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.

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Knowledge is Power, Understanding is Success

This week I’ve been reflecting on how far I’ve come in the past several years, as I’ve made the transition from worker-bee to creator. I used to be the typical high-tech worker. I knew how to do a lot of stuff, like build a web site, write a communiqué, build a document library, write a technical manual. But I didn’t really UNDERSTAND any of it. I didn’t really get how what I was doing in my little cubicle was affecting the rest of the company. I just worked away at my little job, and took home my paycheque.

Understanding Comes From Experience
Anyone can pick up a book, take a course, or be shown how to do something. But understanding  why you must take action “A” to achieve result “B” is key to success. I know how to tie my shoes. I know the techincal process I need to go through to put one lace over the next, loop it around and pull through. But it’s something entirely different to understand why I must tie my shoes. Until I do, I’ll be a sloppy, tripping mess.

So how do you make that transition from just knowing something to really understanding it? Experience. There’s no other way. I must take knowledge I’ve acquired and put it into practice. I must get up and do it every day, as long as I need to until I understand it. Only then can I see the true value in the knowledge I’ve acquired.

The Bottom Line is the Big Picture
I think a lot of people in the social media world are getting caught up in the little details. They are getting stuck in a rut of acquiring knowledge, and not taking the time to really understand what they are learning. Instead of working to acquire understanding, they keep busy rifling around looking for some social media expert to give them all the answers. They are relying on other people to give them top 10 lists, strategies and quick fix solutions instead of spending their time working on understanding. They are reading endlessly, but putting nothing into practice.

Be Accountable for Your Understanding
If there’s one thing I’ve grown to understand over the years, it’s that I am responsible for my own understanding. The experts are not there to solve all my problems. The role of the expert is to pass on knowledge to me. Then it’s up to me to take that knowledge and build an understanding for myself and how that knowledge applies to my situation and my goals. And that can only be done by coming up with my own solutions, applying them and gaining the experience I need to move forward.

There is a world of knowledge out there for the taking. There are dozens of great teachers in the social media space who are willing to send that knowledge out to you. But none of them are going to spoon feed you the answers – it’s impossible for them to do that and it’s too much to ask. You are the only one that can take the knowledge you’ve been given and turn it into your own understanding.

Understood?