How to Use Twitter Like a Human Being

I love Twit­ter. It’s my favorite social net­work. I start­ed using it in 2008 when I went to SXSW Music. I imme­di­ate­ly saw its val­ue for cov­er­ing live events. That fall, I used it exten­sive­ly dur­ing the Phillies’ post­sea­son cam­paign. Twit­ter is a great plat­form for your pas­sions. Except when it isn’t.

Some­where along the way, Twit­ter changed. My friend Mark cap­tured one key dif­fer­ence in his tweet below.

For all the talk about being authen­tic and engag­ing on social, you’ll often find that the most fol­lowed accounts are noth­ing more than linkbots with a human face. It’s a head-scratch­er. At a time when peo­ple com­plain of infor­ma­tion over­load, hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple will fol­low accounts that recy­cle memes and oth­er online flot­sam.

If that doesn’t depress you, A Tale of Two Twit­ter Per­sonas will. MG Siegler writes:

For me, giv­en my back­ground and line of work, that’s obvi­ous­ly tech­nol­o­gy. But I too have oth­er inter­ests — shock­ing, I know. Film is def­i­nite­ly one. Beer is def­i­nite­ly anoth­er. And sports is way up there. Yes, some peo­ple in the tech indus­try are as obsessed with sports as any­one else in the world. Blas­phe­my!

What does per­son­al brand­ing mean when the most pop­u­lar social media accounts lack per­son­al­i­ty?


What’s the Future of Blogging?

Two inter­est­ing things about blog­ging late­ly:

First from Mar­co Arment

Then from Robert Scoble on why he’s using G+ and Face­book for blog­ging.

I tend to agree with the for­mer, but I’d much rather do what Scoble is doing. Why? Because it’s much lighter weight than com­ing here to write AND it doesn’t have the audi­ence built-in that oth­er social net­works do. I see that Share but­ton when I’m in Gmail and think, “That would be so easy!”

What’s keep­ing me from mak­ing the switch? Audi­ence. Sure, I have nev­er been good about writ­ing every day, but Word­Press makes it easy for peo­ple to find stuff I’ve writ­ten about since I start­ed blog­ging. Google+ is get­ting bet­ter at help­ing peo­ple find me in the con­text of oth­er search results, but it’s not quite the same.

But why not LinkedIn? Tum­blr? Medi­um? They’re all inter­est­ing places. I often think I should use LinkedIn as my default social net­work and share out to Twit­ter from it!

Put anoth­er way: why shouldn’t I switch to G+ or Medi­um, you know, beyond own­ing my plat­form?

To me, the long tail ben­e­fits are worth­while. Word­Press is eas­i­ly book­marked and shared. Google+ is a neat lit­tle ecosys­tem, but that’s just it: it wants to be self-con­tained in a dif­fer­ent way that most oth­er net­works.


The Principled Purge

If you haven’t already seen it, Ian Rogers’ blog post on prun­ing Twit­ter is quite good. He fol­lowed me back when I wrote about dig­i­tal music; I don’t write about that any­more, ergo he unfol­lowed me. It makes all the sense in the world. Why is it so hard?

I wrote Unfol­low­ing Is Hard back in 2012. I pared back to 500 peo­ple. It felt like an accom­plish­ment. Could I ever get under 200 like Ian? Doubt­ful. Even if I fol­lowed his lead and turned Twit­ter into real-time RSS, I’d find myself in the same fix. I pulled over 800 blogs into RSS at my peak! I’m a suck­er for infor­ma­tion. I just can’t help it.

Worse, I’m sen­ti­men­tal. There are peo­ple I’ve been fol­low­ing since I joined. We’ve had lots of laughs. They’ve watched my son grow up. How could I leave them now if they’ve not grad­u­at­ed to Face­book friend sta­tus?

That’s what I like most about Ian’s post: clear­ly delin­eat­ed friend pro­files that iden­ti­fy where they should go. His birth­day rule is the best. He trans­formed Face­book into Path. He just unfriend­ed his way to it!

I call it the prin­ci­pled purge. This isn’t just rip it up and start again; these are mal­leable plat­forms and we should evolve as our use cas­es change. And if you get scared you can always cheat with a handy list!


The Realtime Gratification Gap

I wrote my last post about a per­son­al con­tent strat­e­gy months ago. I don’t even know how many times I’ve tweet­ed over that time. Giz­mo­do asked its read­ers if they still main­tain per­son­al blogs, acknowl­edg­ing all the ways oth­er ser­vices have filled the space blogs once monop­o­lized. It’s a ques­tion that fills me with dread.

I mourn the loss of a vibrant per­son­al blog­ging com­mu­ni­ty, but then again, every­one I used to fol­low got jobs blog­ging. And while I find real­time com­mu­ni­ca­tion fun, there’s a grat­i­fi­ca­tion gap between tweet­ing and long­form per­son­al writ­ing for me. I find writ­ing to be a cathar­tic expe­ri­ence and I used to draw inspi­ra­tion from my favorite blog­gers that drove me to write in a way that was dif­fer­ent than read­ing the news­pa­per or a mag­a­zine. I bet I’m not alone in that, but most of my peers quit their per­son­al blogs, too.

When I say grat­i­fi­ca­tion gap, I’m talk­ing about how blog com­ments showed more appre­ci­a­tion for the work than a fave or retweet. Grant­ed, reach has explod­ed with those real­time social expe­ri­ences, but it’s also divorced the work from painstak­ing­ly build­ing an audi­ence that looks for­ward to a piece of writ­ing. I used to be so encour­aged by those expe­ri­ences. In fact, I still find myself thank­ing friends who take the time to write. I miss root­ing for my writ­ing friends as much as I miss them root­ing for me.

Do you still write your per­son­al blog? Where do you draw inspi­ra­tion? If not, do you miss blog­ging, or is this just nos­tal­gia for, um, 2003?


Why You Need a Personal Content Strategy

Scoble’s post on scal­able liv­ing offers some inter­est­ing insight into how peo­ple use social plat­forms to com­mu­ni­cate with audi­ences. What I find most inter­est­ing are his views on the role of Face­book in how he shares con­tent. Here’s a key pas­sage from what he wrote:

So, what role does a blog have in this new world. It cer­tain­ly is NOT cen­tral­iz­ing my life. Face­book is — by far — the best place to do that. This morn­ing alone I lis­tened to sev­er­al songs in the car. Do you real­ly want me to post every time that hap­pens here? No way. But on Face­book that’s eas­i­ly dealt with. Even bet­ter Face­book usu­al­ly fil­ters that stuff out and Face­book gets bet­ter over time at fig­ur­ing out what you want to engage with and what you don’t. If you saw every­thing I did on my pro­file come through on your home feed you would unfol­low with­in an hour. Instead 330,000 new peo­ple in the past year alone have sub­scribed to me on Face­book. Why? It’s scal­able liv­ing and hav­ing great inbound makes life more inter­est­ing.

Now, Scoble is an edge case, to put it mild­ly. Few of us com­mu­ni­cate on social plat­forms with even a frac­tion of the peo­ple who fol­low him. But how many of us would even con­sid­er using Face­book to share con­tent that’s relat­ed to our work as social media pro­fes­sion­als? Would your friends be inter­est­ed in your views on Google+? I doubt it. I know mine wouldn’t.

Most of what Scoble dis­cuss­es is how we share and con­sume infor­ma­tion. He notes that Facebook’s algo­rithm helps you make choic­es about what you see and what you don’t. That’s not true of oth­er plat­forms and if you’re like me, you don’t mind infor­ma­tion over­load. But have you giv­en much thought to how you share con­tent?

Con­tin­ue read­ing


How I Share Links

I rarely share links. When I do it hap­pens in spurts while I’m rac­ing through Google Read­er or Flip­board. I gen­er­al­ly don’t share much. I don’t real­ly retweet that much either, and I think I know why.

I don’t like “viral” con­tent.

There. I’ve said it. In my years as a music crit­ic and edi­tor I was frus­trat­ed when I the same sto­ries and angles every­where. But that was just a func­tion of the news cycle and part of the mat­u­ra­tion of the news out­lets we came to know as blogs. Viral con­tent does the same thing, but fric­tion­less shar­ing enables an alto­geth­er dif­fer­ent kind of expo­sure to the iden­ti­cal piece of con­tent, most­ly with­out com­ment. There’s no avoid­ing it. It infil­trates every chan­nel, social or oth­er­wise. If you spend any time on the Inter­net, you’re haunt­ed by meme after meme. It’s awe­some and fun the first time, but then it quick­ly becomes that pop song you can’t escape all sum­mer.

Yet those pieces of con­tent are what you’re expect­ed to share because as much as any­thing else, when you share a link you’re let­ting peo­ple know you’re in on the joke. It’s the lat­est end­point in the ongo­ing Inter­net phe­nom­e­non of “firsties,” which is dif­fer­ent from, say, a “scoop” because there’s no report­ing involved.

See, to me, link shar­ing is noth­ing more than con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion. Ele­vat­ing it to “cura­tion” is just a joke. When you share a link, all you’re real­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ing is “look what I’ve seen.” To me, this is like invit­ing peo­ple to your dorm room to wow them with your music or books. Chances are, plen­ty of peo­ple have those albums or books, just like lots of peo­ple will see a link to a par­tic­u­lar piece of con­tent. There’s noth­ing espe­cial­ly cura­to­r­i­al to it. “Cura­tion” is sim­ply a func­tion of reach or author­i­ty and the leisure time to read and share. It doesn’t mat­ter if you cre­at­ed the piece of con­tent, or if you were even the first to share it. What mat­ters is that peo­ple per­ceive you as the first per­son to share it, there­by cement­ing your sta­tus as a cura­tor.

But that’s not even the worst part of cura­tion. The worst is when you find your­self being tricked into read­ing arti­cles in famil­iar sources. Sure, some of it is a piece of clever copy with a good call-to-action. No shame in that; it’s a lost art. But when most of what’s being shared is in obscure pub­li­ca­tions like the New York Times, well, then, how exact­ly are you curat­ing one of the best edit­ed pub­li­ca­tions in the world?

Increas­ing­ly though that skill, name­ly, get­ting peo­ple to click on links, is online cur­ren­cy, mea­sured by ser­vices like Klout and Kred. Pub­lish­ers and con­tent cre­ators should rejoice; nev­er before in the his­to­ry of the web have peo­ple been so incen­tivized to share con­tent online. But the prob­lem is we’re gam­i­fy­ing a prac­tice that reduces us all to click­bots cir­cu­lat­ing the same con­tent in 24 hour shifts.

When I read the web, I want to read and look at things that were shared thought­ful­ly and mean­ing­ful­ly about a vari­ety of top­ics, not just some­one opti­miz­ing their social pro­file by shar­ing the most pop­u­lar item of the day. To me the vari­ety of con­tent is what makes read­ing the web spe­cial. I’d hate to see that sort of con­tent dec­i­mat­ed by the push for pageviews.

Now I’ll share a link that express­es very clear­ly how I feel about cura­tion. I LOVED this arti­cle over at The Awl, espe­cial­ly the part about “‘peo­ple who are real­ly picky with what they share on Face­book.’”