Giving you permission to just be you.

Stay active on Twitter long enough and you’ll find yourself at an online identity crisis. As your reputation grows in a particular community or subject matter you’ll suddenly discover that you are torn between perceived community expectations and just being yourself.

This is your permission slip to just be yourself.

Less is More…

So I follow you because you are an amazing underwater basket weaver and you tweet great links about basket weaving. Then to my horror I see you tweet about your kids or a fishing trip and in my disgust I unfollow you.

Your followers drop. You begin questioning and over analyzing your tweets. Each click stat becomes an individual referendum on your value.

I’m not advocating that Twitter is about numbers. It isn’t. It’s about quality vs quantity and that my friend is the point.

Will you lose followers if you tweet about your vacation or NASCAR races?

Yes.

Were those people really worth catering to in the first place? Not really.

The quality folks in your community won’t bat an eye at the personal tweets and you’ll find that they will actually become more engaging.

Everyone is in the relationship business

Relationships in real life aren’t built between businesses and entities they are between people.

Twitter is no different.

No one wants to be friends with a brand we all prefer people.

Parting Advice

While I tweet about everything from college sports to my faith there is one subject I moderate. Politics.

It is no secret that I lean sharply one direction but I take great care not to be inflammatory or divisive. A good friend recently said, “You’re the nicest conservative we know, and trust us in our house that’s really saying something.” I wear that compliment as a badge because I don’t always succeed but it is always my goal.

There are plenty of people that ignore this advice without harm but I just wanted to issue a word of caution before you dive into hot button subjects.

TakeAways

Be kind, Be helpful, but feel free to be yourself because at the end of the day that’s all you can be.

After the storm

2 days ago I published an article, “Tornado Alley, Twitter style” where I related the amazing story of how a community kept people updated via the #ARwx hashtag during the severe weather events this weekend and also took some of the local traditional media outlets to task about how they weren’t contributing to the stream.

I’ve had several conversations over the past couple of days and I’d like expand my commentary.

Too Harsh

Some have said that I was too critical in the post. It is a valid critique.

I normally strive to be positive and analytical and that post marked a change in my publishing process, I published it immediately. While I’ll usually let a post sit cold and then review before publishing I knew I’d edit all the fire out of its wording if I let it sit. I chose not to do that. I wanted to strike while the iron was hot and since we were expecting tornados the same day I hoped to affect change immediately.

While my wording wasn’t warm and fuzzy it was honest. It made my point.

It isn’t my usual style but I’m also not apologizing.

Media Response (or lack thereof)

If you search my twitter stream or the comments below you will not find one single comment from anyone in the traditional media in the Central Arkansas area. This is quite strange when you consider the number of DMs I’ve received and the 3rd hand accounts of conversations.

What I can say is that the same day we saw @Fox16News, @JeffBaskinFOX16, @todaysTHV, & @GovBeebeMedia using the #ARwx severe weather hashtag. I have no illusions that my post was responsible for any of these changes, my only hope is it might have sparked some conversations.

I’d like to add that @Fox16News was not only tweeting, but also retweeting people like @wxmandan, @ArkRedCross and others. Kudos to their good work.

I saw several media accounts retweeted and shared solely because of their participation in #ARwx. I hope they found it rewarding and I also hope others follow their lead.

Traditional Media was Worthless

Many interpreted my post to be a complete condemnation of traditional media coverage. This could not be further from the truth. The post is a reflection of their importance. If I didn’t care about their contributions I’d never written it.

No one has the radar access and systems they utilize and that is why the community stands to benefit greatly if they are using the hashtag.

The coverage via TV/Radio is the best its ever been and they deserve an attaboy. I just want them to help extend that coverage to twitter in the best way possible.

So to my TV friends I’m not your enemy. I’m your audience.

And I care enough to ask you to do it better.

The Excuses

I’ve heard the same 2 excuses so many times I think there was a memo.

  • We don’t have the personnel to update Twitter
  • Meteorologists are too busy handling TV coverage and taking reports

These are both absolute cop outs. We find ways to handle what’s important. When people were saying that they were without power and their only info was coming from Twitter then that makes this whole issue pretty important.

Concerning people: There are already people sending updates via your stream. Your competitors are doing it. When you make it a priority you will as well.

Meteorologists too busy: This is laughable. Do you honestly think I want your meteorologist to stop his coverage to come tweet? NO. That’s silly. The weather professionals are busy trying to tell mass media when to take cover. Give someone else the reigns and get busy. Heck ask for volunteers.

Both of these excuses fall apart when you realize that we make time for what’s important.

The Community Response

I’d like to say a sincere thank you to the overwhelming response from my friends. You all retweeted, commented, and added your voice. If we were heard it was because of you, not me.

I’ve been overwhelmed and amazed. Thank you,

Now if we could just get them to unlink Facebook from Twitter… but we’ll cover that later this week. Thanks for reading

Tornado Alley, Twitter style

Apr 30, 2010 may well be known as the night that new media changed the game in the state of Arkansas.

Tonight was one of the most amazing examples of the power of Twitter and in turn showed how excruciatingly far we have to go.

Here’s how 4 little letters beat the entire mainstream media.

There is a storm a comin’

It’s springtime in the South and that means it’s tornado season.

Tornados are a very strange animals. They touchdown for seconds, change directions in a blink of an eye and travel at 50+ mph. It’s a weather event like no other.

We aren’t strangers to twisters down here and we all know to turn on the TV, break out the severe weather radios and wait for the weatherman to say “take cover”.

Only tonight was different.

There was one system that had better news, quicker updates, broader coverage, and more reporters in the field than any other. Twitter.

I can’t do it justice but let me attempt to give you a glimpse of what you could find

  • The National Weather Service guy, @wxmandan giving you updates on NWS bulletins and reports as he saw them. Every person in the stream had the info 1-2min before the TV (that’s an eternity in tornado time)
  • Regional forecasters adding 3d images and all sorts of graphs I can’t even explain
  • Storm reports statewide, eyewitness accounts of hail and funnel clouds
  • Links to webcast of the Arkansas State Police radio feed
  • Instant notifications of tornado sirens wherever they sounded
  • People reporting that tv/power was out and they were ONLY getting news via the #arwx stream. (That is huge! We are talking about keeping people safe. Not theory, ROI, or analytics but vital information distribution)

Simply, the most comprehensive data stream you can possibly imagine, made possible by the #arwx hashtag. There was only one thing missing. The organizations that are actually make a living reporting news and weather.

Broadcast Media is still only Broadcast Media

I can’t express what a miserable failure the online communication of these “news” organizations was so I’ll let the images speak for themselves.

From @KARK4News Since they are only using a Twitter client called Facebook they don’t even realize the important info is being cut off!

kark_fail

From @todaysTHV Hmm, same problem, same facebook connection. It’s almost seems like they have no idea how to use Twitter, but I’m sure they have some well paid social media consultants somewhere in the newsroom.thv_fail

And finally a most useful stream from @KATVnews … ok maybe not but at least they weren’t using Facebook for their tweets.

katv_fail Even our Governor’s @GovBeebeMedia Media account joined in. Perhaps I’m alone in this but if the word media is in your twitter ID you might want to learn how to use this tweeter thing.

beebe_fail

Perhaps I’m too harsh or just expect too much. Twitter is hard and they might not have known there was a Arkansas weather hashtag. I’m sure any of us would have missed a hundred mentions to these accounts asking them to use #ARwx in their tweets.

But as my friend Chad pointed out this is assuming they know how to check @ replies.

I realize I’m being pretty critical here but its high time that these news and media organizations realize that they aren’t contributing to diddly squat.

They were useless in the most powerful real time platform the world has ever seen.

The Right Stuff

So to my friends in the local media allow me to share an example of what you should have been doing.

Meet Dan Koch – @wxmandan

According to his profile, Dan is local Meteorologist for the NWS and an IT guy. (#Fistbump for my IT brethren). He’s been active on twitter since Apr 1.

Dan isn’t on TV. He isn’t doing a live webcast. He doesn’t blog. Dan only did 1 thing.

He contributed useful information and ended his tweets with #arwx

wxmandan_win

Even his capitalization proves his understanding of brevity communication. Dan was one of only a handful of actual meteorologists using the #ARwx tag tonight and almost every tweet he put out was retweeted and broadcast to thousands.

One guy trying to get information out and he beat every professional news organization in Little Rock.

If that doesn’t prove the power of Twitter then I don’t know what does.

Ok… maybe this

rachelpowell_win

I’d like to point out a couple of other stand out examples:

  • @AR_Emergencies – the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management – a state agency that was also sending out great info and using the hashtag (I learned last night that ADEM actually created this hashtag during the winter weather season and made it generic enoucgh to be used year round)
  • @RyanVaughan a meteorologist from KAIT in Jonesboro that was absolutely awesome

To our local media outlets

Please wake up, be useful and contribute to this amazing community or do us a favor and just close the twitter account.

And just so you know, severe weather is expected today as well so we’ll soon see if they are listening. Help them hear us, send them a tweet.

pleasert

Update 5/3: I invite you to read the follow up to this post. “After the Storm“.

Discovering Value in GeoSocial

Wordle: Explore Your WorldEvery new social platform must prove it’s value to users.

It took Twitter the better part of 2 years to conquer the “Why do I care what you had for breakfast” perception and now location based social networks (or GeoSocial) like Gowalla and Foursquare face similar refrains.

  • What’s the point?
  • It’s ridiculous
  • I just don’t get it

Often the early life cycle of social applications are dominated by critics who are quick to dismiss the technology so let’s step back from the business and marketing angles for a bit and answer one simple question.

What do location based social networks offer you?

I’ve often described my twitter community as carrying my friends around on my shoulder. This ever-present cloud is always up for conversation, ripe with new discoveries, and is ready for a brilliant quip or sarcastic aside. It’s a virtual traveling roadshow.

But what if my virtual community could impact my physical world?

Welcome to GeoSocial. Serendipity’s helping hand.

Discover People

This opportunity cannot be emphasized strongly enough. You get to meet people that is the core definition of social.

Last Friday night I was at the local ballpark when I received a twitter mention that an acquaintance had checked in to the same venue via Foursquare. I discovered he was with another friend and I decided to walk across to say Hi.

Although I’d never met either of them in real life we were familiar with one another because of our online interactions.

What happened? Familiarity turned into friendship.

It was amazing chance to deepen a connection and impossible without the aid of a location based social network.

A simple Foursquare check-in by @jdo2 brought all of us together. I was able to meet @lonapete and on the walk over I bumped into my friend @laureneclark, whom I met previously through #LRtweetup.

@Bryanjones defined the value of geosocial networking beautifully,

@k_wade_a real life @ real (interesting) places and real people. (cc: @katiemcmanners @tsudo)less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone

Discover Places

Imagine you are out-of-town visiting friends. They take you to a local dive and insist you try this super secret item that isn’t listed on the menu. Feeling adventurous you agree and you’re rewarded with a totally unexpected and amazing dish. If you aren’t a regular patron you don’t even know it exists. Heck, you probably wouldn’t have even stopped here.

But you are with an insider.

GeoSocial apps are insider trading in the real world.

Whether I’m discovering something in my backyard or across the country these tips are tied to the location. Tips left by friends and strangers that drastically improve the world around me.

Here are just two examples from the hundreds I could share.

  • I checked in at a Mexican restaurant that I’d previously never visited. My friend @bpmore had left a tip recommending the pollo asada. Suddenly my social network leaped out and said, try this. No surprise it was wonderful!
  • A beautiful day prompted me to wander a few blocks for lunch when I found local luchador @bryanjones at a nearby Mexican joint (yeah I love great Mexican food). I stopped in to say Hi and when I checked in I discovered his tip to ask for a secret habanera sauce.  Wow, it was HOT, but excellent, and unlisted.

IMG_0697 IMG_5040 IMG_5134

Through Gowalla & Foursquare we’ve shared everything from favorite snow cone flavors to where you can find the best desserts in town.

*It probably goes without saying if you are looking for amazing food and sweets I’m your guy, need a tip for a great gym? … ask @amybhole

So much more

In the interest of brevity I’m omitting many features like deals, specials, and prompting conversations that can enrich the world around you.

Forget the critics, go discovering.

Rediscovering Facebook

or, “How I learned to stop worrying and love not hate the bomb”discover_facebook

It’s no secret that I’ve been a Facebook critic for quite sometime, and rightfully so, but some recent changes in my approach has opened my eyes to the real possibility behind Facebook.

I’ve long used Facebook as a friends and family platform and it served that purpose well. I didn’t want brands, pages, and ignorant games cluttering my stream and it took a great deal of work to preserve my ideal experience. I understood the potential, especially for people that haven’t discovered the power of Twitter, but it just didn’t work for me.

That’s beginning to change

What’s different?

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of my warming relationship with Facebook but I can identify two major changes that have contributed to my new perspective.

I deleted all my friends lists

This was a radical step for me. Initially, I used friend lists to manage access to my profile and restrict status updates to segmented populations. It gave me tons of control and protected my privacy but Facebook’s redesign made them less accessible and I used them less frequently.

So, I deleted them. I grant all my friends equal access to my status and profile and it grouped all of them into a single stream. It simplified and liberated my Facebook experience in one step.

For me it’s become a richer and more engaging community.

(I’ll qualify this action by saying I fully expect to re-implement privacy groups in the future but for now it works.)

I used it to Organize an Event

I’m involved in several online communities that host regular events and all of them were born out of Twitter. I can talk in depth about organizing tweetups and gatherings with tools like twtvite and Cotweet but I’ve never had a chance to do these tasks through Facebook until Foursquare Day.

Once I discovered Foursquare Day and decided to organize a local swarm attempt through Facebook I made a none too original discovery.

For group and event organization – Facebook is a heck of a lot easier.

The richness of the platform with pages, events, invites, and longer updates really lend themselves to community engagement. Twitter may be a lot more hip in my crowd but Facebook has a full arsenal of tools. Twitter is a mashup of disconnected addons that requires savvy users.

Coincidentally, I’ve been considering Ning as a way to offer more functionality for one of our Twitter communities and while the features are attractive and it has a ton of potential for community organizing it has a major flaw, no one uses it. Which brings us back to Facebook.

Everyone is already on Facebook. Why not just use it?

So while I long for more Ning-like features Facebook pages, events, and groups get the job done much better than Twitter.

The Last Word

Don’t think my Twitter account is going quiet anytime soon, I’m still a Twitter fanatic but I must admit that I’m seeing Facebook in a whole new way.

It’s more approachable for many small businesses and the fact is there are a lot more regular folks using it.

Now if we can just get some Facebook page applications that are actually useful we might be on to something.

now where did I put that like to my Ning group…

Overhauling the conversation about Social Media

Geoff Livingston, a long time PR blogger, is calling it quits because,

“I have run out of things to say.”

Further into his post he shared a profound state of social media.

Though the pioneering phase is done or may be near done, it’s actually a robust time for social media. Widespread adoption is occurring and best practices within verticals continue. It’s just time for new voices here and abroad (YOU GUYS) to carry the social PR conversation.

This struck a chord with me.

The Wild Frontier of Social Medialewis-and-clark

The internet and people are not new but the past 5 years have been a Social Media explosion. A breathless gold rush to a brave new country and anytime that happens great explorers emerge to lead the way.

These thought leaders have charted the waters for the rest of us and their strategies, research, and techniques have been critical to this people empowered revolution.

But the revolution is over.

I’m not implying that social media is dead or its impact will lessen, just the opposite actually. The revolution is over because we are now sitting at the decision makers table.

It’s time to stop pretending we’ve discovered something new.

There is no Silver Bullet

The social media blogosphere is choked with unoriginal ideas. The innovative thinking has given way to mostly repackaged ideas that we’ve heard a 1000 times.

Honestly, 90% of what you need to know about the technology, practices & and ethics in social media can be found in the archives of a handful of brilliant sites.

My RSS reader is suffering from Solomon’s lament, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

Every social media strategy blog post, seminar, and teleconference is clammoring to give you that silver bullet idea that will become your Eureka moment and community will fall out of the sky. Let me be clear, there is no silver bullet. The strategy groundwork is laid and Geoff has clearly identified the shift. We are in the phase of adoption and best practices but the days of pioneering are coming to a close.

This doesn’t mean there isn’t any less work to be done. It means our roles and conversations must change.

Stop the Insanity and get to work

We are now standing on the shoulders of these thought leaders and its time to stop searching for the how and get down to applying what we already know. We have the reference manuals so its time take the next steps.

The next steps:

  • Better Research
  • Better Metrics and a better understanding of what they mean
  • Defining Ethical & Acceptable Practices
  • Educating others

and never wavering from the core elements of social media:

  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • How best do we work to accomplish your goal?
  • How do we measure it?

So I’m done reading the 10 ways to better engagement and follower strategies. It’s either junk science or its been said already.The theories and practices are already defined, it’s time to go to work and use them.

Social Media still has a long way to go to become mainstream and there will never be a shortage of new platforms, new technology, and few intriguing ideas. We as a community need to quit pretending that we are still looking for the silver bullet idea. It’s time to load up and go to work.

I haven’t run out of things to say but the conversation needs to change.

What you don’t say matters

1086 days.shhh

That’s how long I’ve been on Twitter without a single truly negative experience.

Until today.

the Backstory

My metro area is thriving with tweetups and gatherings of tech, pr, advertising, and business professionals. I have the high honor of being one of the people that helps organize these meetups and its been one of the most rewarding parts of my social media journey.

Yesterday I was notified by a good friend of a twitter account that looked very much like our official tweetup account. The user was actively following and retweeting a high percentage of folks that are active within our community and it appeared to many of us to be a deliberate impersonation.

That theory grew legs as we discovered a cadre of strange websites and twitter accounts. To prevent any confusion I sent 2 tweets from our tweetup account to inform people of the strange activity.

  • Be aware there is an account impersonating us. Pls be sure that you are talking to @LRtweetup the other is linkbait #LRtweetup ^K (link)
  • The other account is actively retweeting and replying to #LRtweetup folks. Based on the links and homepage we are reporting them as spam. ^K (link)

The account in question was never disclosed publicly.

the Reveal

This morning we got a real shock. The person behind the account called the place of business of one of our members to ask why they had blocked him on twitter.

Thankfully the call went to voicemail and my friend DM’ed me with a simple, “Call Me”.

I was astonished.

Meanwhile our community was busy finding even more twitter accounts, suspect websites, a foursquare account, his real name, address, and phone number.

This had gone far enough. I decided to take it offline and give this person a call.

I took great pains to be open and friendly and called with the sole purpose of trying to get a feel for this guy and his intentions.

The phone conversation was a visit to the twilight zone. He was a nice enough guy but his strategy and ideas were patently absurd.

According to him he had 720 twitter accounts and was using them to promote his website design/hosting, friends, bands, and venues.  I simply tried to communicate that we were an open group and that the community was having a very negative response to his actions. I was hoping to open his eyes that his initial foray wasn’t gaining him any friends and perhaps be a conduit leading to better methods.

However after 20min on the phone I knew I wasn’t making any headway so I excused myself and returned to my work. I considered it over.

Then this evening I received several tweets addressing my attacks on him and thanking me for the free publicity since he may start an alternative to our unsocial network.

Color me unsurprised.

the Takeaway

In social media, sometimes your reputation hinges on what you don’t say.

Trust me, I feel like telling him exactly what I thought and I’d love to share all I know about his operation. BUT, that would reflect on me, not him.

In the end Social Media is no different than real life.

Integrity matters.

Heck it may be the only real currency in Social Media.

Spend long enough in a public space online and you are bound to encounter some unpleasantries. When you do here’s my unoriginal advice

  • Attempt to resolve it offline
  • Always take the high road

Your reputation and integrity are too valuable to gamble.

Welcome to the Social Media Easy button

no_easybuttonI’ll share a real insider tip, If you are looking for a shortcut to social media success here’s the quickest route.

Don’t start.

Sorry for being the bearer of bad news but if your mindset is trying to find a quick and easy way to increase your customer base then Social Media probably isn’t the right path. The truth is Social media is amazing and you can reap tremendous rewards but the price of admission is time and sustained effort.There aren’t any shortcuts, and anyone who says different has a wagon load of snake oil.

Social Media Simplified

The entire philosophy of Social Media can be expressed as:

  1. Engaging with people
  2. Giving them something to talk about.

Robert Scoble said it very well,

Here it is in simple terms: add people to your web sites

This isn’t rocket science. It’s putting a face on your organization. Never forget there are real people on the other end of this thing. Take the time and effort to show them their voice is important and and combine that with products/services and you’ll be rewarded with a sincere community of fans. Reach that stage and anything is possible, but it ain’t easy.

Want more encouragement?

You probably won’t see any real benefit for months. There is no easy button, you can’t flip a switch. It’s an ongoing effort of contributing and talking that will begin to build this community. Social media is like the stock market, get in for the long haul or don’t get in. If you do get in then be prepared to:

  • Blog
  • Produce multimedia – Video, podcasts, photos
  • Respond to people
  • Ask people questions
  • Actively search for people interested in your sphere of activity
  • Find ways to help people that haven’t spent a dime
  • Find a way to give back prior to receiving (pay it forward)

You’ll find no bigger social media evangelist than I, but I can assure you doing it right takes time.

The Good News?

It’s worth it. Create. Engage. Repeat.

Dear news sources on twitter

avatar_d8b2c2c37cee_128 This post was originally published by Alex T. Cone on his blog “Condividiamo”. Alex is an activist, thinker, leader, and has quickly become the point man for social meda interaction for several charities. I’ve republished this post with his permission because this open letter to the news media deserves attention.

I originally bought into twitter as a news feed to fill my need for international political happenings. I followed @financialtimes, @berlaymont and some others who met that specific need. But as time passed I learned that twitter is more about interaction than it is about being an RSS feed. It’s a way that not for profits interact with their supporters. How businesses interact with their customers. How friends interact with friends. I’ve come to see first hand how valuable this interaction can be to all of these communities.

So I want to make a suggestion to my friends in the news biz. Yes, you get a lot of RTs because you break news. Lots of people follow you, and you provide an easy gateway to specific articles. Big deal.

You want to know what might make me want to purchase a subscription to your paper when your salesperson calls me this week? Interact with me. Don’t just be one sided. I’ve got RSS feeds for that. If I ask you a question every once and a while, answer it. If I mention you in a positive or negative way, shoot me a DM and follow up. I promise you that if you form this type of relationship with me I am actually going to think about buying your rag.

Twitter creates a unique opportunity to interact with potential customers. It levels the playing field. I dare you to quit being the only people on twitter who sit in the press box.

Thanks,

@alextcone