update November 4, 2011: That celebrity who followed me now doesn’t follow me. Oh well, I guess he must have noticed he was following me. And I unfollowed Robert Reich and Dave Winer.
The Shannon File’s John Shannon recently assessed how he used social media, opting for the elimination of his Facebook page. I read his post, and agreed. Facebook groups should replace Facebook pages.
I put together my first website in 1996, relatively late for the website scene. That website introduced my side business, Webforme, which was a website design company. After teaching high school social studies eight years, I got my master’s degree, left teaching and decided to pursue web design full time. I incorporated as Northfieldweb. I enjoyed myself immensely, although back then software such as Frontpage forced me to hand code browser friendly sites and I used Perl to create forms.
In 2006, I helped a local candidate win a Minnesota House seat. He had run in 2004, too, and had been featured in Time Magazine for having a weblog. After working on his blog, I created my own blog and began creating blogs for clients . I did my own study which compared the benefits of a static website to those of a weblog, with blogs being the obvious winner. Blogrolling was an easy add into a sidebar and allowed links to viewed (by Google) as ” incoming”, which had an effect on Pagerank. Further, blogs used rss , which was free syndication of absolutely immediate information. I was amazed and gung ho about the usage of rss feeds… imagining amazing capabilities… but would soon learn very few others cared about rss feeds.
My first blog, “Prickly Burr,” was named after Aaron Burr. Burr, the obvious lesser in a gun battle, managed to kill Alexander Hamilton. My parents considered Alexander Hamilton their hero and I liked him, too, but I’d decided on Aaron Burr, a feminist and introvert, as my own political hero. Burr is simply misunderstood (I won’t go into that, now) and I especially like that Burr was friends with Mary Wollstonecraft.
In 2006, I thought it was better blogging practice to list links at the end of a post rather than link in the text, itself. I worried readers wouldn’t reach the end of my post. My town had a community blog to which I contributed, and we discussed how to do links. Community bloggers thought we should include links in the regular text body, and later I realized they were right. Those same local bloggers also thought blogging should not incorporate opinions, and we still disagree on that. Here’s my article our local community blog refused to print, with the editors disliking this;
… “a few families watched every penny and a rise in gas prices meant they would ‘not make it.’” [Regarding the need for more alternative energy] Who should be most concerned? Probably the families that watch every penny.”
They took issue with the “every penny” idea and so the story was only published on my personal blog. It was the first time I was censored, and after that I knew I didn’t like censorship. In hindsight, those local editors wanted a journalist, and I presented them with ” op ed.” As time has passed, I’ve noticed almost all blogging is “op ed” and has strengths and weaknesses because of it.
To date, I’ve created quite a few website and blogs for various clients. Sadly, I closed my small business in 2008. The economy faltered, and company or personal websites were often put on the back burner, leaving me with less to do. But I’m still poking around with social media, and here’s what I think lately about blogging, Twitter, and Facebook.
==>Blogging should be thought of as instant publishing. When comments are allowed on a blog, blogs are interactive. Static websites rely on a viewer actually going to the website, whereas people can access a blog’s information without actually going to the site. Bloggers should make sure their rss feed works and if appropriate ask other blogs to list their feed in the sidebar. If a combined rss feed is out there, bloggers should be glad to be in the combined feed, since it is easier to list one feed in a sidebar rather than many, and there’s an even greater change your story will be read on a reader.
Hint: For those of you concerned about burying information in a blog, you don’t understand the use of sidebar space and the value of a categories listing. Along those same lines, bloggers should call out in posts about what they put in their sidebars, thereby asking people to visit their actual blog.
Bloggers should be concerned about increasing readership. It’s wise to increase the number of ways your blog can be found. Facebook offers Networked blogs. Twitter can be used to share a new blog post. Bloggers can ask other bloggers/websites to list an rss feed, or at the very least, to list a blog as a link. Combined feeds, especially ones directed at certain viewers, are rare but fantastic tools. If a blog is included in a combined feed, and other bloggers display that combined feed on their blog, a blog’s story titles can be seen on all the blogs which display the combined feed.
Google’s Feedburner is a nice proxy service which allows a blogger to insert advertisements into a feed. If you use WordPress software, I hear you can code ads directly into your feed (see #3) without using anything like Feedburner, although I have never inserted ads into my feed.
Bloggers should not assume anyone processes their information unless readers comment or link to a post. Bloggers should try to remember the power of a public voice. A Google search can readily produce even an obscure writer’s thoughts, and those thoughts can even be found long after a blog’s demise. Writers should decide on the blog’s purpose and should remember that purpose as they blog.
==>Twitter.com provides a place for anyone or any organization to microblog. Tweets are the instant publishing of 140 characters or less. Your word is amplified when others retweet what you’ve said as more people see what you published if someone retweets your tweet. Should Twitter be used to magnify a voice, for its interactive potential, or just to gain information? The wise answer is that it can be used for all of those things.
If you join Twitter, you should follow almost everyone that follows you. I don’t follow anyone who never tweets, and I don’t follow porno tweeters. I use friendorfollow.com and I don’t follow people who don’t follow me, save a few people like @davewiner and @RBReich, who probably never would benefit from anything I had to say (but I like to receive their information). You might ask how I manage all that information, since I follow and am followed by over a 1000 people (which means I am a relatively small Twitter user, BTW). I use lists. I list people and view my lists when I want to see what’s going on or find people.
If you want to grow the number of people you follow, Refollow.com allows for a short period of time before you have to pay to use their service. You can enter the username of another person on Twitter and follow who they follow. Be careful, though, because you cannot follow too many or unfollow too many people in a short amount of time. Twitter is obscure about the actualities, but if your follow to following ratio changes too fast, it will suspend your account.
Direct Messaging can be used to contact people in a private manner, but most people don’t use DM. If direct messaging becomes a problem, unfollow that person. I rarely use direct messaging.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming anything from an average person’s follow to following ratio. There is no real status indicated in the follows to following ratio, unless you are a celebrity. When celebrities follow it does indicate something, though. Booya! I have one celebrity who follows me and only 117 other people, but he’s followed by 913,979 people.
If you use Twitter, don’t assume anyone gets information you tweet unless they retweet one of your tweets or respond to a tweet.
==>Facebook.com is perplexing. I find even the recent posts news feed too restrictive. Have the Facebook gods decided my interest based on my interactivity, not taking into account other things? I often find myself forgetting about friends because they don’t appear in my news feed.
A new feature I like is the “subscribe” button, because I can remain friends with people and “unsubscribe” if I don’t want to see their posts (that is, if Facebook has decided this friend’s posts should be in the news feed I see). I also like that I can list friends. Did Facebook learn that from Twitter? Even though I can list friends, I still would like an everchanging, random selection of all of my friends listed in the sidebar.
Facebook pages display an rss feed, but the feed doesn’t validate and so what is it good for? Facebook allows me to share about a page on my wall, but it doesn’t allow me to “invite friends” to like that page. When comparing Facebook pages to Facebook groups, groups are better because I can invite friends (click on the member list, and hit the “invite” button). BTW, Facebook doesn’t display a group’s rss feed, but you can circumvent that here.
Regarding resource tracking, Chrome used to allow you to export a member lists, but lately Facebook is resistant to that idea. If you happen to find out more about Facebook database sharing, please shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org. I really don’t have any reason to move big lists but it would be nice to add my Facebook friends to Google+.