No Wonder I’m Dumber By The Day

Posted: November 3rd, 2010

Image by Jypsygen (Flickr)

Image by Jypsygen (Flickr)

The Joy of Being An Information Broker

There is not a day that goes by where I marvel at the whole Twitter hootenanny. Check the ticker, come across an article or some clever humor, read it, retweet it . Repeat.

Of course, I make my own contributions by choking down my own RSS feedbag and adding on to everyone else’s endless ticker. It’s somewhat comforting knowing that I’m doing my little part to provide something useful to others while simultaneously enhancing their eye strain.

I haven’t given it much thought until recently, though, about the whole process of the read and retweet. Sharing information is done in quite a volume no matter whether good, bad, so-so or funny but how is all this information getting used?

Well, if it has entertainment value, you get your kicks for five seconds and move on. But an article or blog post? Maybe you’ll spend a minute and think “wow, this might be useful” then bookmark it only never to return to it again.

Over time, doesn’t it end up to scanning even good reads and leave it at that? They pretty much pass through one eye, juggle around the brain then fly out the other as fast as you read the post. I’d say this effect is multiplied by the factor of the thousands of tweets racked up under your username.

Unfortunate Unlearning of One of Our Most Basic Skills

What I’ve really noticed, though, is an interesting phenomenon resulting from this cycle. My attention span has dwindled to somewhere between that of an infant and my neighbor’s cat. I end up scanning everything, even the important emails and articles that I want to read and understand.

I’ve always attributed this to simple information overload and lack of attention=brain is full, go for a walk. Oddly, this effect did happen to continue even if  Twitter was skipped for a few days to get that “RT” tattoo removed from my head.

Slightly worried, I naturally visited the usual doctor,  Google, to see what the big brother had to say. Lo and behold, he came up with an answer. Are you ready for this? Attention deficit… trait or its common name ADT.

Here’s a definition of ADT from Dr. Edward Hallowell (from CNET):

It’s sort of like the normal version of attention deficit disorder. But it’s a condition induced by modern life, in which you’ve become so busy attending to so many inputs and outputs that you become increasingly distracted, irritable, impulsive, restless and, over the long term, underachieving. In other words, it costs you efficiency because you’re doing so much or trying to do so much, it’s as if you’re juggling one more ball than you possibly can.

Then there is this lovely tidbit from Time:

WHAT DISTINGUISHES ADT FROM EVERYDAY STRESS?
If it’s not getting in your way, forget about it. But if you find that you’re having an awful lot of conflicts and not liking life very much, and you’re making quick decisions without giving them the thought they need, then you need to do something about it.

Do I Finally Have An Out From Social Media?

Somehow, I find it a little troubling that I might be on the way to a doom of long-term underachievement from a disorder yet-to-be-made-official. Luckily, the hating life symptom hasn’t appeared yet but Dr. Google is on call in case it does.

Now, however, comes the moment of truth. Give up Twitter, checking the RSS feed, reading blogs and go back to whatever I did before (eat, drink and be merry). Maybe take a long (permanent) walk?

Nah, I think I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. I enjoy my Twitter friends and they need me too (I think).

Plus an ADT pill should be out on the market soon anyway.

Dem Der Marketers And Why You Should Get To Know Them

Posted: September 15th, 2010

Photo by Kevin Labiano (Flickr)

Photo by Kevin Labiano (Flickr)

If you haven’t figured out Twitter by now, then you wouldn’t notice there is a tendency to follow anyone out there who sends a random tweet your way. Hell, I’m even guilty here.

Over time, though, when you really think about who you interact with, isn’t it safe to say that you remain within your “clique” of users who do exactly what you do, say web design or writing?

Not that there is anything wrong with this. I mean, we’ve been in cliques since the days when we were three feet tall. Besides, we naturally converse better with those with similar interests, not to mention, share some ideas that help us in our work.

Sticking within your cliques in social media, however, defeats its sole purpose which is being social rather than hanging around the proverbial water cooler.

Why should we get to know other marketers, more specifically social media marketers?

It’s a great way to learn to interact and build a network

It’s a social media marketer’s purpose to harness the social web to generate brand awareness for their clients. In order to do so, however, they need to do this for themselves or else they would be out of business in a hurry.

These marketers, though, are socially savvy folks who value building relationships from all walks of life, not to mention, they attract other social-friendly people. The by-product of getting to know them is, of course, meeting all those other friendly people. Some may happen to do what you do but real networks are built by mingling with others who don’t.

They aren’t “those” types of marketers

Usually when I get a follow from anyone with “marketer” in their bio, bells go off in my head telling me not to follow back. While this does hold true for many, no real social media marketer will bombard you with a DM to purchase their latest ebook at a special price for you ending at midnight.

For that matter, you won’t see any talk of getting rich or, really, any word of money with these folks. Just straight up getting to know one another and sharing ideas. Exactly what it should be.

They are highly accessible

One of my pet peeves in the social sphere is attempting to interact with others on Twitter or visiting the blogs of followers, leaving a comment and not nary a reply is left in return. In the end, it makes you feel like a groupie of someone who couldn’t give a crap about you.

What impresses me most about these marketers is that, despite their numerous followings, they go out of their way to keep up with those who interact with them, even new people. Again, isn’t this what being social is all about?

Where to get started

If you aren’t following them yet, here are three awesome marketers you should get to know right now. Pay a visit to their blogs and keep up with them on Twitter and you’ll begin to notice their consistent efforts to keep up with their own communities. Stuff to learn from.

Mark Schaefer Mark Schaefer

One of my favorite places to hang out is in the comments section of Mark’s blog. I’ve met many great people here, from other marketers to engineers, who are worth following themselves.

Blog: {Grow}
Twitter: @markwschaefer

Jon Buscall Jon Buscall

I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Jon through Mark’s blog and he’s become a great friend, not to mention, knows his stuff in social media. It’s hard to find more friendly and chatty people in social media than this guy.

Blog: Jontus Media
Twitter: @jonbuscall

Danny Brown Danny Brown

Arguably the undisputed king of social media, Danny works tirelessly to keep up with his huge community of followers. Keep up with him, though, and you never get lost in the shuffle.

Blog: Danny Brown
Twitter: @dannybrown

Productive Use of Twitter: Are You Stalking or Are You Talking?

Posted: July 29th, 2010

Probably not the best use of Twitter here

Probably not the best use of Twitter here

I tend to have an on-again, off-again relationship with Twitter. Some weeks are just so busy with work that Twitter plays second fiddle to it. I still don’t get paid to use it so, sorry there little avatars with personalities, you’ll have to wait until next week (or after a night out later tonight).

Maybe it’s time to rethink that again for a second.

Now I’m not one to buy into using Twitter for the whole celebrity “reaching out to your fans” experience. I can just see it now if I did my daily Twitter stalking and finally received that coveted response.

@freelancerant Back off dude. I got armed bodyguards and an unlimited legal fund.

I prefer its “proper” use such as networking, sharing links and trading a friendly jab once in a while. When I really thought about it, though, it’s much more than that.

  • I’ve improved by leaps and bounds in my work as a web developer because I’m in constant contact with those who seem to know quite a bit more than I do. OK, they DO know more than I do.
  • I’m friends with others outside of my field such as marketers, designers, writers, Twitter socialites and the general population with free time on their hands. You definitely learn a thing or two by branching out and learning from users you wouldn’t normally expect to learn from.
  • I’m up-to-date on absolutely everything. It can be crucial to your success being on top of your work, technology and what Justin Bieber had for lunch an hour ago (so I don’t have to follow him myself).
  • I’ve made great business contacts who I know, with a reasonable degree of intuition, are good peoples.
  • Considering all the above as what I get out of Twitter, an hour a day invested in it is rather minimal.

I’ve been on Twitter for over a year now and, while it is a no-brainer to use, it does take some time to realize how it can put a positive jolt in your freelancing career. Pry yourself from the distraction side, though admittedly I can’t help but to have humor and sports in my feed, and you have a tool that can move you places.

That or witness people moving places. Nothing like something to motivate you to move forward.

On a side note, I say this as I unfollow @Alyssa_Milano. You were a distraction and never responded but I have my real friends now, thank you.

Introducing A New Sort-Of Twitter (More Than 140 Characters Allowed!)

Posted: February 1st, 2010

Photo by Jeffjose (Flickr)

Photo by Jeffjose (Flickr)

I’m really excited that I recently discovered a new “app” as a part of my social media arsenal. Yes, you got it; something new and different that rivals Twitter. OK, it’s no so new, but it is effective.

Don’t get me wrong; Twitter is a great tool and all, but sometimes I just want to cut to the chase and converse with those that are of interest to me as a freelancer and in my business. With Twitter, I usually get sidetracked enough with unrelated links that it somewhat defeats its purpose.

Besides, I’m a little tired of clicking on to pictures of cats and half-eaten breakfasts already.

So before I reveal what this incredible new tool is, let me give you some of its advantages over Twitter.

1. No follower counts (and insecurity with your unpopularity).

Finally there is no need worry that you have 136 followers while the average number of followers of those following you is somewhere in the tens of thousands. Not that it mattered anyway, but this is no longer an issue.

Ah, who am I kidding? We all look at that count each and every day and look up those users that hit the unfollow button on us. The swine.

Now, though, we can all be created equal and our fragile egos can be saved.

2. Communicate directly to the gurus and experts that would never consider following you.

Have you ever RT’d or sent a tweet to one of those “popular” users in hopes of getting his attention?

Then waited…

Not a thank you tweet in sight. Probably didn’t even notice. He still hasn’t followed you back for God sake.

Wouldn’t it be nice to send a message to him and then he gets back to you? Well, it may happen some of the time but better than being completely ignored.

3. No more 140 character limits.

You are free to write 141, 280, 560 characters or, gasp, multiple paragraphs. Finally say what is on your mind and don’t leave out one single detail. You can even throw in that photo of your cat eating breakfast (though not recommended).

4. Steal traffic from other websites to yours.

Sure, Twitter is a great way to bring traffic to your website. More traffic couldn’t hurt, right? It’s especially true if you can “borrow” it from other websites with a lot more traffic.

Yes, there is a little greed factor here.

5. Meet others with similar interests.

I personally hate following a user that seems to be interesting but finding only nothing but tweets about Jersey Shore and cats coming from his feed.

Booooring.

None of that here. Filter out the crap and save yourself the unfollow time.

So What Is It?

It’s nothing you haven’t heard of before. In fact, you may have used “it” but without realizing its full potential.

Introducing… [drumroll] the blog comment.

How many times of you read a really good blog post, bookmarked it, tweeted a link to it and printed it out but never left a comment telling the author how good it was along with a reflective thought?

Nothing flatters an author more (even the popular ones too) than noticing that his readers are influenced by his or her work. Plus you get a little something in return by leaving a link to your blog or website along with your picture (by getting a Gravatar).

Instant branding… just like with Twitter.

Just remember to be sincere and leave a thought provoking response. That might be just enough to get that author’s attention and have him visit your website. Maybe he’ll even like what he sees on your website and recommend you to his friends.

Sure beats waiting for him to follow you on Twitter.

Are You Digesting Too Much Information?

Posted: January 14th, 2010

Photo by True2source (Flickr)

Photo by True2source (Flickr)

I came to a realization a while back sifting through my Firefox bookmarks… Am I really putting all those great articles and advice that I come across through tweets and stumbles to great use?

The answer is, sadly, not even close. I was essentially reading and forgetting as if I were reading newspapers.

I went as far as to give myself my own professional self-diagnosis and came up with the following: I was suffering bad indigestion from information overload.

Well, I found a little system that helped me make better use of the information I come across while, at the same time keeping my brain from shrieking. Hopefully you can use these, too, in the same manner.

1. Clean Out The Reader and Bookmarks

When having that daily peek at the list of subscriptions in my reader, I would always get that feeling as if I were doing a chore when thinking about going through that long ass list. Rather counterproductive I say.

It doesn’t take long to go through the subscriptions and delete out those blogs that haven’t been updated in two months or that you don’t find useful anymore. By doing this, not only will this save you time having to filter through to get to the articles of interest, but you’ll get back to looking forward to those articles as well.

The same goes for those bookmarks. Time to take inventory of the ones you really use and delete out those you don’t.

2. Don’t Bookmark Those Massive Lists

These are pretty easy to tell by the “100 Resources to…” title. These are often great compilations but the fact is you aren’t going to utilize every single one of those links. Plus, after bookmarking the page and referring back to it later, you tend to forget and have to read through the hundred items just to remember what you liked.

The trick is to take the time to visit those links that interest you inside the resource post and bookmark those instead.

3. Sorting The Bookmarks You Save

I started a rather simple method for bookmarking articles so they are easy to refer back to. First I created three folders where recent bookmarks I saved are kept for a review later:

  • Advice I’ll apply right now
  • Advice to apply later
  • Inspiration

These can be whatever depending on how you like to categorize. Rather than directly filing bookmarks to some random folder, where it likely won’t be seen or used again, I use these folders as a sort of holding pen so I can easily go back and see what I saved recently. This is of no use, though, unless you…

4. Consistently Review Your Bookmarks

On a weekly basis, I look through those folders I created and review those bookmarks, revisiting those links as well. Reviewing bookmarks a second time has the effect of putting those pages to memory. I can now file them away in another folder and remember where they are at in case I ever need to refer back to them again.

Sometimes you find that a bookmark you saved may no longer have any use. Now is a good time to delete it before you clutter up your bookmark folders all over again.

5. Use Stumbleupon To Save Links

Stumbleupon is a great way to have a record of all those links you come across. Download the toolbar and  use the “thumbs up” button on any and all pages that interest you even if you don’t bookmark any for later use.

Once in a while, I’ll get the need to refer back to a page that I didn’t bookmark but, instead, thumbed up in Stumbleupon. By clicking on the “Favorites” button in the toolbar you can visit your Stumbleupon page with all the pages you gave a thumbs up (or down) to.

You can then narrow your search by typing in keywords in the “Search your favorites” box to find that link you were after. It is far more clutter-free for your bookmark folders by sticking with Stumbleupon to save those links you normally would bookmark but hardly use again.

6. Take a Day (or Two) Off From Your Computer

I don’t know about you but, after visiting so many blogs and digesting so much information, I tended to burnout. Then I would read those good blog posts but then immediately forget them and not apply the good info contained in them.

Taking just one day off from your computer breaks that cycle so, when you return, you’re refreshed and more at tune when going back through the reader and visiting those blogs and websites again.

* * *

Do you find these techniques useful? Are there any methods that you use to counter the “information overload” from reading so many blogs or visiting so many websites? Drop a comment below and let me know!

Ten Steps To Twitter Zen

Posted: January 8th, 2010

Photo by CC Chapman (Flickr)

Photo by CC Chapman (Flickr)

I’ve been using Twitter over the last nine months or so. Now, I may not exactly be deemed “popular” by follower standards but I’ve used it enough to know what makes a good user experience, not just for yourself, but for your followers too.

There are, of course, rules to live by when using Twitter and other social media that should be understood.

But here are my two cents on the matter.

Be Yourself, Be Nice

Treat Twitter as if you were talking to real people.

People can easily spot suck-ups, frauds and salesmen in real life but guess what? They can also easily see this through your tweets. So there’s no point in trying to win over new followers or inundating everyone about the new ebook your selling.

Be you. That’s all your followers ask of you.

And keep it nice too. No one like negativity and the badmouthing of others so stay away from that. Also, abide by the conversational rule of refraining from tweeting about religion or politics unless, of course, these are what you normally tweet about.

You Must Give In Order to Receive

Sure you want to promote something over Twitter whether it be your blog or something you sell. Before that can ever take place you have to give by sending out tweets of value that people find useful. In other words, you need to develop a reputation as being a source of great information.

Then and only then can you send out a tweet that promotes what you have. Just keep it to a minimum and “sneak” it in with the other links sent out.

Follower Count Isn’t Everything

A common belief is that the higher your follower count, the more popular you appear to be.

Well… yes and no.

The popular people on Twitter fall under two categories: celebrities and gurus who are pretty much celebrities. You can easily identify them by their follower count nearing the 100,000 mark, or reaching much higher, and follow relatively few people themselves.

As for the rest of twitterverse, the follower count isn’t even close to being as important as the followers you already have. After all, which is better? Knowing a thousand people and talking to only a few or knowing a hundred people and talking to each and every one of them?

Conversation Is Not One-Way

You could be that all-knowing guru of marketing, web design or whatever and tweet links that could really help out your followers. If you don’t bother to interact with your followers, however, you are essentially standing on a soapbox and speaking into an empty room.

Take the time to scan through your feed and answer questions, retweet useful links and spark up conversations. Then you begin to notice that followers begin to notice and listen to what you have to tweet.

Mix It Up A Little

I’ve been guilty of this but if you’re say, a freelance web designer, don’t just tweet everything on web design or else you’re seen one-dimensional. The point of Twitter is to tweet interesting links whether it be news, funny images, thought-provoking quotes or articles unrelated to what you do.

And try to eliminate those plain “Eating cereal right now” tweets. Unless you can add a funny or interesting spin to it like “Eating Cheerios with water, hmmm, not so bad” it’s likely to draw a “who cares” reaction.

Know The Proper Way To DM (direct message)

A real sore spot for most Twitter users is the unsolicited DM. It is often seen as no different than receiving a Viagra pitch by email. So turn off that auto-DM for new followers and refrain from sending mass DM’s to get your followers to read that new blog post.

The DM is used primarily to communicate privately with followers you already interact with. If you want to DM a follower you never communicated with before, though, make sure you personalize it with their name, looking it up in their profile or from the website link in the profile.

But remember, in a DM, don’t try to sell your shit or ask to join some mafia boss thing either. That’s the number one way to get unfollowed.

A Non-Follow-Back Is Not Cause For Concern

Twitter is not a game of I’m following you so you better follow me back. So not receiving a follow back shouldn’t be considered an insult and trigger your inner fury. It’s important to not equate this with being rejected as a person.

The truth is you will decide not to follow those that follow you for reasons that have nothing to do with the person behind the username. It’s nothing personal, it’s just how Twitter works.

If You Want to Increase The Likelihood of a Follow Back…

  1. Upload an avatar in your profile and have a link to your website or Facebook page.
  2. Add a descriptive, interesting bio to your profile too.
  3. When landing on your Twitter page, there should be some RT’s (retweets) in view.
  4. If you are a new user, have at least 10 – 15 tweets posted with a few RT’s thrown in. Seeing one tweet or no tweets at all might lead to you being mistaken for a spammer.

You Can Always Unfollow

Once in a while you’ll come across someone’s tweets that you find annoying or inappropriate. Or you’ll get once of those annoying DM’s to buy some crap you don’t want.

That’s the beauty of the unfollow button. One click and you never have to hear from that person again. Ever. No need to get angry and respond with hate tweets.

Give Thanks

This is entirely up to you but, if someone takes the time to visit any link I tweet, then retweets it, I’ll send them a reply thanking them for the RT. In my opinion, that person appreciates the acknowledgment and is likley to notice and retweet more of my links in the future.

Besides, I think it’s good karma.