I admit it – I’m now very close to being a social-media junkie. I am intrigued by the potential of this wondrous web thing. Indeed I spend a lot of my life online these days. I’m also curious by nature and reasonably sociable, love a chat – you know? So I suppose it was inevitable that I would play right into the hands of the vast array of social networking applications that are whizzing around out there – do they whiz I wonder, or do they just sit there like shiny objects that beg to be touched and played with? Anyway, creative little me finds it hard to keep my hands off them, and I’ve got the lot: Facebook, Flickr, Feedly, Vimeo, YouTube, Blip.fm, Seesmic, and of course Twitter. I’m the one doing the whizzing, and it’s making me dizzy.
As far as this latter playmate is concerned, I’ve been sucked in by Twitter’s ever more frantic and quick-flowing stream of endlessly fascinating trivia and profundities all mixed in together, and available right there in front of me. It’s one of the first things I check in the morning over the coffee. What’s been happening overnight? What have I missed? I dive right into the stream, start paddling and …
Nothing else gets done while I feed the need. That’s OK, it could be golf or stamp collecting or gardening. Right now it’s social networking and investigating how and why it’s being used, and having some fun along the way. I’m learning a lot, but the learning hasn’t come without feeling the return on the investment is currently pretty inadequate. Sounds a bit familiar doesn’t it, given the current economic climate. Here’s why I’m feeling unsatisfied with my own engagement in social media.
You can obsess or get sucked into ‘discussions’ of perfectly debatable matters that are worth far more than 140 characters at a time, and then get upset if a reply comes back that has not got the point you were trying to make. You can then spend ages back and forth clarifying misunderstandings. Just like a face to face tossing round of ideas of course, but without the nuance and subtleties of body language and vocal inflexion – and there’s the rub. Is it engaging? Yes, if usually not particularly intellectually rigorous. It can lead on to reflection and sometimes a more substantial response via a blog post or to light the spark of a creative project.
Once in the social media stream you may feel that you have to paddle even faster to keep up. An example of this is what I call the Twitter ‘feeding frenzy’ that marks so much of the inane hunt for followers – for its own sake it would seem. You certainly can’t have any kind of meaningful discourse with hordes of followers. You have to be very disciplined to keep your following/follow list at a manageable list.
As far as a manageable number of contacts is concerned, I started off proclaiming I would stick somewhere round Malcolm Gladwell‘s fabled tipping point of just over 100. Well I didn’t, and now I regret it in many ways. I am not a celebrity or high-profile ‘web personality’ and I’m not so ego-ridden as to believe I need thousands of followers to make my day or make me somehow more relevant. As I write this, I have just under one thousand followers. It’s nuts. I don’t know half of them and they don’t know or care about me.
So I’m not about to toss it all in; I enjoy social networking online far too much. However, I am going to learn how to manage my busy social life better and hopefully enjoy the whole thing a whole lot more. It means doing some thoughtful housekeeping. Here’s my plan. I’m
- auditing my networks to retain social and professional contacts to include those who in the past week have engaged in conversation with me; those whose own postings contain useful, entertaining, inspiring or provocative material – the key is quality here; and finally, my professional contacts, who may not have been in the chatter room, but who are an important part of my network.
- accepting that culling is required and guilt be damned. I use Friend or Follow or Twitter Karma to check out who’s following me, who hasn’t posted any quality stuff lately and/or ever contacted me or whom I am likely not to contact. You’ll be surprised how many ‘ghosts’ and drones are lurking in your list.
- sorting them into manageable ‘rooms’ or ‘groups.’ I’m glad Seesmic’s Desktop Application (Preview) came along today. It has the capability of organising Twitter contacts into groups. This is a godsend. Of course, you can already do this with Facebook.
- aggregating my various social networks under the one umbrella so I can work from the one place, and not have to leap from application to application; this is part of the whizzing I was talking about above. I’d humbly suggest you check out FriendFeed which has the capability to aggregate 57 different applications in the one place – more than most will need. You’ll still spend a bit of time uploading photos to Flickr or Picasa say, and you may choose to go directly to Facebook to tag family in photos, but they can be linked in under FriendFeed’s roof, and you can gather in the fold of your friends, mentors and professional contacts (and Tweet to all of them) in the one place.
If multitasking is your thing, you might then have time to smell the roses while you network.