Social Media best practices

Eight lessons I’ve learned from Twitter

Twitter visualization

I’m writing this blog as a way of accepting a challenge from my friend Venessa Miemis.  Always glad to be pushed in new ways!

I’ve been a devoted Twitter-er for nearly a year.  In that period I’ve moved from reluctant skeptic to poster-child advocate.  Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned.

1) Respect the person behind the icon.  Early on I “blocked” a young lady because her icon was a little provocative. My assumption was that she was spamming me or worse.  Later that day she wrote a comment on my blog – she was a student trying to learn from me and she was disappointed that I turned out to be a smug elitist. Wow, talk about being humbled. I apologized profusely and now we’re friends.  This was a great lesson and I’m glad it happened early in my Twitter career. Think about the real people behind the icon.  You should be honored they are interested in you. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

2) This is best kind of networking.  About a year ago I was attending a live, weekly meeting with a networking group that had the initials “TNT.”  Every time an attendee reported something positive, everybody would suddenly yell “BOOM!”   TNT … get it?  Scared the crap out of me every time. The long meetings, the referrals, the score-keeping and gimmicks – not for me, especially after I discovered the power of Twitter.  Nearly every customer, partner and supplier I currently work with came through Twitter. This is the NEW networking. No limits. No scary noises.

3) It’s not for kids. This is a business tool.  Get in the game.

4) It’s not for everyone.  I have not quite placed my finger on it, but there is a certain subset of the human race who will not, can not tweet.  I think it has something to do with being an engineer, but I need more data on this. : )  Accept them. Love them. Move on.

5) Go to the party.  One of the most over-used descriptions of how to succeed on Twitter is adopting the “cocktail party” persona:  Be nice, entertain, be helpful, don’t sell.  It might be trite, but it’s also about the best advice you can give anybody.  It’s a metaphor that’s easy to understand and it’s accurate. If people will pay attention to you at a party, they’ll pay attention to you on Twitter.

6) Adapt and adopt.   If you spend too much time trying to “find your audience,” you will completely miss the amazing audience who has found YOU.

7) Twitter is an appetizer. But to get to the main course, you need to write your new friends, call them and, if possible, meet them.  That’s when the real magic happens!

8) Don’t tweet drunk.  ‘Nuff said.

Please tell me the lessons you’ve learned from Twitter.

Illustration: This visualization came from a place calledMentionMap. I have no idea what it means but it looks very high-tech and cool, don’t you think?  I have always wanted to be a node. 

A non-commercial view of a social media “community”


The U.S. Federal Trade Commission enacted new rules, effective yesterday, calling for bloggers to disclose any connection they have to an advertiser, including both sponsored posts and free products received for reviews or endorsements.

So here’s where I stand –  I don’t have ads.  I will not do paid endorsements.  Period.

I have had the opportunity to go the commercial route, and making money is probably the ultimate aim of most (all?) bloggers.  So I thought this would be a good opportunity to open up a little about where I think {grow} is heading and why a commercial stratey is not part of the picture:

  • I have come to really care about the people on {grow}.  It is awkward for me to sell things to my friends.
  • This has not been a blog for a long time.  It’s a community.  This is a place where people don’t just connect to me, they connect to each other.  I don’t want sponsored posts in the middle of that. In fact, where I could have ads at the top of the blog, I have posted your comments!
  • I don’t think I could write what I want to write without having the advertisers in the back of my mind.
  • At this point in my life, it’s more rewarding to create an authentic learning, helping community than to make a few bucks off of it.   Once in a while I sense that this space makes a small difference in somebody.  This is better than money to me.

You’ve heard me say time and again that bottom line, social media is all about the money. In an indirect way it is for me too, so don’t peg me as Mr. Altrusitc quite yet!  A blog helps me enormously as a teaching tool in the classroom and also shows to my business clients that I practice what I preach.  But at its core, I do believe {grow} is destined to be different.

To make this little experiment work, you need to be active — yeah, I’m talking to YOU!

  • Please, please, please jump in. Comment and debate and joke around.  Let everybody know you’re HERE!
  • Reach out to others in the community and help when appropriate.  We’re all in this together.
  • By re-tweeting posts, you’re inviting others in your audience to join the party, which adds to the richness and diversity of the content we’re developing together.  When the community grows, we will all benefit.

So what do you think about this social experiment?  It’s really been taking off, but what can we all do to make it even better? Or, do you think this is just dumb and I should take the money! : )

P.S. The day after the rule took effect, this is how social meda blogger Jason Falls started his post:

As I’ve indicated before, content ranking and analytics service Postrank is a sponsor of Social Media Explorer. One of the benefits of that sponsorship is one post per month about them …

As I’ve said several times, Jason is one of my favorite bloggers but man, that is a gig I would NOT want to maintain!

Social Media and the Freedom to Hate


My local newspaper is a cesspool.

The comment section of the online version has become toxic … filled each day with misinformation, bigotry, cruelty, and hatred.  This is the darkest side of social media.  When technology enables everyone to be a critic and publisher, even those on society’s frayed edges must be welcomed to contribute anonymously and freely.

What happened?  The Letters to the Editor section used to reflect the dignity and integrity of the newspaper itself. Letters were subject to proof of identity and editing. But today’s web-based “letters” more closely resemble a TV reality show: vicious fights, alliances, regular “characters,” and no-holds-barred drama. I have no problem with anybody publishing this crap or reading it in the forum of their choice. But this sensationalistic and shocking drama is now playing out before our eyes in the context of mainstream media.

This is the bleeding edge of social media ethics, a place where law, free press, individual liberty, and civility intersect. Whether you’re a blogger, Tweeter or simply a reader, the opportunity to have anonymous hatred pushed in your face affects us all.

As reported in a superb article by Frank N. Carlson, some are finally beginning to question the value of these remarks.  How do they fit within a newspaper’s mission?  A community image?  How is this different from “regular” journalism?  What are the consequences of catering to the fringe? And who defines “fringe?”

A catalyst for this awareness is that comment cruelty is starting to make news on its own. Carlson reported that the FBI actually subpoenaed a local newspaper regarding a threatening online comment made toward a murder trial defense attorney. Earlier this year, comments made by online posters made news when a courtroom debated the media’s allowance of racist, anonymous comments on its websites. And a few weeks ago, I posted a story about a local pizza shop owner who was sued for $2 mm for alleged libelous comments made through social media channels.

The online commentary has become so vicious here in Tennessee that the local newspaper called a community meeting and has now taken action to limit offensive authors. Here’s a summary of these steps to illustrate how one community is dealing with social media run amok.

1)    Newspaper readers can now turn comments “off.” Previously, comments would appear at the end of an article whether readers wanted them or not.

2)    Newly-registered commenters are on “probation” and are screened by editors before being published.

3)    If a certain number of commenters flag a comment for review, that comment will automatically collapse, or “auto-redact,” and a warning will appear to the reader that it may contain offensive content. This way, offensive remarks can be hidden when an editor may not be present to take them down. And if a user’s auto-redacted enough times, his or her user name will be automatically banned from the site.

4)    Newspaper staff members were encouraged to participate in the conversations to steer them back toward the focus of the article, or to correct misinformation and answer questions being posed by commenters.

5)    Editors are attempting to standardize and lower the threshold of what is considered offensive.

In this space I could not possibly examine all the issues and implications presented by the growing levels of commentary cruelty and efforts to control it.  That’s why you’re here.  : )   How do these issues impact you and your ideas about personal liberty, evolution of the traditional press, and social media?

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