog postings automatically end up on your LinkedIn profile page. I highly recommend selecting the option whereby you must add a LinkedIn tag in order for a post to show up. That way, while you do have to remember to add that tag every time, you are also covered in the event that you post about something more personal (say, the birth of a child).
I also recommend adding Twitter. It will nicely populate your status field, so long as you add the following hashtag: #in. Again, this is useful in case you want to tweet about something not business-related, e. g. March Madness.
Assuming that your resume has been integrated in its entirety, your next task should be to update your summary and specialities sections. The specialties section is essentially just for key words, so load them up. The summary section should be more grammatical. Don’t make it an old-fashioned and generic personal statement. Instead, highlight your main differentiators here.
With a little polish, your front door (profile page) can look mighty inviting to all.
The Numerati by Stephen Baker is a fascinating work about sensors, technology, data mining and where it’s all going when it comes to our privacy.
It’s all about data, about collecting, refining and interpreting it. People are, well, we’re all a bunch of fish in a bowl. Or, if you prefer, hamsters on a wheel. We are lab rats, we are subjects, we are collections of bit streams. We are … information.
And the kicker is that, put together enough things about us, and conclusions can suddenly be drawn.
Let’s say I go to the same grocery store every week (not a stretch — I really do). And I buy fish every single week. What if I buy, say, tuna steaks 70% of the time, and swordfish the other 30%? Am I automatically a tuna lover? Or am I simply scared to try something new? Or am I getting to the fishmonger when everything else is sold out?
What happens if a coupon is introduced into the mix? Does my tuna consumption go up to 80% if you give me $1 off per pound? That’s not too much of a victory, seeing as I normally buy it anyway. Will a $1 off coupon entice me to buy more pricey salmon instead?
The data gives its interpreters (Baker refers to them as the Numerati, which sounds a tad like Illuminati and perhaps is intended to) ideas but it’s not really a slam-dunk. Or, at least, not yet. Essentially what the Numerati do is, they bucket you. So I am a tuna buyer. And I am a sometime swordfish buyer. I am also a Caucasian woman, in her (ahem) forties, married, no children, living in Boston.
So far, so good. And when the data are all herded together, when the bits and bytes of our lives are aggregated, this may very well have a lot to say about us. It might be a predictor of how I’ll vote in the next election. Or perhaps it will show how I’d use a dating site if I should ever need one in the future. Or it may even tell whether I’m likely to become a terrorist.
The data matters, but, to my mind (and to Baker’s as well, it seems), there are not only herds of data but there are also nagging outlyers, the Border Collies amidst all the data goats. Perhaps I am buying tuna to feed to a cat. Or maybe I buy it with the intention of eating it to improve my health but, alas, never get to it and it goes to waste every single week.
Consider this case: a sensor is placed into a senior citizen’s bed, to determine whether that person is getting up in the morning. And, let’s say that weight data is also being collected, as a sudden dramatic rise in weight would indicate the possible onset of congestive heart failure. And let’s say the senior in question is a woman who weighs 150 pounds. Your own mother, maybe. Day one: 150 pounds. Day two: 158 pounds. Day three: 346 pounds. Day four: 410 pounds. Golly, is Mom really that sick?
Maybe Mom’s dog is 8 pounds. Okay, that explains day two. But what about days three and four? Maybe Mom’s got a boyfriend.
Maybe she’s got two.
When I had the occasion to meet Stephen Baker, we had the opportunity to talk a bit about these squishy, messy feelings. Sure, our hearts are in the right place. We want Mom to be safe and healthy, and we can’t be there. She might live in a warmer climate, and we cannot (or won’t) leave our cooler climes. Or the job opportunities may be no good there for us. For whatever reason, we are here and she is there. So we want to be aware, and caring and all, but in our desire to gather information and protect her, what else are we learning?
If Mom is competent, and single, and protecting herself from STDs, we truly have no business knowing who she spends her evening hours with. Yet this technology makes this possible.
And if we have any sense of the future at all, we have to think to ourselves: what happens when I become Mom’s age, and my bedroom and toileting habits potentially become a part of this huge bit/byte hamster wheel lab rat canary in a coal mine data stream?
It is often said that only people who have something to worry about in their private lives are the ones who are worried. Everyone else should be fine, blithely giving up their warts and preferences, their virtues and secrets, to all who ask.
I say bull. I like my secrets. I like my hidden life. And I’ll be damned if I give it up, even in the name of health, diet, voting, national security or even love.
Social Media Marketing by Liana Evans was a book that I might have read a little too late in the semester. In all fairness, I read this book toward the end of my first social media class at Quinnipiac (ICM 522).
Hence it felt like I already knew a lot of what was being written, but that was likely more a function of timing than anything else.
The book is interesting, but I had just read a ton of other works about very similar work. It was maybe one book too many (and it was an optional read, anyway).
Possibly the best takeaway I got from the book was when Evans talked about online communities, particularly in Chapter 33 – You Get What You Give. On page 255, she writes –
You need to invest your resources
Time to research where the conversation is
Time and resources to develop a strategy
Time and staff resources to engage community members
Time to listen to what they are saying, in the communities
Time and resources to measure successes and failures
Giving valuable content
It’s similar to a bank account
Don’t bribe the community
Rewards come in all fashions
Research who your audience is
Give your audience something valuable and/or exclusive
Don’t expect you’ll know everything
Listen to what your audience says
Admit when you’re wrong
Thank your community
Much like we’ve been telling people for years on Able2know – listen before you speak!
The most important piece is the Social Technographics profile. Online people can be divvied up as follows:
Creators – these are people who make original content. Bloggers, article writers, website creators and maintainers and people who upload audio and video all belong to this group. It’s a good 18% of the United States, as of the writing of the book (2008). I do everything on that list except upload audio, so that puts the Creator stamp right in my wheelhouse.
Critics – these are people who react to what’s been created by the Creators. They comment on blogs and forums. They produce ratings and reviews. They edit wikis. They encompass a good 25% of the US. But I do all of those things, too. So am I a Critic, instead?
Collectors – these are people who save URLs and tags on Social Bookmarking sites (things like delicious). They vote on Digg. They use RSS. They are about 12% of America. Hey, I do all of those things, too! Am I now a Collector?
Joiners – these are people who participate in and maintain profiles on social networking sites such as Facebook. They’re a good 25% of the US and, you guessed it, I do these things, too.
Spectators – these are people who are also called Lurkers. They read but don’t comment, categorize or classify. I am occasionally like this, but usually not. This tribe is 48% of the United States. And,
Inactives – these are people who just plain don’t participate. It does beg the question, though, since they are online — what do they do? They might just be paying bills and reading email, or doing sudoku puzzles, I suppose. They are 41% of America.
If you look at the percentages and add them up, you get over 100%. Hence, it’s obvious (and as I have proven by using myself as a test case), most people don’t fit quite so neatly into one slot or another. Many of us wear many different hats. And some of that may be a function of being a Creator. If you want to promote your website and/or blog, you often need to be a part of a forum or a social networking site, and you generally want to help promote your own work by social bookmarking it, or at least seeing if others have. Hence you’re also doing a bit of lurking (er, spectating). About the only thing you aren’t is Inactive.
And what of people who aren’t online at all? They are the ultimate in Inactivity.
Now, what does this all mean? These profiles can be understood in terms of demographics. Hence if you are an American woman in your forties, your social technographics profile is such that you’re more likely to be a Spectator than anything else (73%), as of the writing of this blog entry (October of 2010).
Essentially what this is saying is, typical hardware purchasing companies are going to relate best to reading (although not commenting upon) blogs and participating in forum communities. The next biggest group is Creators, 31%, although I suspect that consumers of robotics products might skew more heavily into the Creator realm – many people who are interested in robotics actually build them.
The book then provides case studies of how various companies tapped into the groundswell, either by creating a wiki, or opening up a community, or starting to blog. If companies matched their customers’ (or employees’) social technographics profiles well, and the companies began these ventures clear-eyed and without an intent to deceive and double talk, they prospered. If not, well….
One major element that was not stressed very much, and probably should have been, is that any number of these ventures takes money. They take time, too, of course, but it certainly helps if a company has the wherewithal to dedicate an employee to evangelizing a wiki, or hire a Community Manager or allow its employees to devote less of their time to selling or meetings (or analysis or scheduling or auditing or whatever said employees generally do) and set aside a portion of their day, week or month to blogging.
In the world of startups, of course, there are people (such as myself) who are dedicated to blogging. However, we’re also dedicated to any number of things — in my case, marketing, tweeting, PR and even assisting with business decisions. Such is the nature of a startup, of course. You wear almost as many hats as a Creator does.
I liked this article and recognize that it was designed to be a straightforward beginner’s set of tips, but there is more that could be done. There usually is.
Use a Profile Photograph
I absolutely agree. I realize that there are people who are shy or who feel that they don’t photograph well. But the truth is, most of us on LinkedIn don’t care. Unless you are looking for a modeling or an acting gig, your appearance does not and should not matter. I also think that keeping a picture off your profile because you don’t want to reveal your race, gender or age is somewhat wrongheaded. After all, what are you going to do if you actually get an interview with a company (and not necessarily directly through LinkedIn)? Send a proxy in your stead, a la Cyrano de Bergerac? That’s kinda silly, dontcha think? As for me, people online are going to figure out that I am female, they will get a pretty good handle on my age and my religion and if they look a bit, they’ll even see pictures of me when I weighed nearly 350 pounds. And I embrace those things and don’t try to hide them. Your ideas may differ, but I don’t, personally, see the value in hiding such things. And if an employer is going to pass me by because I’m no longer 21, or not Asian, or too short or whatever, then I don’t want to work for that employer, anyway.
That is, on LinkedIn, you can get them to make you a specific URL for your profile, rather than just accept the computer-generated one. Not surprisingly, I’m on board with this idea as well. This happens to be mine. And, interestingly enough, it’s got a Google page rank of 2, whereas the generic URL has no Google page ranking. So you can get a bit of an SEO bounce if you use a vanity URL. It is easy and it is free, and it is considerably more memorable. Plus, if you wish, it’s a good thing to put on a business card or a resume, or even into a signature line in email.
Use a Headline
Personally, I find these weird, but that may be just me. For me, just my job title seems to be fine, as it evokes (currently) not only what I do but the industry that I am in right now. I’ve always, personally, found that titles like Terrific Social Media Manager or Experienced Fry Cook just seem odd. But that may be me. Try it — but I’d recommend doing so as a more or less controlled experiment. If it’s not working after, say, six months, I recommend rethinking it.
Update your email settings
That is, if you’re open to receiving job openings, make sure that you’re set up that way. And, if not, make sure that’s properly reflected as well. People aren’t necessarily going to follow your requirements in this area, but some will, and it can be an indirect means of indicating that you might be interested in making a move if the timing and the circumstances were right.
Open Up Your Status and Profile Updates to Your Network
This is good, but I’m not so sure it goes far enough. On LinkedIn, it is possible to connect your profile to your Twitter stream. I highly recommend this, although I also suggest that you make it so that only tweets with a hashtag such as #in or #li will populate your status updates. And then, as you wish, tweet but make sure to use either hashtag. This will be a means of killing two birds with one stone, as you update both Twitter and LinkedIn virtually simultaneously. In fact, I have a Twitter Tools app here on WordPress and that allows me to send a post to Twitter when I post this blog entry. Because I can add hashtags, I make sure to add the #in hashtag and achieve a kind of trifecta whereby the posting of this blog entry updates my blog, Twitter and LinkedIn. If I can add Facebook, I will have achieved Social Media Nirvana.
Make Your Profile Public
Personally, I think that the only time your profile should be private is in the first five seconds after you’ve created it. Then again, I have had an online persona since 1997, and find it easy to share a lot of things.
Of course not everyone feels this way, but I think it’s kind of useless to have a LinkedIn profile if you don’t want to share it with anyone. Networking, which is what LinkedIn is all about, is, in part, about going outside your comfort zone and meeting new people. This is not like Facebook where, potentially, the pictures of you drinking in 1963 could come back to haunt you. This is a gathering of professionals — and any employer who is upset by you having an online presence on LinkedIn is not only not with the times but is being thoroughly unrealistic. Employees look for better opportunities all the time. It is a wise employer who recognizes that and accepts it. Denying someone access to LinkedIn, or being upset by an employee’s presence therein, is misplaced.
Oh, it’s the Holy Grail, isn’t it? Getting more people to follow you, and
moving that magical number up, up and ever upwards, to stratospheric heights. And — even more importantly — to more than the number of people you’re following (more on that later).
Social Media Today recently weighed in on this, and I support their ideas but would love to expand up them in this post. Here’s what they had to say.
First off, they point out that it’s not quantity — it’s quality. Well, yeah. Kinda. But one thing that is known is that various Twitter graders (such as are found on HubSpot) do give more credit for having more followers. Are these graders meaningful? Kinda, sorta.
HubSpot admits that they do give some weight to the actual numbers. As of the writing of this blog, my HubSpot Twitter grade happens to be a 94. Neuron Robotics weighs in with an 88, whereas Home Energy Remedies gets a 54. I am not averse to actual numbers being used as a part of the grading system. They are, after all, somewhat objective. But does any of it have a meaning? Probably, mainly, to fellow social media marketing-type folk. But if you were to tout your grade to anyone not into it, they’d probably look at you as if you had three heads (my apologies, HubSpot).
So onto the techniques. (1) Think about who you want your followers to be – like with any other idea, you need to have some sort of a plan. If you’re looking to sell, I dunno, landscaping services, it would help to target homeowners and gardeners, yes? And in your area, right? You might get John from Cincinnatti but unless you’re in the Cincinnatti area, forget it. John may be wonderful, but his following you is of little help to you. Social Media Today’s suggestion is to go after directories like We Follow. Agreed — and possibly also go after local groups of people. As in, put your Twitter handle on your business cards. You’re mainly going to be handing those to local folk, so there’s a match there.
(2) Complete your profile – this is a no-brainer and I have no idea why people don’t do this as it takes very little time. And, while you’re at it, add a photograph.
(3) Follow others – sure, but don’t do so indiscriminately. At some point, you will hit the magical number of 2,000 following. And you won’t be able to add any more until you get your followers up. Up to what? To followers being 90% or more of following. E. g. if you have 1,000 followers and 2,000 following, forget it — you can’t follow anyone else. But if you’ve got 1,800 followers and are following 2,000, then you can go ahead, but you need to maintain the 90% ratio so you’d best get cracking and go beyond that barest minimum of 1,800 followers. The easiest way to assure that this ratio is maintained is to get into the habit of doing it now — before you have to care about it. Therefore, don’t just follow back everyone who follows you, unless you’ve got a good reason to do so. A lot of accounts will follow and then unfollow in a day or so if you haven’t followed back. You most likely don’t want these followers anyway so, unless they are appealing for some other reason, don’t bother with them. Might I also suggest pruning? If someone isn’t following you back and they aren’t that interesting, uh, why are you following them again?
(4) It’s not about you – agreed. I may tweet (on occasion) about shoveling snow, but the bottom line is, I know that’s not fascinating to most people. You have a new blog post? Tweet about it. The company landed a new contract? Tweet about it. The laws are changing in your area? Well, you get the idea.
(5) Hashtag, retweet, and reply – that is, pay attention to other people. How would they best be able to find your stuff? Would you want them to retweet your stuff? Then retweet theirs. Comment, reply, engage. Be involved with the Twitter community.
(6) Add people to lists – of course. But use those lists. I’ve been on Twitter longer than there have been lists, and I was originally just following everyone. When I started listing them, I began coming up with people who I didn’t know at all, at least not on the surface. Hence I created a list just called Who Are These People? and began investigating them further. I kept a lot of them, but a lot were sent to the great Twitter post in the sky. And that’s okay — it goes back to an original principle — follow who you want to follow, and don’t just auto-follow.
(7) Welcome your new followers – personally, I’m not a fan of this one, as I have seen all manner of automated “thanks for following me” messages. There’s nothing wrong with a “thanks for following me” tweet every now and then — those are nice. Just try not to be too mechanical about it.
(8) Integrate, integrate, integrate – that is, like with any other form of social media engagement, put it everywhere. How many times do people have to see something online before they take action? Seven? Nine? Then get your twitter handle out there. Use it in signature lines, on business cards and, heck, even write it on nametags.
Does it all work? Sure it does. And it’s a lot more in the spirit of Twitter than just getting some generic and spammy auto-following list to add your handle — briefly — to their list of who to follow. Don’t be that guy. Be someone who you would want to follow.
53% of people on Twitter recommend companies and/or products in their Tweets, with 48% of them delivering on their intention to buy the product. (ROI Research for Performance, June 2010) – I wonder if this takes into account what essentially looks like spamming (e. g. buy this stuff!) versus what seems to be more sincere mentionings of products, e. g. someone says I am loving this new Gatorade or I think my New Balance sneakers really are making me faster? I am well aware that it can be difficult for a large-scale survey of tweets to tell the difference between the two but, if there is that much of a return, then I gotta figure, the people either know – or, perhaps, they just don’t care.
The average consumer mentions specific brands over 90 times per week in conversations with friends, family, and co-workers. (Keller Fay, WOMMA, 2010) – I wonder just what this means. I mention products all the time, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m touting them. Ugh, I hate what they did to my conditioner! Why did John Frieda have to change it? is a far cry from I’m gonna get me some more of that Amy’s Low-Salt Marinara Sauce with Basil – it is sooo good. Since the stat doesn’t mention whether the mentionings are positive or negative, I suppose it’s a corollary to the old saw, that any press is good press.
Consumer reviews are significantly more trusted — nearly 12 times more — than descriptions that come from manufacturers, according to a survey of US mom Internet users by online video review site EXPO. (eMarketer, February 2010) – And this is how viral marketing works, kids. If a company can send out its minions to tout a product, even if it’s not 100% positively (and it’s more believable that way, as it doesn’t look like mere puffery), then folks eat that up. Astroturfing Nation, here we come.
In a study conducted by social networking site myYearbook, 81 percent of respondents said they’d received advice from friends and followers relating to a product purchase through a social site; 74 percent of those who received such advice found it to be influential in their decision. (Click Z, January 2010) – I suspect that’s more of a function of the pervasiveness of social sites versus their influence. E. g. I’ve got cousins who I truly only hear from through Facebook. Do I give their opinions more credence than I do passing acquaintances’? Sometimes. But I am getting this Facebook-based advice from them because we don’t pick up the phone or send snail mail or meet in person (we’re too far away to do this, anyway). To my mind, this is almost like giving the phone company credit for marketing strategy if we were chatting on the phone. We’re not. We’re using Facebook. I think this is a potential confusion of medium versus message.
So, are social sites really that important? Is Twitter really that targeted? Do consumers really trust their pals more than they do slick, conventional marketers? Probably maybe, not really and yes. It’s up to the Social Media Marketer to separate the wheat from the chaff with these kinds of stories, and see what’s really going on.
Just what, exactly, draws people together online? Perhaps that is the better question.
When you look at Groundswell, the authors have the thing all figured out, or at least it seems that way. Internet users are divided into various social technographics profiles. People who join online communities are called Critics (about 25% of the United States). People who create content, including not just making and contributing to discussion topics and blogs but also uploading photographs and other media are called Creators (approximately 18% of the US). And the lurkers, the folks who watch but don’t participate, are Spectators (48% or so of America). People overlap and can be members of any or all of these groups, or of other groups I won’t get into here. Plus, of course, this only covers people who are online. Note: this is a tool created by Forrester, based upon extensive research, and can be found: here.
So, it’s in our nature, or at least in some people’s natures. But there may be more to that so what follows is my own personal story which I hope will be of interest.
I first really got online socially (although I had used computers offline for years before then) in 1997. Princess Diana had just been killed, and for whatever reason I wanted to discuss this with someone, and my husband was not being too terribly cooperative. We had a fairly new computer with Internet access. I don’t know what possessed me — I just felt the need to talk to someone about Princess Diana, someone I hadn’t even been a particular fan of before. Perhaps it’s because her death, at the time, was so shocking.
I found mirc, a chat client. There wasn’t anyone to specifically discuss the matter with, but there were people to talk to. And so a love affair with social media and online communities began.
By 2000, I wanted a more challenging group of conversationalists. The Presidential election was so close and so interesting that I wanted to talk to someone about it. A colleague from India was even asking me: Are all American elections like this? and I did not have a good answer for him. I wanted to learn. Plus, it was the same feeling as in 1997 — I just wanted to have a conversation. I found Abuzz, which was owned and operated by The New York Times and The Boston Globe (the Globe is important to me because I live in Brighton, Massachusetts). Here were intelligent people who were just as fascinated by the extremely close election! It was exciting.
By 2002, Abuzz was losing steam and my friend Robert Gentel contacted me. He told me he wanted to teach himself PHP and create a forums website, but that he didn’t want to manage the community. Would I do that? Would I become the Community Manager? Of course. And so Able2Know was born. I’ve been managing it ever since.
In 2005, I joined Trek United — again, with the username Jespah. I even did some moderating there, but it was too much to do that, my regular work, Able2know and also work seriously on my own health. I wrote a column for the original Hailing Frequencies Open ezine, and enjoyed it, until it, too, became just one more bit of overwhelm and so I put the column to bed, in 2009 if I recall correctly.
In 2008, when I joined SparkPeople, it was obvious to me that my user name would be Jespah, and that I would actively participate.
In 2009, after my Reporting Analyst job was outsourced and I came to a personal understanding — given that I already had over seven years of Community Management experience under my belt and hence had more to say about it than many experts — I decided to shift gears in my career and go into Social Media marketing.
What does this all have to do with the price of tea in Poughkeepsie? Well, perhaps nothing and perhaps everything. My Internet identity was forged over a decade ago, and in a very different set of circumstances than one that is seen these days with online collections of users.
As a professional Community Manager and Social Media Specialist
(I work for a startup called Neuron Robotics), there is much more of an emphasis on staying on message and keeping the talk within the confines of what the company needs. It is a startup so things are looser than in a larger corporation but the principle is the same: get people their information and then move on to answering the next inquiry, or at least getting someone who can answer it. Socializing, per se is not totally out, but it is limited, and not just on the company side of things. It is the users, as well, who do not wish to socialize. After all, do you go out for a beer with the guys manning your local Help Desk?
And so, as we hurtle into the teen years of this century, online communities are becoming far more specialized and almost scripted. User asks question. Answer is obtained. Second opinion, perhaps, is offered. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I occasionally get together with fellow Community Managers to talk turkey and they were surprised when I told them I’d written seven, perhaps eight, user obituaries.
Yes, really. I have done that (for Abuzz and Able2know).
And I’ve written user newsletters, not only for Trek United but also for Abuzz (that one was called AARON — An Abuzz Regular Online Newsletter — I loathed that acronym, still do).
Users are going to communities and are finding that they have their own intrinsic values. One of the things that online communities have over Facebook (at least for now — never underestimate the power and ingenuity of Facebook’s IT staff) is that it is possible to carry on a truly sustained conversation here. People talk, and not just for a few hours or days or weeks, but for years! The Trek United Countdown Club started back in 2005. Yet here it is in 2010, continuing.
Online communities have shared values and in-jokes which other communities do not have, either on or offline. It’s like the Masons’ secret handshake, or wearing a Mogen David around your neck — you let yourself be known to others subtly.
Trek United has the countdown and Hailing Frequencies Open. Abuzz had nutella and a mysterious green Chevelle. Able2know has capybaras and Asian carp. SparkPeople has (or at least my little corner of it has) the Top SparkPeople Pick Up Lines and diet haikus. Those who are in, understand. Those who want to be in, make an effort to know. And those who don’t want to be in, can never seem to understand.
It is a small jump from this kind of enclaving to creating one’s own community, and then the process repeats itself and, like all good little processes, it winds down and then winds back up again as users come together, break apart and reconfigure like so many amoebae in a petri dish.
But it is more than user cycles and outside determinism like access to the Internet which drives this dance. It is the music of the spheres and the essence of what it means to be a social creature. It is hard and soft, slow and lightning fast, familiar and different and a billion more things.
Merrily we roll along, for it is love which, to misquote The Captain and Tennille, brings us together.