Social Media : Quality v. Quantity

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Pinterest, Klout–your “popularity” is measured in many ways, but largely in how many people follow you and how many you follow. Not how good the relationship is, not how many people de-friend you half an hour after you accepted their request, but quantity.

Unfollowing is fine. Image from http://tinyurl.com/d3pmgcr

Klout is interested in how much you post and how many people re-post. And we take the bait. We want to be popular. We want to be recognized–Klout has pure genius behind it. In ways they will not tell you, but will gather lots of information about you, they create a number and then tell you how you can make it higher. I’ve gotten more Klout requests from people I don’t know than I have from any other social media. We are hungry for popularity.

It’s easy to mistake quantity for quality, but the essential difference lies in connection. In relationships. In being with people around whom you can be authentic and be accepted, not for whom you have to act in ways that allow you to be approved.

How do you find those people you want to build a relationship with? Easier than you think. First of all, think quality–what these people offer to others. Would you bring someone into your house who trashes people in public? Who does nothing but market his/her product or service? For whom conversation is them-to-you only, never you-to-them?  Don’t follow them either. Even if they have 30,000 followers.  They can’t keep up with all of them; most likely you aren’t The One.

Other suggestions:

1. Before you follow back on Twitter, read the person’s bio and home page. The bio should be specific, not just cute. If the home page is loaded with mindless photos, requests for RTs, updates of their locations from 4Square, give them a pass. What will you learn, contribute to, or relate to from this person? A whole page is a good cross-section of their character for the day.

2. Check your values. I’m not talking about honesty, ethics, and courage, because they are easy to disguise or hide. I’m talking about characteristics that are important to you–comfortable shoes, spicy food, ability to listen to you rant without fixing. Those values are what you are looking for in a relationship, even online. Does the person’s posts express this?

If you follow someone and they immediately direct or private message you with a marketing offer, un-friend them. For them, you are a way to make money, not build a relationship.

3. On Facebook, the check is similar. A lot of those “Blah, blah, I know only 3% of you will have the guts to share this, but if you do. . . ” mean low content value, high popularity need.  A lot of links to  their Etsy sites and nothing else is a pass. People who never comment on your posts–is this a relationship? People who say they are thinning their FB friends and you should leave one word about them and then re-post, and then they will . . . .sigh. I un-friend them without a guilty thought.

So how do you find people you want to follow? Look at the friends of your friends. Look up authors you like of books you’ve read. If you read blogs, look at the blogroll. (Although a lot of blogs don’t have them anymore). But before you decide on anyone, read what they post. We are what we post.

-Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and writer who keeps an art journal.

Making the Most of Your Twitter Post

You only have 140 characters, what can go wrong? Plenty. As someone who spends a lot of time on Twitter, I can spot the pros and the ones in the clutches of an “SEO guru” and the well-meaning newbies. Here are seven tips to help you make the most of your Twitter post.

1. Use a link-shortener. If you are posting a link, use tinyurl or bit.ly or shortlink to compress the big urls into shorter ones. You’ll have more room left for content, and content is important if you have only 140 characters.

2. Don’t post just a link. Tell us what’s going to happen if we click on it. Is it a video, your blog post, a photo? If the link has adult content, it’s nice to add NSFW –Not Safe For Work.

Vague, misleading or hard-to-understand posts don't get you more readers.

3. Post for your future. Your Twitter posts will be around for a long time. If you are looking for a job, have a new job, or want to keep your current job, don’t write anything you don’t want anyone else to discover. The person who follows you today can see your tweets from last year. You are not alone in the sandbox.

4. When replying to a post, put a hint of the topic in the reply. A reply that says “I hate that :\ ” doesn’t give as much information as one that says “I hate seniority pay rather than merit pay.” A context-rich example will let others know your viewpoint, get you on more lists, and most of all, help the person to whom you are replying know what you are talking about.

5. Don’t add too many hashtags to your post. A hashtag (#)  in front of a word creates an entry in the Twitter index. If you visit hashtag.org, your discover a wiki index created when people post and add an index word. If this were a Tweet, I could end it with #tips, or #Tweettips, or #ImproveYourTweets. Many people think they’ll get more readers if they treat hashtags like keyword tags on blogs. Don’t be that guy.

6. Give more information rather than less. If you are replying to someone, treat it as a separate post, with content or context, not an IM. If you want to have a private conversation, use Direct Mesages–DM.

7. On Follow Friday, tell us why. Of course it’s nice to thank your friends by listing them. It’s even nicer to let others know whom they should follow and why. “Great fiction authors” or “Photographers with a sense of humor” is a better description than “#FF love to these folks.”

Quinn McDonald is a writer, trainer, and certified creativity coach. She’s @QuinnCreative on Twitter.

What I Learned from Social Networking

Social networking hasn’t been around that long, and I’ve been using it for maybe two years. In that time, here are some important lessons I’ve learned, largely from making mistakes.

1. You will not change someone’s mind by replying to a post. This is true about their opinion on politics, religion, food, music, or anything else about their life. Trying to explain it just one more time in another comment doesn’t work either.

Image from: vaibhavtiwari.wordpress.com

2. Do not turn the angry person who posted a nasty comment into a pen pal. Do not answer them at all. Seriously. You will not make them go away or (see #1) change their minds. They will have another quote, another link, another argument. If you don’t answer them at all, their comment will just hang there.

3. Do not get off the high road to wrestle with a pig. You will get dirty, and the pig will enjoy it. The late Gordon Bowman gave me that advice the first week I was working for him, 20 years before social networking.  It was brilliant then and it is still brilliant now.

4. When someone whines, is looking for sympathy, or is proud of an achievement, be nice. Do not tell your own story in the comment section. Empathize with the person posting. Instead of “I know how you feel,” say, “that must have been really [great, awful, fun, no fun].  You may then unfriend them, if necessary.

5. Be useful. Be helpful. Re-tweet interesting messages. That includes your own blogs. “Includes” means there is more than the thing listed. Don’t link to just your blog or website all the time. It’s a big world, find other interesting sites to share.

6. Strangers become friends in a strange way in social networking, but they may not act like friends. Practice one of the following: “Thanks for the feedback,” “How kind of you to offer,” “Interesting information, I’ll think it over.” You really don’t know these people well enough to say, “Are you crazy? You don’t know my mother! That will never work, she will never, ever love me, and you don’t care either!”

7. Say half of what you think. The practical, useful half.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and social network user. She learns slowly.

Why I Don’t Follow You on Twitter

Twitter is an interesting place. I’ve learned a lot, disagreed with a lot, and still don’t care about the number of followers I have. I’m not so big on being followed as I am in finding interesting people.

Twitter does have some guidelines, and one of them seems to be “follow everyone who follows you.” Open the pod bay doors, HAL. I’m afraid I can’t do that Dave.

There are lots of reasons. Twitter is not the Promised Land, it is populated by as many funny, intelligent, insightful people as self-aggrandizing, ego-driven dolts. You pick your company.

So why am I not following everyone who follows me?

1. You make me ask for permission to contact you. It’s Twitter. If you want to live in Rapunzel’s tower, you can. But don’t expect people to follow you if you won’t throw down your hair.

2. You don’t have a bio. I want to get to know the people I deal with. The 140- character limit on Twitter is tight, and makes it hard to learn who you are. If you don’t tell me who you are or put up a link to your website,  my interest wanes faster than a sidewalk water puddle in Phoenix. In August.

3. Your website is a mess of promotions, gimmicks and promises I can’t believe. Too many colors, too many typefaces and sizes, too much hype about making my website “go viral.” You can’t promise me that, and you know it.

4. You make me register–give up personal information–to find out what you do. I already know what you do, you use my personal information to market your business.

5. You DM (direct message) me with a promise of a “free” gift if I just visit your website and click on. . . .[the sound you hear is my feet running away.]

6. I see nothing but self-promotion on your Twitter home page. If your purpose to be on Twitter is to sell, sell, sell, I wish you well. But I’m not following you.

7. You use punctuation marks as a substitute for clear content. Eight exclamation marks do not make you look passionate, they make you look unable to use words well. I follow people who write well, and that’s not you. Yes, you are free to tell me the “rules about good writing are different now.” Not in my book.

9. You tell me you are a ‘genius,’ ‘guru,’ or ‘C-level executive.’ I’m happier with people who work hard. My interest in your self-proclaimed genius is below sea-level.

10. You don’t know who you are. If you list yourself as (really, I saw this one): “Parent of 6, web designer, writer, boudoir photographer, Sunday School teacher, lover of joy, passionate about making websites go viral,  vegetable grower, bookkeeper,  spiritual healer, piano player, rock-wall climber, believer in ‘Happyness’ and have climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro on my ‘bucket list,’ –you are too exhausted to post anything on Twitter.  Have a nice day.

You might also want to read: Why I DO Follow you on Twitter, 7 tips that don’t repeat any of the above. (Well, OK, they do mention one of them.)

—Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing.

How to Make Twitter Work for You

Twitter annoyed me at first. I didn’t get it.
So brainless, so thoughtless. Who cares what you are eating, wearing or listening to? But wait, that was just the people I was following.

One tweet

One tweet

At first, I followed everyone who followed me. That seemed polite. It also seemed like third-grade behavior after about three days.  People follow you for a variety of reasons not having anything to do with intelligence, humor or excellent sources. It took a few peculiar people (women with numbers after their names) following me to figure that out. They had a huge number of followers, followed as many, but had no updates (posts to the general public at Twitter.) I found the website of one of these woman, and I hope that no one investigates my computer in the near future, because it will be hard to explain why I was looking at such a variety of ummmm, exotic images involving preternaturally blond women and animals.

Many twitter

Many twitter

Back to Twitter. Here’s how I found people to follow: Three times a day, I’d go to Twitter and read what various people said. Anyone who wasn’t helping got removed. “Wasn’t helping” included people who posted 40 tweets, each 15 seconds apart; used incomprehensible sentence fragments; hyped their own ability as experts in Web marketing; posted links to their own Websites that required registration or giving up private information. Those were obvious as were people whose purpose on Twitter is to get 10,000 followers. It simply wasn’t what I was interested in.

Before I removed them, I’d click on some of the people they were following. (Each person has a visible list of people they are following.)  Often, I’d find interesting people to follow. I concentrated on people who do what I do–write, coach, speak professionally, create art, read books.

In other words, I started with what I knew, and branched out from there. I add people as I find them through others Re-Tweets, I drop others who aren’t helpful or interesting.

I started out following 50 people, and slowly built it to about 200 people or organizations who were thoughtful and posted good links and information, explore areas I know a little (or a lot) about. They are not carbon copies of me, but they are in my field. Another name for this is networking. Not a bad idea, overall. I’m not interested in numbers, I’m interested in quality. Just like before Web 2.0.

And it works. Is everyone a genius? Certainly not. But you get ideas that work for you, and that’s the point.

And here’s a good article about using Linked In if you are a freelancer. One of the people I follow on Twitter wrote it.

Other articles on finding the right people to follow on Twitter:

WebWorkerDaily includes Twello, a yellow pages for Twitter fans.

CreativeWisdom also talks about Twello, but has some other great ideas.

TechLifeWeb uses a method like mine, but it’s funnier.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, life coach and teaches writing and communicating clearly. She also teaches people who can’t draw how to keep an art journal through raw art journals.

Creative Play : #Theme Thursday 5/7/09

Last Friday, I posted some links for creative play. I said it was more fun than Follow Friday, a Twitter invention, in which folks recommend following other people’s Twitter posts.

Truly bizare, but absolutely real: aloe flower spike, about 12-ft. high

Truly bizarre, but absolutely real: aloe flower spike, about 12-ft. high

Then I had this idea–suppose all those people who love art, or reading, or music (on any other thing you love–fishing, gardening, folding paper airplanes),  searched and found some great links on those topics?

Once you’ve found some great sites,  post them on your blog.  Suppose we all did this on Thursday and call it #Theme Thursday?   If you have a Twitter account, you can post a link to your site there. (The hash mark is an indicator for Twitter so it will get indexed and we can all find everyone else’s posts.)

If you don’t know, like, or care about Twitter,  post a link to your site in the comments below. You can do more than three cool links on your blog, but make it at least three.

Here are mine, in no particular order.

Over at the creativity incubator, we were talking about music and the creative process. Here’s a link to create your own music using You Tube clips. Best thing: you don’t need any musical talent.

Some very imaginative graffiti, some of it art, some of it inviting art.

Of course you are unique, but how many people in the world have your name? Find out.

Virginia Siegel is an artist, but until May 7 she is auctioning off art for cancer research. She does collage work, and the prices vary widely. Interesting concept, art for health. Her blog discusses collage mania in detail.

Katie Sokoler imagines what shadows would do if they had a lie of their own. And over on The Seeded Earth, there is a great graffiti-on-graffiti balloon man. Look closely!

Part sketch pad, part image cutter-and-paster, part “I have no idea, but it looks like fun,” check out Skitch. It has a free download.

Enjoy!

Quinn McDonald is a writer and a certified creativity coach. She teaches writing and how to keep an art journal if you can’t draw.

The Hyping of Twitter

Twitter is a social networking platform. Notice the word “social,” and that it precedes “networking.” Recently I’ve seen a lot of articles on  the relevancy of Twitter, how to make money on Twitter, how to judge your product marketing on Twitter, how to use those 140 characters for Search Engine Optimization, and how to be a “viral Twitter expert.”

Sign posted on Jayzooz (J. Campbell)'s website

Sign posted on Jayzooz (J. Campbell)'s website

Quit trying to make Twitter into a hyper-relevant marketing tool worth controlling, managing and becoming the major part of your business plan. Twitter is not going to make you sales because you want it to, no matter how often you Re-Tweet your own posts under another name.

Are we a culture so obsessed with consumerism that we can not, for one minute, have fun? Does every mild social chat have to have a business plan?

Please, for the gullible among you–no one can “make” your tweet, blog, or YouTube video “go viral.” It’s a phenomenon that happens when a lot of people like the same thing and pass it around. So far, it can’t be planned or forced. Don’t believe people who tell you they are so in touch with the zeitgeist that they control how “viral” works.

Even the Twitterati are obsessed. I don’t mean the “internet marketing experts” who follow you and when you click on their sites to see who they are, immediately send you a “free” link that demands registration and giving up personal information. No, I mean seemingly normal people on Twitter who are focused on getting 1,000 or 10,000 followers.

If you don’t know Twitter, you can’t possibly sensibly read that many posts, even with the Twitter dashboard to organize it for you. This is the virtual equivalent of crazy cat ladies collecting 47 cats and not neutering them.

Gathering a huge list of followers may be an ego thing, it could be an obsessive action of people who have no life, but I really think it is triggered by the part of our brain that is senselessly competitive. You know, the part that doesn’t want to win because they have trained and practiced, but rather the one that wants to win to make someone else lose. It’s the same part of your brain that tells you watching “The Real Housewives of [fill in some city here]” is culturally important.

The kids who fanatically collected Beanie Babies grew up and are now collecting “Follows” on Twitter and “Friends” on Facebook. It’s a game. It is not about knowing people or caring about them. It’s about numbers.

Shortly, these people will become your boss and raise your sales goals. If you are a writer, they will raise your words-per-hour, but insist you make all your emails no more than 140 characters long.

So all you analysts our there–stop trying to figure out how to make money from Twitter. Stop calling yourself an SEO expert and Web 2.0 marketing expert just because you spend 21 hours a day on Twitter and consider it your social life.

Some things in life are just better for being uncomplicated. Twitter is like standing in line in a supermarket. A slice of life passes you by, mentioning things. The guy in the net undershirt and inked arm-sleeves walks by, flexing to be admired. The cute chick in the Daisy Dukes walks by, working it hard for raised eyebrows. A couple holding coffee cups and a basket of  whole grain discusses locovore diets and slow food. A mom explains why the sugary cereals are at kids-eye-level to her 10-year old. Snatches of conversation, posing, preening, explaining, helping, all flow by. It’s not a whole life, but it can be interesting. It’s fun, it’s fast, it’s short and it’s a form of communicating that doesn’t allow for background, details, or much analyzing.

Let’s not try to frame it as an intellectual pursuit or a brilliant marketing tool. Social networking is not really any of that. The people posting a good read or a good lunch are just documenting their life as a form of communication. Let’s not become the snake-oil shil at the travelling circus and claim it’s a cure-all for the new economy. The economy collapsed because of greed, because we built one bubble after the next. The economy needs meaningful communication, problem solving skills, creativity and imagination. Maybe we can overhear snatches of information on Twitter, but it’s not the answer all by itself.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach who teaches people how to write for business and for themselves.

Navigating Twitter

Last time, I gave a quick overview of Twitter. This time, let’s see how to use it.

If you have an account (you can sign up at twitter.com) you can post and answer other’s posts.

The best way to get attention is to post useful links or facts, along with a link to those facts. Sure you can post something like “In a Major League Ball Game, the home team has to have 90 new balls available for the game,” but the statement is more effective if you post a link proving your statement. Most links are long, so you can go to tinyurl.com and type in the long link, and instantly get a much shorter link. That’s important when your post can’t be more than 140 characters long.

The idea on Twitter is to “follow” people–read their posts. And have them follow you.

Who to follow? Depends on what your interests are. There is a search engine on the Home page, and you can type in any topic to see what people have to say about it.

You can organize all your social media and search and connect through TweetDeck.com

You can find out who is no longer following you and un-follow them with Twitoria.

Kristine Wirth explains a lot of Twitter very well. When you use Twitter you’ll see this symbol a lot: # It’s called a hashmark and it works the same way as tags on WordPress.  Here’s how Kristine explains it:

“The hash mark (#) before a word in a post allows you to tag that post for that word. However, in order to get tracked via a hash tag, you need to opt-in and follow http://twitter.com/hashtags.  Once you’re following Hashtags, every time you make a post in Twitter and tag it with a hash mark like so:  #iPhone, it will then show up as a real-time post on http://www.Hashtags.org.

If you then visit Hashtags.org, you can click on any tag and it will show you all of the posts that have been tagged with that keyword.”

Some other notations, courtesy of AdventCreative’s Marshall Thompson:

@ = Placing this before a person’s Twitter name (i.e. @sethjenks) is an open conversation directed toward that person. Anybody can see this communication between you and the person your @ing.  You can @ anybody on Twitter, even people who are not following your updates.

D = A private conversation between you and a person who is following your updates. There is a space between the ‘d’ and the person’s name and you don’t need to use the @ sign. You can only direct message people who are following you.

RT = Re-tweeting means, Sweet! I like this! Passing it along. Always give props to the original tweeter.

Some people I follow also have blogs worth reading:

Maria Schneider is helpful and concise. She’ll tell you how to use the 60/40 rule on Twitter  as well as how to get street, or maybe it’s Tweetcred. Schneider also has tips on good follows for writers.

Liz Massey, over at Creative Liberty, writes on creativity, but she also is techno-savvy. Check out posts on her site for great ideas on social networking. One of my favorite of her posts is information on creating a creative dashboard.

That should help, I hope. Have fun Tweeting!

Follow me on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/QuinnCreative

–Quinn McDonald is a life and creativity coach who owns QuinnCreative.

Twitter: The Good, The Bad, The OMG!

If you don’t use Twitter yet, but have a burning desire to know about it, maybe I can help. Maybe not. By the time I click “Publish” on this post, everything may be different. Still, I’m going to try.

Twittering magpie

Twittering magpie

Twitter is a website on which anyone can write about anything as long as it takes up 140 characters or less. (A character is a keystroke.)  Posts are called tweets. People who use Twitter are called Tweeple. Twitter users are a real slice of life–there are serious business people, scammers, stoners, intelligentsia, cat lovers, event-goers, and at least one mature writer-coach-trainer-artist. (That’s me.)

It’s true that no matter who you are (or how old, or how fast you can type with your thumbs) there is a lot of Twitter you won’t care about. Before you sniff snobbishly, let me remind you that the same is true of TV shows, the interwebs, the library, and your extended family. In other words, you can pick and choose who shows up for you on Twitter.

Unlike Facebook, you can follow people on Twitter without being friends with them. Following them means you can go to their home page on Twitter and read what they post. You can also post.  And if someone isn’t what you wanted or expected, you can simply take them off your list without “unfriending” them.

You can run Twitter on your computer or on your cellphone or mobile PDA or all three. If you want to control your connection addiction, run it solely on your computer and check in with it periodically or post when you have something useful to post.

How do you know whose posts to read? Twitter has a search engine, and you can look for topics that interest you or people that interest you. Pete Harbeson (follow him at twitter.com/pharbeson) who comments here frequently, made a great suggestion: in the beginning, follow a lot of people. Trim down the list when you figure out what you want to read.

You can also use Mr. Tweet to make suggestions once you get a start–Mr. Tweet bases your suggestions on your description of yourself and your follow- and following-list.

What’s the difference between Twitter and Google? Google looks back on the contents of documents and arranges it by how many people looked at it. Twitter plugs in to what people are talking about right now.

I promised you the good: Twitter is fresh, you can find out what interests large groups of people, news buzzes, and updates of events you can’t attend.

I promised you the bad: Twitter is the e-version of the cool kids’ cafeteria table when you were in the seventh grade. You will never be cool enough, but you can carve out a niche.

. . .and the OMG!: Right now, “SXSW” is on almost every post. It means South by Southwest and it’s a media, film, and music festival happening in Texas March 18-22. After the 22nd, SXSW will vanish for something else.

Not OMG! enough? OK, here is a random post–a lot of people seem to like to post what they ate for lunch. I’ve left out the name to protect the guilty: “me to matt: what did you have for lunch? / Ramen Noodles / That’s not very nutritious / well, I had cookies too.”

Follow me on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/QuinnCreative

Next: hashmarks, who to follow, and some links to other articles that demystify Twitter.

Quinn McDonald is a trainer, life- and certified creativity coach. She is on Facebook and on Twitter. She was not one of the cool kids in seventh grade, but has carved out a niche.

Cyber Networking Introductions

New to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn? In this cyberspace, where “friend” is a verb (as in “Mary is friending you,”) there are ways to make networking seem more natural.

Image (c) Elizabeth Perry. See her link below.

Image (c) Elizabeth Perry. See her link below.

When you are asking someone to join your circle (called “friending” in Facebook and “connecting” on LinkedIn, you create a list of contacts and the program sends an automatic invitation. You can add a personal message. In fact, you should.

I’ve received a number of letters that leave me confused. “John Doe wants to friend you. Before he can see your profile, please tell us you know John.” I may know John, but I’m not remembering him or placing him in context. To me, at that moment, he is a blank.

If you’ve lived long enough to be a functioning adult, you know hundreds of people in former jobs, volunteer events, high school, college, graduate school, choir, 10K runs, and charity auctions. The names and identities don’t always connect quickly.

The same people who ask to connect with me would never behave that way in person. And to make cyber networking easier, act as you would in real life. Attach a personal message with your notice. “We met at the half marathon in Santa Barbara and discussed running shoes before the event. I’d like to put you on my LinkedIn networking list.” Giving the other person a hint about your identity and how you know each other is not only polite, it makes for a more likely positive response.

If it is a business connection, add a sentence about your business connection, even if your last met socially. “I’m the non-fiction writer specializing in creativity, we met at the writer’s conference” tells the recipient a lot about you, including that you are thoughtful.

I’ve never felt comfortable with people who come up to me at an event and say, “Do you remember me?” I’m one of those unfortunate people who wouldn’t recognize my best friend if I met her out of context–at the grocery store, for example. When confronted by “Do you remember me?” I am always tempted to say, “Why should I?” But, of course, I don’t. I say, “Of course I do, but I can’t remember your name!” And hope she tells me.

The advantage of adding information to your request for cyber-networking is that you are sparing yourself a senseless additional exhchange of emails, or worse, connecting with people you don’t know.

Keep it short, give detailed information, and give the person a reason to agree to be linked to you. Cyber networking doesn’t have to be lonely.

—Image: Elizabeth Perry draws every day. See her blog here: http://www.elizabethperry.com/woolgathering/2008/03/

—Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach who is on Facebook and is learning to Twitter. Slowly. She has had a website, QuinnCreative, for nine years.