Solving for ‘Social Media’? Why Context Matters

It’s common these days to see conversations or workshops with the premise: “here’s how you achieve success in social media.”

To be fair, in our weekly SMCHAT discussions, we’ve been exploring some similar questions .. though we’d claim it’s been with rigor, applying energy to frame specifics, and to vet our takeaways. But let’s face it. Lots of people are trying to get their hands around the new technology. The answers are needed.

No harm, no foul.

What we’ve learned, however, is that ‘solving for SM’ can’t be reduced to a simple formula.

Sure, it’s fundamental to engage, and to be authentic. Those are universal basics. But there’s also a variety of usage scenarios that cross a range of organizational contexts. The dynamics of using social technologies can vary quite a bit .. all the way down to selecting the best tools and metaphors .. depending on these scenarios. To illustrate the point, here’s a quick snapshot of the results from our brainstorming over the last several weeks.

For more viewable detail, check out the SM Usage Scenarios in pdf format.

Like everything we do at SMCHAT, we’re going to attack the problem head on, to try and wrestle it down. But this one may be our nemesis. With a quick glance, it’s clear: there are many contexts to consider, a range of content types, and (as shown in the PDF) a diverse set of audiences. The many to many to many mapping can get a bit crazy. Welcome to social media. Or in some quarters, its now ‘new media’ .. more proof of the variability of requirements across venues.

The semantics of “2.0” can be a daunting exercise, no?

We’re going to use charts like these to get our bearings, as we plan the scope and scale for SMCHAT in 2010, already in progress. But if there’s one thing we CAN take away from this analysis already, it’s this.

The correct answer to “How should you handle ‘social media’ .. ?”

It depends.

Twitter Lists: What’s the Plan?

Lot’s of excitement over Twitter lists in the early stages of the game. After some research, I’m finding many are still trying to sort it all out. Here are some basic questions to help test whether lists can help you:

  1. What do I know about my friends/followers that others don’t?
  2. Would it be worthwhile (to me and/or to them) to share it?
  3. Are there topical categories of people I want to connect with that I currently can’t see?
  4. Can I identify specific actions that I’d take having created a specific list (using it as a rolodex, tracking potential clients)?
  5. Do I have time for figure this out and make the connections?

If the answer to all of these questions is “I don’t know” or “no”, then maintaining Twitter lists could lead to frustrations. The best bet is to set some objectives, remain focused (don’t try to ‘list the world’) and keep an eye on reducing redundant work with others in your circle. Then again, you may want to wait for some list management apps.

Here are some points to help simplify the options:

  1. long lists only help if they name everyone someone would want to know on a given topic. If yours is not the longest in that space, potential followers may pass you over for someone else who has the primo list.
  2. avoid personal laundry lists if you’re not going to act on them (eg., ‘people I know’). Anyone you put at position 350 on a list of 360 is not going to get seen. Would you look at someone else’s laundry list?
  3. short lists are generally more useful. Why? If they have an interesting and relevant name, they are more likely to get browsed.
  4. think about superlatives, folks that stand out (eg., “top bloggers” vs. “bloggers).
  5. following too many people? Your “All Friends” stream moving too fast? You can use lists to create a subset of people to follow, by topic, to manage how you allocate your Twitter browsing .. but for now you’ll have to surf to those links to find those tweets; the true value is in futures .. having TweetDeck (or related apps) created filter Groups by list content;
  6. communities/groups (like #SMCHAT) benefit from one master “all-in” list for everyone to follow. Consider appointing someone to maintain it, and make sure folks know where it is; rotate the role;
  7. events should follow similar thinking. Capture Twitter ID’s w/ registration. Take the time to build an accurate list, or appoint someone and let folks know who it is; events should publish speaker ID’s as a list to facilitate tweetcasting;
  8. keep in mind many will grab follows as they scroll through, not following the list; this is invisible to the list creator and negates the effect of a ‘list follow count’;
  9. .. more proof (if we needed it) that counters don’t matter;
  10. Check out Listorious; it actually supports list tagging and tag lookup; great news !! if more folks would start using it. Still pretty slim pickin’s, but it’s early;
  11. Some have said hashtags can go away, but I’m not so sure; lists associate people to topics/roles, hashtags relate tweets/links to topics. What’s really needed is ubiquitous tagging, that would help us aggregate tweets, links and people together, so we can tag at will;
  12. Remember, not everybody uses hashtags .. so relevant lists can help fill that gap.

A lot to consider .. but 2 general rules: ‘keep it simple’ and ‘keep it real’.

Lists are Twitter’s first official recognition that there may some value in helping communities form. In this case, benefit will go to those in a virtual community that act as a community vs. everyone doing their own thing.

Will be interesting to see when and where that happens.

I think folks who say “lists change everything” are actually realizing the value of a ‘filtered’ Twitter. For many, hashtags and TweetDeck search filters have played that role in part. Now we can add lists to .. the list.

I still believe Twitter changes everything, as I’ve shared in prior posts. Maybe we’re on the same page after all.

Tweetcasting: the Virtual #CONF Connection

[A special thanks to DEAN MEYERS for guest posting this week, part of the framing for our Q26 discussion at this weeks’ SMCHAT.]

Some INSIGHTS from Dean Meyers

My first involvement as someone actively Twittering (or tweeting) a conference was at Jeff Pulver’s SocComm in February ‘09. The use of the hashtag made it a trending topic, and as Jeff has added the #140Conf (the State of Now) conference to his schedule, his inclusion of “official” Tweeters (usually 25 people or so) has pushed his conferences into Twitter trending topics quickly, often within the top 3 positions. I’ve tweeted while at a conference, watching it live streamed, and just watching the hashtagged stream, often in that last case to ask questions.

I believe the best tweets from conferences come from those who can:

  1. summarize key points quickly-without personal editorializing
  2. prep the audience following the hash tag with other info, as in who is about to speak, their topic, their twitter name
  3. convey the level of involvement, describing engagement by panelists and the audience, acting as our eyes and ears.

So, the basic rule: it’s really about good journalism. That means clear concise tweets, careful use of personal voice rather than overwhelming opinions about each speaker’s content, and focused attention on what’s going on in the room all make for a good tweeter at a conference.

There’s a new a trend of using the hashtag stream within a conference to allow both conversation with the speakers and content added by the audience. Here’s a blog post from a terrific blog about presentations in general. Olivia Mitchell is the source. She’s really offering good insight and raising good questions.

www.speakingaboutpresenting.com

To sum it up: if you choose to “report” from an event to provide twitter coverage, great. If you choose to share your personal experience from a conference, as in telling us how awful the wifi coverage is (a routine problem) or how the panel chair won’t shut up, that makes it a very different experience; it becomes more about the person tweeting rather than the conference. Perhaps a combination of the two might become the new standard, a hybrid way of tweeting from a conference.

But you can be sure there will always be tweets about where to meetup before and afterwards—that’s a part of twitter activity that’s been used at conferences from the getgo.

[You can follow Dean on Twitter @DeanMeistr and check out his blog, which can be accessed via www.deanmeyers.net.]

Twitter Gets Down to Business: Unlocking 1:n Collaboration for the Enterprise

Companies seeking to innovate want to spark collaboration, but the path is often elusive. Twitter is positioned to help change this.  It’s founders have recently started talking about opening up microblogging in the commercial space, per a recent interview w/ Biz Stone.

But first, there’s a hurdle.  Companies must start to trust employees to communicate openly on shared topics inside the firewall. In theory, that shouldn’t be so hard. It simply means employees must exercise judgment, as has always been required, deciding when email, phone or (heaven forbid) face to face meetings would be more appropriate means to share something. But because the new mode of communication is out in the open, the bar is raised. Judgment will be even more important.

Point made. I believe employees will see the value of 1:n collaboration and will step up to the plate.

When execs and IT realize the water is safe? That’s when Twitter (or micro-blogging tools like it) will start unlocking doors.

What is 1:n (or “one to many”) communication? We’ve all been buried by emails and convoluted distribution lists that would have been far better served as an “open wire” dialog or chat.  It’s the input that creates your opportunistic “oh, I didn’t know that was happening” response.  Today only Twitter can efficiently spark that electronically in real-time.

I believe Twitter and solutions like it will have an evolutionary impact on communications when they begin to take hold.

Given the chance, most want to help drive an innovative idea or solution. They seek to get their ideas in circulation. 1:n communication is the better mousetrap.

Not to sound impatient, but why wait?  Security in the corporate setting was solved long ago.  Granted, when information is going outside and across the firewall, who uses Twitter and definitions of “safe ground” for tweet content is a bit more complicated.   There have been some great posts on the ‘spectrum’ of corporate views on how to interact with the public using Twitter including Marketing, PR & Customer Service guidance.  This aspect is evolving.

But let’s not sacrifice the internal work group benefit to wait for the external Marketing & PR side to catch-up.

It’s time to get down to the business of effective 1:n corporate communication. Twitter represents a powerful new medium for more effective enterprise collaboration.

Become an advocate for change in your organization.  Help take the “social” out of Social Media by putting it to work on important business conversations.  That leg-up will give Twitter the chance to work it’s collaboration magic in the enterprise.

Start brainstorming with your colleagues, how could you leverage “1:n” communication to solve business problems?

(Thanks to a blog post by George M. Tomko with a comment by Nigel Legg, where portions of this post first appeared as a comment; you guys got me thinking on an important topic !! CJ)

Twitter’s Missing Link: use of Hashtags (re: Context)

The first time people see Twitter there’s a negative reaction. I felt it too. There are too many people talking, too few people listening … and way too many haters.

It looks like lots of noise.

To make Twitter useful, we need to better understand and more consistently use the scheme for relating tweet content to topics. It’s done with a special tag for tweets, called a “hashtag”. These are simple key words that you and others define, typically on the fly. Over time, as the most common hashtags gain popularity, people start to watch who is using them, and to see what those people are saying. The hashtag basically serves to index your tweet for anyone else who might want to find it.

How does it work?

It’s easy, really. Just put “#” in front of any word that describes what your tweet is about. Most are placed at the end, especially if they don’t fit in the flow of your tweet, but they can be placed anywhere. You can use as many as you want. Just keep in mind you’re limited to 140 characters for each tweet. The shorter the hashtag, the better. And it needs to be sensible enough that others are likely already using it, or would think to search for it.  For example, try tweeting:

Why doesn’t Twitter have a user manual? #twitter #socialmedia

then search, first on #socialmedia and next, #twitter.

You can use Twitter’s Search, but most eventually opt for a free 3rd party Twitter application like TweetDeck, TweetGrid or Seesmic that will let you define search criteria in columns. This let’s you ‘watch’ specific tweet streams without lots of repetitive typing. As your experience evolves, you can quickly change the hashtags you want to follow.

Another benefit? The rate that people post to hashtag streams is considerably slower than the public timeline. With the pace more reasonable, the conversation is easier to keep up with.

The social media marketing (#smm)  implications are significant as well.  Once you identify hashtags that are relevant to your product, company, or brand, tweeting to your target hashtags increases the chance that potential customers will see it.

But the silver lining may well be global networking.  One day (soon) someone will respond to one of your tweets with helpful insight, and it will be someone you previously didn’t know, quite possibly from across the planet. You see, watching hashtags happens without relation to followers. All of the sudden, the world is your stage.  You could say (or tweet):

Where else (besides #Twitter) can you message the world and get answers? #communication #paradigm

Twitter is what you want to make of it. Just be sure to put a hashtag or two in your most important and insightful tweets.

Sans hashtag, chances are your tweet is going to be lost in the Twitterverse. And that is a very large space indeed.

See you online.

Chris (@SourcePOV)

Keeping Up in the “Age of Stream” (re: Freeways)

Steve Rubel posted an interesting essay today on the flood of information in the twitterverse, which may be dwarfed only by the tidal waves of insight in the blogosphere.  He raises some useful perspectives, and introduced a metaphor for watching SM tweets and blog posts zoom past:  ‘watching cars going by on the freeway’.

A couple of folks took the opportunity to challenge Steve, Twitter, and the freeways in LA.

Fair enough, but I challenged the naysayers (in my RT and my comment to Steve’s blog) to re-examine the metaphor from a more practical point of view:  the magic isn’t in watching everything rush by; rather, it’s about being a driver, making proactive decisions on where we need to be going, and helping us get there.  Avoiding accidents is also helpful. 

Check out my Steve’s blog entry and my comment, would love to know your thoughts.  Safe driving.

Twitter: A New Communications Paradigm

Lot’s of interesting data and buzz about the growth of Twitter, in spite of the apparent indifference among teens and the more predictable roller coaster of Hollywood opinion.

see Blog by Paul Dunay (where following comment was 1st posted)

For me, it’s refreshing, at long last, to see a technology like Twitter achieve massive adoption without ‘fad’ status. I find it reminiscent of the internet ca. 1996, it just appeared in the mass market one day and we never looked back.

Twitter is an evolution in global communications. Where else can you message the world and get answers?

It is a paradigm shift.

It is changing PR. It is clearly impacting news media, marketing & customer service.

And perhaps most important – it’s a brand new playing field for global collaboration & innovation.

We’re all early adopters, and need to keep that in mind. Folks are still learning how to tag & search (the magic sauce is effective use of the ‘hashtag’), and the word needs to keep getting around. I’m amazed that Twitter can grow like it has and still be stable .. well, most of the time. As long as Twitter can keep up with growth, I see good things ahead.

No one ever said change would be easy, especially on this scale.

Expect more bumps.

But I don’t think the habits of Hollywood stars will be the drivers on this one –

Premiering #SMCHAT

Building on the #chat trend in Twitter, there’s a new forum for discussing social media (SM) among practitioners and strategists.   It’s called #smchat, and can be quickly accessed by surfing here at the scheduled time: 

http://tweetchat.com/room/smchat

It’s an open forum.  Anyone interested in driving value from online interaction & collaboration is welcome. Be ready for a discussion that’s sometimes technical but always lively.  Members will be exploring dynamics of social & professional interaction, twitter, online communities, and the evolution of knowledge networks.

To submit ideas, join Linked-In group #smchat or watch for these logos:

smchat

smchat-small

In between weekly live chat sessions, anyone interested can visit the Linked-In group for updates, and watch Twitter hashtags #socialmedia #collaboration and #km for insight.   We’re also posting frequently now to streams #e20, #gov20 and #web20.  To get the conversation started and to work on keeping it focused, #smchat will be moderated by @sourcepov (Chris Jones). 

For more information and upates on times and topics, visit wthashtag.

Hope to see you there –