Don’t Believe the Hype, Flava. What is Social Media?..really

I’m going to start this post with a confession: I’ve been spending a lot of my non-work time with social media tools, platforms and networking sites. This is ironic, by the way, because one of my recent posts is titled: Beware the Social Media Rathole and Re-Focus on 5 Key Business Disciplines.

My latest obsession revolves around the ultimate tools for posting content, sharing ideas, sharing articles, and putting up personal photos and videos in the simplest, quickest way possible. If you’re a small business that can’t afford options like SalesforceVitrueWildfire and Involver, I recommend Hootsuite. It’s a great tool for managing multiple social streams, accounts and profiles. And if you use Gmail, you can use a plugin/tool like Rapportive to get a lot of the cool CRM features of those expensive platforms. This combination of Hootsuite and Rapportive makes for a powerful, super-low-cost social media management system that you can use every day. You can also use these tools to easily schedule posts throughout the week and target specific content to clients, prospects and fans.

OK – the point of this little riff, however, is to parse through some of the observations I’ve come across and to make some sense of it all in both a business and personal context. This exercise was originally just for me, but it occurred to me that you might benefit, as well.

One thing’s for sure – there’s *a lot* of chatter, anxiety and buzz out there with respect to everything social media/networking.

First, I want to set a baseline about communication and socialization and what it means to me. Then maybe we can move on to some of the curious things I’ve seen out in the “social networking” world.

I’ll start with an anecdote. When I was in high school, a friend and I started our own t-shirt company. I almost said “apparel company” there, but it wasn’t .. just one idea for a funny t-shirt (see image). The design was funny, interesting and relevant to the obsessions of our target audience – high school kids.

Could this have gone viral back in 1985?
Could this have gone viral back in 1985?

It was about partying, status symbols (tongue and cheek to some extent – heck we were all growing up in one of the cheesiest, money-hungry cities in the U.S.), and college, the fortunate obsession of my peer group. So those elements were all in place.

And we sold thousands of t-shirts, sweatshirts and tank tops. Enough to keep me on the beach and sipping (moderation – ;^)) Coors Light well into my college years.

But I don’t think it was the design, the humor or the general theme that made the project work. Those elements had to be in place, of course. Yet, it needed something else.

We used to call the really popular, socially active kids “soc’s” back in the day (pronounced soshes, with the ‘o’ sounding like its name). I guess I was one of those. But I had hooks into a lot of different groups – including the geeks (I had an Apple II+ before anyone else), the mods (I loved the Jam, The Clash and Generation X), and the jocks (I played tennis but hung out with the water polo guys).

The t-shirt company needed that “soc” component. The word needed to be spread amongst a group of people who liked each other, shared the same values and perhaps wanted to see our project succeed. My buddy and I were in a good position for that. We liked a lot of people, and they liked us. In today’s online world, you might call it “friending” or “following.”

That little business was a mix of social and business.

“Business Life” bleeds into “Social Life”

Over the years (I’m 41 now), I’ve seen a swinging tide of communication and interaction with my own business that straddles this line between social and business. And I always come back to the same core idea: Business is social. That’s no revelation, I know. But it’s important. In my writing business, I work with people I know and like. I’ve met some of them in person. Some through email originally. Some via social media channels. I talk with them from week to week on the phone. We have common goals and interests when it comes to marketing copy, persuasion and content production.

My clients and I got to know each other in person, online and over the telephone wires (the last two are the same I guess). We sussed each other out, made sure our shoes were clean, made sure we didn’t smell bad and decided to do business with each other. That’s the way it works. You can’t take the social component out of it. And personal life bleeds into business life. They can see my Facebook stuff, if they like. But I run a clean show for the most part. I have a few wild friends that post off-color remarks on my pages from time to time, and I’ll put up a questionable humor link from time to time. But everything’s PG to PG-13 for the most part.

So, when I talk to people about Facebook, Twitter and the like, I often come back to the idea that business is social and the Internet is just another communication device. It’s no different than the pony express, the written letter, the telegraph, the steam boat or the telephone.

“But you lie, Phil!”

Yes I do. Somewhat. There’s a big difference between these new tools and the old, one-to-one communication channels like telephone, letter, email and personal conversation.

With those older “technologies,” the viral or word of mouth element is limited. If you call three friends and tell them some gossip or some useful business information, then your potential “megaphone” factor might extend the message out to another 40-80 people maximum, depending upon on the value or interest-level of the message and your own circle of friends. The people on the other end of the line have to be very motivated to call another person and extend your message, so 40 to 80 might be stretching it. The same thing applies to a letter, a newspaper clipping you mail, or an email (though emails are slightly more viral due to forwarding).

With something like a Facebook or Twitter post, however, your information can be immediately launched to massive networks within seconds. All it takes is one friend with several hundred Facebook contacts  or a Twitter follower who has several thousands of followers in their network.

If I had a Twitter account back in 1984, I would have designed college sweatshirts for every community in Southern California and beyond, and then mined Twitter in reverse to spread the word. What does that mean? – “Mine Twitter in reverse..?” This subject is worth another post, but essentially, it’s about using tools like to connect with people that have similar interests (and to target demographics). You can do similar mining on Facebook now, too. I might have even used AdWords to get the word out.

Who will go to bat for you?

Getting the word out is crucial, of course. And, to go viral you need strong connections to living breathing people. Here are the three keys to getting the word out:

  1. The strength of your connections
  2. The level of your engagement
  3. The quality of your message

These also apply to your personal communications. The point here, however, is that it doesn’t matter what communication channel you use. Use your phone, a postage stamp, an email, Twitter or Facebook. But pay attention to those three keys. These are what will determine who will go to bat for you.

#1 has to do with who cares about you and your products/solutions. The root of this “caring” lies, interestingly, in the quality of care you direct toward your customers and contacts. If you care about your consumers/users/audience, then you’re putting yourself in their shoes every day, trying to figure out ways you can benefit them.

#2 has to do with the quality and quantity of your interactions. How many “touches” do you have with customers and friends/followers? Are you bugging people or offering them real value and insights? Are you answering their questions and trying to help them when your solution is not working out as planned?

#3 is an extension of #2. If you’re selling *anything* these days, you’re in the content production business. Ask any exec in upper management at Starbucks, and they’ll tell you that they’re in the content production and experience business. They nailed down coffee production, franchise and supply chain issues long ago. Their key differentiator is now “experience enhancement.” That means testing store designs and content (e.g. music selections and messaging on displays), engaging with “hub” or power/influencer users online and in the physical world at events, and constantly pumping out relevant information (whether it’s regarding philanthropy projects, music, books or coffee facts). Content has always been king, and you need to produce it well in order to make any kind of impact in this world. That goes for software companies, shipping companies, French fry peddlers, freelancers, web designers, lawyers, dog walkers… everybody.

Now, that said… ask yourself, “Would I rather make 500 phone calls? Or is it worthwhile building a network of Facebook and Twitter followers?” If I were selling sweatshirts, I’d opt for the latter. Multimedia advantages aside (e.g. demos, jpegs, and video showcasing the products), social media tools scale much more easily than phone calls, post cards or index cards on the bulletin board at the local coffee shop.

A strange world in transition

Ideally, social media allows you to make more connections with people and perhaps even make more meaningful, lasting connections – whether it’s for business or social purposes. But that’s not always the case is it? People resist participation, some only broadcast their views and others just don’t communicate all that well.

What follows are stories about three friends/associates of mine and how they perceive social media. Keep in mind, these people are like most of us (with the exception of the techie guy who’s deeply immersed in this social media scene). They want to find tools that are easy for them to use and don’t complicate their lives further. I can identify with that, and I’m not going take issue with them on a technology level. Many of the tools and “solutions” out there that are supposed to make communication easier are difficult to manage, and they don’t do what people want them to do. This is getting better, however, with the refinement of the tools I mentioned earlier (Hootsuite, Hootlet, Rapportive, Gmail).

So, I’ll start with the simplest of stories. This guy is a friend of mine from high school. He’s what I’d call a Facebook power user. He’s constantly updating his status, posting photos and linking to articles of interest. One time I posted a story about Twitter on my Facebook feed, and he fired back, “I hate Twitter.”

To me that was strange. Here’s a guy that spends a good portion of his day using a communication tool (Facebook) to update his pool of friends and communicate with them. There’s another tool out there that does something similar and he hates it. There could be something else going on, too. Suw Charman-Anderson has an interesting post about social media polarization, bigotry and “outgroup” phenomena.

People become religious about their tools and forget the underlying reality – it’s about communication. You see this with people who are passionate about Macs over PCs. Those who like Android over iPhones, etc. I’d agree that some tools are easier to use for particular types of people. For example, I like my Android, because I love the techie flexibility and I LOVE Swype beta. I think the same thing applies to my friend and his Facebook account. He’s committed to it. He’s all dialed in. And he’s used to the way it works. I can appreciate that.

I’m pretty sure that similar feelings accompanied the evolution of other technologies, as well. I have an aunt, for example, that can’t stand email. She prefers the pen, the ink and a stamp. People despise Amazon Kindles because they like the feel of paper pages. There was a time when a lot of people despised cell phones (many still do for a variety of reasons).

You don’t find many people who despise communication, however. And that’s really what we’re talking about. There are a lot of preferences out there. Some people prefer texting. Some Skype. Some IM. There’s an evolution of how a particular communication thread goes, too. For example, I like to text to set up plans and get simple questions answered, but I’ll go to voice when the conversation looks like it’s going to include more details or a personal tone/touch.

And, if I want to share something with a large group of people without “bugging” them, I choose social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. The people on the other end of the communication can deal with the information (or not) whenever they choose. The scalability factor is nice, and it’s easier for me to update a lot of people at once. This is different than direct communications like @-replies and one-to-one threads in Facebook, of course.

The second friend is a business woman who’s involved in media production and advertising for small businesses. She runs an “old school” magazine/dining guide that recommends restaurants in the local area. I call it old school because the publication is beholden to its advertisers – the old model for print publications. You sell ads and offer the buyers a carrot. If they buy ads, they get editorial. It makes for a very un-transparent, deceptive “guide.” We met up to discuss our respective marketing capabilities, and I mentioned social media, Twitter mining, Word Press blogs, etc. She said she was able to do any of those types of things for clients (with partner companies), but she doesn’t follow the technology trends and the new advertising models. She didn’t know what AdWords are, for example.

During our conversation, she pushed back really hard against any mention of social media or the value of social networking with respect to marketing. Personally, she felt that any new tools or practices (like using Twitter or Facebook) would just complicate her life. She found chasing email frustrating enough as is.

Her demographic for the dining guide is young adults, probably 18 to 35 – pre-children professionals that have time to go out and eat well, club, etc. I mentioned that this group increasingly avoids email in favor of social media communication. I repeated the popular line of Gen Y – “If I want to get a hold of an old person, I’ll use email.” Otherwise, they’re filtering their communications via social media tools and sites. This helps them avoid burdensome activities like chasing email all day. My friend wasn’t buying it. She was more interested in talking about four-color layouts for direct response post cards. I don’t have anything against those, but I thought we’d get beyond that.

And, I must say (Ed Grimley) that I concur with her about the frustration with yet another social media tool to use or site to join. For most of us, it’s exhausting keeping up with these things. People need easy-to-use, intuitive tools that offer shortcuts. Many don’t know about and tiny.url and the like. They don’t have the Chrome or Firefox plug-ins like Hootlet. Fortunately social media buttons are now everywhere.

But I was taken aback by this friend’s position. While I could understand it completely, I just think it’s a bit naïve for a marketing professional to resist this. It’s like resisting using the phone for cold calling, using the yellow pages for prospecting or using the mail for advertising in days gone by.

My third friend is a big anomaly… a paradox of sorts. He’s someone I’ve partnered with in the past (on AdWords campaigns for joint clients). He’s a power user of Twitter, Facebook and all things social media. In fact, he frequently offers seminars and talks on the subject. His niche is in helping small businesses with Web marketing and positioning. He’s a big proponent of WordPress (I am, too).

I recently emailed him with questions about some social media issues I was wondering about. No reply. So I pinged him with an @ on Twitter and a DM. No reply. I emailed some more as additional ideas came up. Nothing. Then I commented on some of his Facebook entries to see if I could get a response there. Nope, nada.

It was very strange. Here’s someone who’s hook-line-and-sinker in the tank for social media, and he’s ignoring direct communications. Could be that I offended him. Maybe I owe him money (don’t think so). It’s possible that he’s a huge power user of these tools and that my pings have fallen through the cracks. I could imagine a scenario where my emails go to his spam folder, his Twitter @ feed is way too jammed and he ignores DMs (like a lot of Twitter folks do, due to spam).

It’s just weird that all this use of social media actually prevents communication. In this case, it’s probably time to just pick up the phone. 😉

Circling Back – Be a Communicator, a Content Producer and a Content Filter

Ok, so what are the big take-aways here?  Communication is the critical component to all of this. Despite my failures with friend #3, and the resistance of many to new communication channels – socializing and sharing ideas with people drives business and friendships. There’s nothing new there, but it’s an age old truth.

Also, people are at wildly different stages of adoption when it comes to communication tools. Heck, even folks in the marketing space still resist new modes of communication. People find tools that they like, and they stick with them because they’re comfortable and they’ve invested in some “build-out” of profiles, skill sets, etc.

So what should you do when it comes to using social media tools for better business and relationships? My recommendations are simple (even though I’m often guilty of not following them very competently).

  1. Communicate clearly and often – Write better, produce better videos and blogs, and make those “touches” no matter what communication channel you’re using.
  2. Filter content for your friends and followers – Use your authority, expertise and experience to help others make better decisions in their lives. Simple. The amount of information available is staggering today. People need trusted filters to make better decisions about the media they consume, the products they buy, and the people they associate with. With the right networks and associations, we’re moving toward more efficient, productive relationships. The tools are getting better, and people are catching on.
  3. Focus on value – What do your clients, friends and associates want from you? When you figure it out, deliver that in big, heaping helpings. Don’t spam or bother. Instead, converse, comment and connect. Broadcast messages are becoming less attractive as these new media channels evolve. Interaction and caring are the keys.

Long post. Thanks for hanging with me! .. Fingers cramping… Must get coffee.

4 Forgotten Facts in the Age of Social Media Marketing – David Ogilvy

From Ogilvy On Advertising, one of the ad world’s most famous texts. So applicable today with social media marketing (SMM)

  • Companies sometimes change ad agencies because one agency can purchase circulation at a slightly lower cost than another. They don’t realize that a copywriter who knows his craft (the experience and skill that induce people to read copy) can reach many times more readers than a copywriter who doesn’t.
  • Ads that are designed to look like editorial pages gather far more readers than those that don’t.
  • Never put large amounts of white type on a black background (reverse). Some say never do it, period. Study after study has proven that it’s difficult to read.
  • Write to the self-interest of the reader rather than treating your audience as a large company or group of people.

5 Digital Media Tricks that Save Me *Lots* of Time Online

Online communication is becoming central to most of our social and business lives. Face it – a laptop and smart phone/iPhone are the tools we use these days. It used to be the traditional telephone and the mail box, but now we have a lot of different ways to “explode” our messages, “go viral” and keep large groups of people updated.

The problem is… it’s really difficult to figure out what tools to use and how to stick to some habits and processes.

Here are five of my favorite tools/processes (I don’t have any affiliation with these co’s – I’m just an online tinkerer):

1) – I use to update business messages to a variety of different social media/business platforms. I use the toolbar to share stories that I find useful with my Twitter, Plaxo and LinkedIn groups. I find that some people are more active on certain networks, and I don’t want to have to manually update everyone separately. works great for this. I don’t update my primary Facebook page with this tool because those are mostly “social” friends in there. But I do have it set up to update my QualityWriter fan page.. which is really a nascent thing. There’s a good article about the best ways to set up here. Chris Brogan and ProBlogger Darren Rowse have good articles about how to structure your information sharing hub with a “home base” and “outposts.” They’re worth checking out for strategy purposes.

2) – This is an SD memory card that goes into my digital camera. It stores photos and has a built-in Wi-Fi antenna (I’m amazed at how small the technology is – looks just like a regular SD card!). Whenever I arrive at my local network/home wireless network, auto-downloads all my photos and videos to folders on my computer and automatically uploads them to my services (Kodak Gallery, Flickr, YouTube and Facebook) based on my settings. This thing is dynamite. This has changed my photo managing habits. I now try to delete all bad photos and videos off of my camera before turning it on near my wireless network… before the “auto-up-suckage”. Another way to handle this is to use the Protect feature on your camera. Only photos that are protected are uploaded to your folders and networks.

3)      Google Voice – Google has a voice/phone service that integrates your landline and cell phone and texting into a unified “inbox”. I give out my Google Voice number to select clients and friends. When they call it, both my office phone and cell phone ring. It’s like a “Bat Phone.” From my laptop, I can SMS text my Gmail contacts (which are really all my contacts). This makes it easy to type out longer txts without doing the big-finger-blackberry thing. All messages go through my Google Voice inbox. They’re transcribed into text and emailed to me, too. I think I can have them sent as texts to my cell phone, too (not sure about this one). There are lots of other cool features – check it out, you’ll see.

4) ShareIn – If I want to update Facebook and/or Twitter friends about a story I’ve just read or a video I’ve just watched, I use ShareIn. This is a browser bookmarklet that gives you a “one click” way to do so. No more copy and paste. I wrote an article on how I came to embrace ShareIn here: How to Simplify your Social Media Life: The Pros and Cons of Posterous,, ShareIn and FriendFeed. does this, too. But is better for touching all groups at once. ShareIn is good when you know exactly who you want to send something to – Twitter folks (who are more business for me) or Facebook (who are more social friends).

5)      Posterous – This blog/hosting services is a quick and easy to share photos, thoughts, articles, sounds and videos with friends and associates. See the “How to Simplify” link above for more of my thoughts on Posterous. Essentially, I use Posterous as a place to update close family and friends with my videos and photos of family life. I wouldn’t do this kind of in-depth posting on Facebook, because I don’t want to spam a loose group of social friends with too much cuteness, kid soccer games and such. Posterous, however, is a great place to archive stuff and allow family members to catch up. My family and friends don’t need to have an account or log in any way. It’s just my Posterous URL. Simple… and I can update it via email or the browser toolbar bookmarklet. Easy peasy.

Check out these awesome services. They’re all free – except for, which is a one time cha-ching (mine cost $69.99 at Amazon – with free shipping – shipping is a little steep from the main site).

Please let me know your tips and tricks too by commenting below and sharing this post with your networks and groups. Thanks. – Phil

Are You Tired of People Whining and Obsessing Over Tech Tools?

Ironically, me too. My gripes with all this Facebook, Twitter and Social Media hysteria.

My neighbor announced that she took her entire family off Facebook, because “Facebook is a shady corporation.”

Now, I can understand why people would do this. Kids can get into a lot of trouble with social tools online. They need some tech guidance when it comes to the open-ness of these platforms and the traps that lie in waiting. Part of their education should also cover how to express  ideas, what to omit, how to communicate politely, etc.

But that’s not the point here.

My biggest, general beef is with the way people discuss these things. They place a lot of blame on the messenger and demonize the tools people use to express their ideas and connect with others.

It’s like a journalist from 1975 blaming his typewriter for the word f*#k. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

These tools we’re using evolve over time, and they have some features that can get non-techies into trouble. But they’re only tools with people behind them. Back in the 50’s there were people new to telephone communication who didn’t quite understand the concept of the party like (this is when neighborhoods were bunched into common calling lines – before the advent of one line, one house). They got caught gossiping while others listened in on their calls.

Similar things go on today with Facebook and Twitter. You’ve heard the stories.

So technology is disruptive because it catches those who remain unaware in these difficult situations – they get fired, their kid gets called into the principal’s office, a photo of their donger gets passed around the Internet (sorry Brett Favre).

The horse was disruptive, as was a car, and texting is disruptive (thought not as impressive as a horse). “The network” might be as impressive as a horse (e.g. Web/Internet/Social Media). Blah, blah, blah. It’s all technological leaps.

As long as you stay clear about what technology is, then you’re ok. We’re just talking about communication tools, really.

Modern, Web 2.0 tech helps you communicate with people, express your ideas, look for things and check things out. End of story. If you’re abusing those tools or using them stupidly, then it’s your fault.

That’s why content curation and filtering are going to be so critical moving forward. There are lots of companies in this space already, but I’m guessing that we’ll see even more interesting things develop in the months ahead. Mike Elgan wrote a great article about How Facebook Could Rule the World that relates to this.

Let’s just agree to stop all the stupidity about the tools themselves.

I like to periodically reset and remind myself that tech is only a bunch of tools for ideas. That’s why they’re important to me, at least.

Spreading ideas, sending them quicker, forming them, getting exposed to different ones, etc.

That’s my $0.02. What do you think? Please comment below.

Oh – regarding the irony – I tend to post a lot about technology, marketing and communication. . so I’m guilty of obsessing ;-).

How to Filter Out Noise and Re-Claim Social Media Trust

And they heard two friends.. and so on, and so on..
And they heard two friends.. and so on, and so on..

Search Engine Land recently ran an short article posing the question: Is Trust in Social Media Dying? It’s a quick statistical look at the dip in trust across social networks.. and the problem seems to be “marketing.”

I’d like to take their analysis a little further.

Yes marketing messages have infiltrated every nook and cranny of social media networks (whether that’s apps that friends recommend you get, groups they want you to join, or games they’d like you to play). Yes – the proliferation of acquaintances rather than real, trusted friends is part of the problem. Everyone seems to think they’re a micro-business (or some kind of eBay/e-commerce part-timer).

From my vantage point, the extended issue involves a re-introduction of traditional marketing methods on an organic medium. What do I mean by that? Here’s the simple version: People are attempting to force old methods – like multi-level marketing techniques, aggressive networking and referrals, and spammy recommendations that lead to affiliate links – onto the new social channels, and it’s not working.

Couple this phenomenon with the fact that noise levels are at all time highs, and you’ve got distrust. Social media was supposed to cut down noise after all. Your trusted group was supposed to help you filter out the noise. Yet people have been shooting themselves in the feet because they treated “friending” as a gold rush scenario.  Collecting followers does not lead to valuable information exchanges.

So what do you do to gain back that trust and make your social networks work for you?

1. Delete spammy acquaintances from your personal social media networks (use a tool like Twitter Karma, for example).

2. Participate with authenticity – send out the messages and information that you’d like to see coming back your way. This is another karma play of sorts. You get what you give – it’s that simple.

3. If you’re using Social Media Marketing (SMM) for business, start acting like an artist (ask Seth Godin about this – or read his Linchpin Book). And I don’t mean acting as in faking. I mean acting as in action. Create something remarkable, give gifts, push through to make it better, and connect people in meaningful ways.

4. Tell the truth. Stop saying your feet hurt so you can score a free pair of shoes (like the Timberland guy did on Twitter). Those days are over. That was yesterday’s creative PR move. Write honest reviews of products. And, treat your product reviews as a niche business. Huh? Yes – pick a tight little corner of the world and dedicate your reviewing resources to that (foi gras, 1-inch heels, gerbil racing, nudist party planning, the worst selling products on Amazon, beard growth tips, whatever). Who knows, some day some company might want to advertise on your site and tap your network.

5. Connect offline. Go to tweet-ups, meet your friends in person (heck, use something like Gowalla or FourSquare to make it happen), and talk about the ideas you’ve been sharing online. There is no substitute for social contact (faces are amazing things), and the serendipity of discussion often reveals precious insights because it’s not premeditated (like a Tweet or FB post). Get out there an blurt in the real world.

These tips should help you filter out a lot of noise and get you back to the genuine, productive, value-rich conversations that social media is so good at cultivating.

If you do it right you don’t have to sweat this declining trust trend.

Anyone have more tips? Please comment below.

4 Social Media Stories – The Good, Bad and Ugly

Participating in social media activities is like participating in any other social activity. It can be as valuable as a lunch with the boss or as vapid as a breeze shooting session at the water cooler. Or vice versa.

What follows are some highlights and lowlights from a typical day of “connecting” in my life. I find the most value appears when I’m connecting with people who help me get my job done, of course. On the other hand, some exchanges are just plain fun even though they won’t help my business right away.

For starters, I posted a question to several of my LinkedIn contacts that I know have experience in the marketing and Web development field. I was looking for a WordPress developer that could help quickly launch Word Press Web sites. I’d need the person to “turn the lights on” every time I launch a new site or have a client that wants to transition to the flexible, powerful WP platform. I quickly found a great resource (in New Zealand of all places) that’s already helping out with a rather extensive client project. In the words of Jack Davenport on Britain’s Coupling, “result!”

Next, I read a bunch of links from thought leaders and link-sharers that I admire and trust. I use Seesmic Desktop and Twitter to do this. I follow quite a few people on Twitter, but Seesmic allows me to put them into groups (I think you can do this with TweetDeck, too). I have a group called “A-List,” and this is the place where I filter out those that consistently bring useful and entertaining links, ideas and articles. This can be a major time sucker, because if you follow a lot of the thought leaders on Twitter, there are a lot of tantalizing titles flying around. I try to limit my window for this activity to an hour or less. I like to take one action idea from each piece I read and get it into my calendar or task list. That way, I’m not just admiring articles. I’m actually using information to move my business forward. I came across an article yesterday that was really intriguing, How I got to the first page of Google thanks to ONE bookmarklet (by Zee on TheNextWeb). It shows you how to use Posterous and optimize WordPress for an ultimate SEO pick-me-up. I’ll be tinkering with those tools/tips today.

Then I moved into the realm of the unproductive. I put up some pictures of our kids’ soccer games [taking very little time, mind you: 1) Eye-Fi wireless SD card takes the pictures from the camera and automatically uploads them to my computer and Kodak Gallery, 2) A quick email puts the best ones on Posterous, which 3) automatically updates to Facebook]. Everyone’s updated in a matter of minutes, and I’ve only clicked a couple of times. The videos from the camera go to YouTube automatically, as well. It’s amazing.

Next, I commented on a bunch of inane but funny Facebook friend stuff. There were some good/ugly Kanye West/Michael Jackson funeral jokes and more of those silly Hitler videos from Valkyrie, where they put in subtitles about current events. I also caught up on friend photos, videos and whereabouts. I may score a ticket to the Cal-USC football game, as a result. That would be productive!

How do you use social media for fun and profit? Any stories or tips that are useful and insightful?

How to Simplify your Social Media Life: The Pros and Cons of Posterous,, ShareIn and FriendFeed

One of the biggest problems with social media communication is the drudgery of sharing links, making comments and updating groups.

Several sites aim to make this process easier… namely, Posterous,, FriendFeed and ShareIn. I’ve tried all of them, and I’d say they’re “almost ready for primetime.” Each has value, and each has significant drawbacks.

This is a quick review that’s interested in answering the question: “How can these tools make my social media life easier to manage?” I’m not so much interested in questions like, “What’s the most powerful, flexible blogging platform?” That’s another issue together (and the answer is WordPress, btw).

I’ll start with ShareIn, since it’s the simplest tool of the three. Here’s how I use it: I opened an account, dragged their bookmarklet to my Firefox bookmark toolbar, adjusted my settings in ShareIn to update my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and then started selectively posting links, videos and photos to my pages via the bookmarklet. It’s useful, because if I’m reading an article and want to share it with friends without emailing it (a less invasive or interrupting method of sharing), I can do this quickly with a couple of clicks.

ShareIn places the appropriate links and images in my Twitter and Facebook feeds. I can do both at once or just do only Twitter or only Facebook. I notice that there’s a delay for image loading within my Facebook page. During this time a ShareIn logo sits in the position where the media image or photo should go. That’s slightly annoying.

When users click on the links, they’re sent to the article or media. Pretty direct and simple. There’s a ShareIn banner at the top of the web page that can be clicked closed. I’m calling it a banner, but it’s really just a strip at the top which allows users to continue to share the link on their social networks. It’s viral that way. When you close it, you’re presented with the original URL and page. Either way – open or closed – you have a nice big view of the article or media. Here’s an example of how a ShareIn link looks.

This does make sharing info easier on Twitter and Facebook. It works as advertised and has some nice back-end reporting features that show you the popularity of your posts and so forth.

I tried ShareIn because I was frustrated with Posterous’s quirky linking practices. But Posterous has some nifty features and advantages. It’s much more than ShareIn, even though it does some of the same kinds of things.

What do I mean by quirky Posterous linking? Here’s the deal. When you link to online media and articles with Posterous, the link you share is a link to your Posterous blog… not to the original article. That’s problematic for me. This linking process (and the Facebook/Twitter integration) is done via a bookmarklet in Firefox, like ShareIn, and your “share” settings within Posterous (they include more services than just Facebook and Twitter).

[BTW – Posterous is essentially a blogging service, like, Tumblr and other blogs.. but it’s different, because it’s primarily designed to blog things that you send in via email. You send content (photos, videos, documents, etc.) to, and the information is nicely posted to your Posterous blog. Mine is It’s quick and easy to set up. Check out the Posterous site to see more of the benefits and unique features. It’s pretty slick.]

The way Posterous links is problematic, because of the way my Twitter and Facebook followers consume information. In Facebook, for example, the peruser of my content sees a nifty graphic or photo related to the story I linked to, but the link itself goes to my Posterous page, and on that page there’s only a tiny little link that goes to the original article (it’s easy to miss it). The common experience on Facebook is to click on the link and arrive at the article or media. With Posterous posts, I’m forcing them to jump through a multiple click process – if they even see the link to the original content in the Posterous post. The same thing happens with the Twitter links that are created by Posterous.

I didn’t like that – so that’s why I ended up at ShareIn.

Posterous is great, however, for sharing family photos and videos.. and then having them automatically blast out to Twitter and Facebook friends. That feature works great. Posterous makes slick galleries of multiple photos and those show up really nicely in Facebook. If you post from YouTube that shows up nicely in Facebook, as well.

My deal is that I want one tool to make all these things happen with a minimum number of clicks. Is that so much to ask? is somewhat different animal. It’s like Posterous in that you can send emails to, and they’re posted on your blog page. In a way, it’s like Posterous in reverse, however. With, you *import* content into your blog page from other services like Twitter, FriendFeed and so forth (I didn’t see Facebook integration available). This reminds me. I want to talk a little about FriendFeed at the end of this article.. coming soon. Here’s what my page looks like: (admittedly, I don’t spend as much time here as I do other places).

When I set up “import” with Twitter and YouTube, for example, grabs all my shared content on those services and shows them in my feed. This happens automatically moving forward. I’ve yet to see a way to click the “post to soup” bookmarklet and have that content automatically update my Facebook and Twitter feeds.

So is not quite there yet, either. All these platforms have nifty features, but they’re not quite optimal for a user like me who wants to share articles, videos, photos and personal blog info, links, etc.

I’d say ShareIn is the best option for posting online content to Twitter and Facebook. Posterous is great for posting personal photos and videos and having that propagate out to Facebook and Twitter automatically (along with a host of other platforms – you can even have it automatically update your own blog, like a WordPress blog or Blogger blog). is good for bringing everything to one place… the problem is that you have to update all the other services separately, and that doesn’t make any sense at all to me. I want a place where I can post once and forget about visiting Twitter and Facebook until there’s some interest or discussion going on those particular platforms.

Now this brings me to FriendFeed, which is kind of a hybrid. It’s half because it allows you to import content from a lot of your favorite sites, like Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, Picasa, Flickr, Digg, YouTube, etc.  And it’s half Posterous, because it allows you to automatically publish (export) your FriendFeed updates to Twitter. There are currently Facebook apps that appear to enable updating of Facebook via FriendFeed, but I’ve yet to see something that looks reliable (please let me know if I’ve missed something). The intriguing thing is that Facebook recently bought FriendFeed, so there’s bound to be better integration coming down the line… or a transformation of Facebook and the obliteration of FriendFeed. Who knows.

So there you have it. I’m sticking with ShareIn for most of my needs. But I am using Posterous for family stuff (photos, videos and such). One caveat: if you want all these things to work well together, you need to have your settings in each platform perfect. Otherwise, you’ll multiple post to different social media sites. And that’s annoying. It’s pretty easy, though, so I won’t get into it here.

I’ve got another post coming about Eye-Fi – this one is perhaps the best technology innovation for social media I’ve ever encountered (as it pertains to photo and video sharing). This falls under the same category of this post, which is “How to make social media easier.” Until then, enjoy.

New Post: Beyond the Smoke, Hype and Fanfare – What is Social Media?..really