Sunday, May 31, 2009

On Social Media

We all know that Social Media is the new buzzword. It also makes a great business tool. I use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Plaxo in addition to my blog. I’m sure I have a few others here and there, like MySpace, which I don’t use much anymore. I find social media to be useful and fun. At least, there are some aspects of social media I enjoy. If my wife sends me one more “buy a round” thing on Facebook… I’d rather she just make me the darn drink and bring it up to me. I honestly have no use for those silly Facebook games. I enjoy commenting on other people’s statuses, or having mine commented on. That’s the social part that I enjoy.

This isn’t backed up by any objective data or research, but it often seems like new fields in computers are pioneered by people who just want to have fun, or do something new. Sometimes there is a profit motive and there’s nothing wrong with that. But after the people who are having fun are through, then along come the sharks and the vultures. These are the people who want to make money, and do it in any way possible. Then along come the “I’ll teach you how to get rich using (EBay, Facebook, Twitter, Blue Mountain Cards, etc) buttholes. It seems to me that there is much more money to be made in selling products that claim people can make money within a system than there is money to actually be made within that system.

Social media is little different. I’m a firm believer that it can be a useful business tool. I briefly contemplated starting a small consulting business for social media. I figured I could market myself to small businesses looking to expand their influence in the community. This would be a useful service for Realtors and restaurants and Karate studios and coffee shops and even bands. A local band, Queen Anne's Revenge, followed me on Twitter. I followed them back. I’m sure their music isn’t exactly my style and I really don’t like going to crowded places with loud music anyway (never been to a real concert and proud of it!), but they don’t post a lot of annoying tweets and I’m happy to support a local band. Also, I can’t help but be fascinated by Blackbeard (Edward Teach) and his ship, so I happily followed Queen Anne’s Revenge.

I also follow a local coffee shop and our Realtor. Our attempt to sell our house has had a lot of ups and downs and no resolution as yet, but Karen has earned a “spot” as the family Realtor and as a friend.

This past week I reached a breaking point with a couple of people I had followed on Twitter. Normally, I’m pretty good about following people who follow me. I have a few minor criteria. I have no problem with people using Twitter for their businesses, as long as they don’t become jerks. This week, I came across two who I felt were abusing the point to Twitter and I un-followed them.

We were on a vacation using our timeshare exchange. Because I mentioned “timeshare” several times in my tweets, I picked up some “timeshare experts” as followers. I figured it could be useful to follow people who are knowledgeable in this field, and I followed them. Two in particular got really annoying. Since I was away from a computer a lot, I was using my iPhone almost exclusively. I use Twitterific on the iPhone as my Twitter client. I noticed that two of the “timeshare experts” I was following kept running the same tweets over and over and over again. It was like I was back to my pre-podcasting days listening to talk radio and having to hear that damn Sea Silver commercial 20 times in a one mile stretch of road. (I think Sea Silver was WFIL’s only advertiser for a while). I follow a few people who Tweet about their blog posts or thoughts or products, but they usually keep it interesting. I’d never come across people who acted like they were running talk radio commercial spots. I un-followed both of them. I should note that I’m still following other timeshare experts who do post interesting tweets.

For what it’s worth, here’s my perspective on the use of Twitter: it’s SOCIAL MEDIA. That means that, even in business, it needs to be SOCIAL. I can understand using a bot (or a script that monitors for certain keywords) to find people on Twitter, but people who use bots on Twitter are outside the point.

When somebody follows me on Twitter, or I’m looking for somebody to follow, I look for a few criteria. People that I follow don’t have to fall into all of them, but I use them as informal guidelines for myself.

1. Who are you?

2. What do you do?

3. (if business) What business are you in or what services do you offer?

4. What unique challenges do you face in your business?

5. How do you solve or handle those challenges?

6. What unique knowledge or perspective do you have in your field?

7. If you’re willing to share, what is your family like? What hobbies do you have? What funny or frustrating things do your kids do?

8. If I post a question on Twitter about problems I’m having, are you open to responding?

Those are fairly simple. I follow quite a few interesting people. I follow pastors, writers, business leaders, a few artists, museums, entrepreneurs, publishers, and all kinds of other people and organizations that I find interesting. I occasionally interact with them on Twitter.

I’m getting tired of advertisers and people who “link-blog” exclusively. Twitter is a great place to share information, but in my opinion, the social aspect should not be overlooked.

I hope the people selling advice on how to use Twitter to make “lots of money” and those who pay for those courses don’t ruin it.

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