How to Shape YOUR Online Experience

I saw a cool post this morning on Social Media Today from guest blogger Lena West of xynoMedia. She talks about how she personally deals with social media in her own workflow, and points out that “last time I checked, we each set the rules for how we interact with other people. Social media is no different.”

Lena is so right. We spend a lot of time talking about the most effective way to use social media tools, to get the best results, the biggest ROI and so on. But really, at the end of the day, it’s about creating your OWN experience. There’s no perfect fit that works for everyone.

We all use the Internet in different ways. I thought it would be great for us to share some of the ways we use the Web’s bountiful offerings, for the benefit of anyone who might be seeking some more information about what’s what and different ways people shape their online experience.

I’ll start, then you provide your own tips in the comments, okay?

Email. I am working on tackling my email differently. I have three email accounts – my work email, my personal email, and my college email. I get upwards of 20 emails a week from students (doesn’t seem like much until you realize that they are mostly questions that require some sort of acknowledgement or response). I get countless work emails per day, and then my personal stuff, most of which is generated from friends or from my social networks. I use Gmail to catch all of my email in one place. I use labels and filters to pre-sort my college email (which I only check twice a week). I recently discovered AwayFind thanks to this guy and although I’ve yet to receive an urgent contact, I have the peace of mind knowing that I can step away from my email for several hours and not worry about missing something critical. (My AwayFind review is coming soon, BTW).

Twitter. I’m a power user of Twitter. It’s network central for me. I have many forms of communication on Twitter. I use it to talk about random things. I use it to post links to interesting content I’ve discovered or to re-post (a.k.a. re-tweet) others’ interesting info. I use it to post links to my own blog posts (in moderation). I use it to have conversations with people, and I’ve even used it to edit a video (through direct messages). TweetDeck is my tool of choice on my desktop computer, because it allows me to manage my feed, my replies and my direct messages. I use TwitterFon on my iPhone because I like the interface.

Delicious. I get a ton of use out of my Delicious account. Delicious is a social bookmarking tool but what I like is it allows me to tag groups of bookmarks for different purposes. I collect bookmarks for use in my classes, bookmarks that I share out to my students, and I even have the demo reel for our company bookmarked through delicious. It’s super easy, whenever a new project goes online somewhere, I just bookmark it, tag it, and voila! I also have my “Other Writings” column over on the right there done through delicious. I just tag any links to other online writing I’ve done and boom! It shows up in that column. Pretty neat!

Those are just three of the tools I use online to help me shape my experience. I do have others but I want to hear your take. Post in the comments what tools you use and how you use them. Hopefully we can pass on some valuable info to others, and they can take what they need from our collective advice and use it to shape their own experience.

I Use the Web Differently Now…Do You?

I have been thinking over the past couple of days how much things have changed online in the past several months. Social networks have gone from early adoption stage to pretty mainstream, and now the early adopters of business are starting to really grab hold of social media as a way to enhance their online presence. Within the next little while, the business community at large is going to start to catch on in a big way and then it’s going to really get interesting.

Along with this shift has come a shift in the way that people use the Internet. For example, online media and communications wizard Jeff Pulver talks here about how he uses Facebook as a business communication tool. Lots of people, like Collective Thoughts’ Brian Wallace are talking about why Twitter is so important to the new Web.

A year or so ago, my Internet experience was as follows. My home page was the Google Home page, in which I had customized widgets for reading the CBC News, my horoscope, TechCrunch, Wired Magazine and a few others I can’t remember. If I wanted to find information on something I went to Wikipedia. I chatted with people using Windows Messenger and Google Chat. If I was bored I hit the StumbleUpon button a lot and looked at some LOLcats and cute puppy pictures.

Today, my surfing experience is entirely different. My home page is Google Reader and I follow over a hundred blogs and I comment on several blogs a week. I write my own blog and people read it and comment often. I follow and connect with people on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pownce and FriendFeed, and I share lots of bookmarks in del.icio.us and lots of photos on Flickr.

Notice the words I used to describe my surfing habits a year ago. Reading, finding, looking, bored. Notice the words I used for today’s version of surfing. Following, commenting, connecting, writing, sharing. Which do YOU think sounds more fun and worthwhile?