Twitter Takeaways

First of all, many thanks to Mack Collier for being my inspiration for this post. We had a great conversation on Twitter last night, which started when he asked the Twitterverse:

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I replied to Mack that I think that I actually blog more because of Twitter, that what I read on Twitter inspires me. Then I realized something.

Twitter is my input. Blogging is my output. Let me explain.

Depending on what I’m working on and whether I need really focused time or not, I usually have Tweetdeck running in the background on my screen. I keep one eyeball on it, and if something catches my eye I’ll take a look. It’s kind of akin to the days when I used to work in the cube farm at the giant corporation. I would be working away, and I’d hear snippets of conversations all around me as I worked. Sometimes I’d listen more closely, if the subject was related to me or something I was interested in. Sometimes I’d stand up over the edge of my cubicle and contribute if I thought it would be helpful. Good thing about Twitter is, it’s far more colourful than those grey cubicle walls I suffered behind for all those years.

My point is, Twitter is one of my primary inputs of information. The conversations on there lead me to all sorts of things. It’s my newspaper, my radio, my TV, and my water cooler all in one.

I spend a good majority of my days writing. If I’m ever at a loss for inspiration, a particular word, or a way to phrase something, I take a few minutes and peruse Twitter. Sometimes I contribute, other times I just watch. Often I will find what I need just by watching.

When it comes to my blog, I probably get more ideas from Twitter than from anywhere else. Sure, it may be indirect (someone provides a link from their Twitter feed to a blog post or news story) but Twitter is still the source.

My blog is the primary output of all this stuff that comes in and then proceeds to fly around in my head. People often ask me how I get my blog ideas. I don’t really have a formula, which is probably why I don’t post every day. Things just come to me and then I need to write about them. I don’t have a massive list of posts I need to write. I have a few scribbles in the “Notes” application on my iPhone. I blog about what I see and experience around me, and that immediacy is what I like about it. I don’t heavily edit things either. I write stream of consciousness for the most part, then tweak.

As Mack said last night, after I mentioned I’d be posting about our conversation in the morning:

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Mack and I have never met, and we live in different countries. Yet, we were able to make a connection, have a conversation, and be inspired to think about things a little more deeply. And, he brought me the input that was required in order for me to have this output here. Doesn’t that just blow your mind? It blows mine all the time.

One More Twitter Takeaway

Here’s a tip, something I just thought of this morning. I was visiting my brother and sister in law yesterday and we got to talking about Twitter. They both have accounts that they don’t really use, and I got the usual “I don’t really get it” response from them. I tried to give the typical explanations, and my sis-in-law did seem a bit more intrigued by those. But today, I have discovered the thing that is going to get her to see the value.

You see, she’s into wine in a big way, and has some pretty interesting opinions about the wine industry, particularly as it relates to the business side of things. So this morning I did a few searches on Twitter Search around wine and business, and I think that the results I got will be very exciting to her. I do believe that now, she will immediately see how she can benefit, when she sees how many other people are talking about the same things she is passionate about. If you are trying to show someone the value of Twitter, show them a couple of Twitter Searches on topics of interest to them. I think they may start to see things differently.

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In Case You Were Wondering…

In case you were wondering what all this social media business is all about, let me give you an example. Last night, I was hanging around on Twitter and this question appeared from master woodworker and Twitter afficionado Keith Burtis:

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I thought for a minute, then responded:

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And then Keith made this video.

This is what social media is. It’s real interactions, between real people. It’s about seizing the opportunities and inspirations that are laid out for you in this space. It’s collaboration, communication, and creation.

This is powerful stuff.

How has social media changed how you interact? How has it changed how you are inspired?

Online Authenticity – You Be The Judge

There are still a lot of skeptics out there when it comes to trusting other people online. I speak with people all the time who are not involved in online communities. I ask them why they haven’t gotten involved. I get a lot of answers, but perhaps the most interesting response I get is that they don’t trust what they read in the social media space. In other words, they don’t believe that people are being genuine. 

This causes some concern to me, especially since I tend to find the opposite to be true. In my 2 + years of being involved in social media, I have only come across only a very few people who were truly misrepresenting themselves. 

I find it interesting that people have no problem meeting other people at a business meeting, a bar, a conference, or on the street and trusting those people right away. But take away the physical presence, and the story is entirely different. What is it about meeting people online that makes people trust less? It seemsthat if I can’t see you in 3-D, shake your hand, breathe the same air as you, then I can’t trust you. The truth is, I’ve met a lot more people face to face in my life that that I don’t trust than people I’ve met only on the Web. Some people who I’ve known only in person have been capable of great deception and misrepresentation – more than anyone I’ve come across online to this point. 

In fact, I actually think that meeting someone online actually gives me MORE reason to trust them. Why? Because online, people (the trustworthy ones) tend to exist in more than one place. That makes it much easier for me to verify their story.

Case in point: If I meet someone at a restaurant and they give me their business card,  I only have a very little information about them. Their name, their place of employment, their email address. Fact is, I don’t even REALLY know if the card they have given me is theirs (unless their photo is on it – rare). Sure, I can Google them when I get home, but what if their name is John Smith and they work for a giant corporation? Not so easy. 

However, if I meet someone on Twitter, I have multiple ways of verifying their story. I can see how many followers they have. I can ask some of those followers to back up the person’s story. I can check out the person’s blog, see who is linking to it. I can look at where they say they work. I can see pictures of them. Check their LinkedIN profile, their Facebook profile. I can get a pretty good picture in a very short amount of time from someone who has a reasonably broad online presence. I can feel as if I know something about them, have a sense of their honesty and then make a decision on whether or not they are authentic. 

The key to online authenticity is to have a certain level of saturation through many social networks. Here are some ways you can do that:

  1. Don’t just exist on Facebook. Get your name out on other social networks, such as Twitter, LinkedIN, Plurk, identi.ca.
  2. Consider starting a blog. Don’t have the time? Try Tumblr instead. 
  3. Make comments on a variety of blogs. Be authentic when sharing your opinion in these spaces.
  4. Be open to people getting in touch with you via email or on your cell phone.

No matter what, always be 100% authentic in your interactions. Don’t falsefy or exagerrate facts about yourself. Don’t want to share your marital or employment status online? Instead of fibbing about it, just don’t say anything. You absolutely have the right to share only that information you are comfortable sharing. 

In the end, it’s up to each of us to judge whether we find someone to be authentic or not, in person or online. If you are unsure of who to trust, the best thing you can do is get involved in the community and begin to listen to the conversations going on around you. You will figure out soon enough who you feel is trustworthy. And anyone who isn’t? That’s what the “Block” button is for.

What do you think? Is authenticity more of an issue online or in person?

CNN Wants YOU!

A 4.0 earthquake rattled the San Francisco area last night. I was up late, hanging out on Twitter when it happened. I follow many people on Twitter from the San Fran area, so the sudden influx of earthquake-related tweets was at once fascinating and a bit disconcerting.

Fortunately, it was a minor quake and there doesn’t appear to be any reports of injuries or damage. Having lived through many a quake myself (I lived on the Queen Charlotte Islands, where a fault very similar to California’s San Andreas Fault exists), I can definitely relate to the jolt that even a minor quake like this sends through you.

At the time of the quake, I jokingly tweeted “San Fran earthquake on Twitter. You heard it here first, folks! Where is CNN?” Much to my surprise, I received this response from @flourish:

@flourish is Trish Higgins, and she’s a Producer at CNN. It’s the first time I’ve ever asked “Where’s CNN?” and CNN actually answered me!

This past weekend, sitting in a hotel in Indianapolis, I was watching with great interest the coverage of Hurricane Gustav on CNN. Frequently, they would throw to a reporter, sitting at a desk, reading through piles of..you guessed it…Twitter posts, from people in the hurricane zone.

This is it, people. It doesn’t get any more live and on location than those people who are living it at that second. CNN knows this, and is seizing the opportunity in a big way. The immediacy of micro-blogging has great power. You can dispatch all the camera crews in the world, but none of them are going to be able to get the reaction of someone sitting in their chair AS an earthquake happens. Twitter, on the other hand, has the power to do this.

This is the new news gathering. The world is changing before our eyes, in 140 characters or less.

The Art of Shameless Self Promotion

I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts and tweets lately about people being averse to “tooting their own horn”. And I’m not sure I really understand the aversion.

Ok, I know there are lots of spammers out there. I know there are certain types of people that seem to do nothing but shamelessly self-promote their wares. But I think that they are really in the minority.

The blogosphere, the Twitterverse, the Plurk Nation – they are all run by people. People who have something to say. People who want to have conversations, make connections, establish relationships. If we aren’t all out here “tooting”, then what are we doing?

When I update my blog, or my Twitter feed, or my Facebook page, am I not, in some way, promoting myself? Even if I am just saying what I’m up to right now, or I’m replying to someone, or commenting…that’s all promotion of myself, my ideas, my sense of humour…what have you.

I agree that there are good ways and bad ways to toot your horn. Here are a few things that I’ve learned about what I like to call “The Art of Shameless Self-Promotion”.

Admit it.
Louis Gray writes about disclosure and transparency on his blog. So does Chris Brogan. It’s pretty essential and important to consider. Sneaky tricks to promote your stuff are just that…sneaky. So, if you are going to shamelessly self promote, at least admit it! I’ve sent emails to colleagues and friends entitled “Shameless Self Promotion”. Even if they delete the email, at least maybe I’ve got their attention for a second and made them snicker. (Note that I said “friends and colleagues”. I don’t recommend sending these kinds of emails to people that you don’t have an existing, pretty solid relationship with. Make sure the people on your list have a sense of humour about this stuff.)

Be Subtle.
This may seem to be a contradiction to my last point, but it’s not, really. Self Promotion done well is a balance of putting it out there, but doing it in such a way that you are not putting people off. It’s kind of akin to giving someone a gentle tap on the shoulder to get their attention and grabbing them from behind in a giant bear hug. The gentle tapper says “I’m here, if you want see what I’m about”. The bear hugger says “Here I am! Here I am! No, right here! Pay attention to MEEEEE!” See the difference? So go ahead. Self promote, using all your channels, like Twitter, your blog, Facebook, FriendFeed, LinkedIN. Just make sure you aren’t too “in your face” about it.

Gauge Yourself.
Not sure if you are being too overbearing? Well for starters, if you are, people will let you know pretty quickly. Usually they will just start ignoring you, or blocking themselves from your line of fire. What it comes down to is common sense. Does it make sense to send out an unsolicited email to everyone on your contact list and all your Facebook friends and all your Twitter followers about your latest blog post? Of course not. Does it make sense to do a quick post to Twitter, and maybe a link on your Facebook profile? Sure. Why? Because the latter method is non-intrusive. It gives people a choice if they want to buy in to your self-promoting ways. And if they don’t? So be it. At least you’ve put the word out.

The #1 Way to Shamelessly (and subtly) Self Promote
I am surprised all the time by the new people that come across my blog. And you know the #1 way people find me? Through comments I make on other people’s blogs. Yup. Not through my Tweets, not through my Facebook, LinkedIN or anything else. I comment on people’s blogs. Probably 5 to 10 a day. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying go out and put inane comments on a bunch of blogs to get your name out there. What I AM saying is go out there and make a contribution to the community. Get involved in the conversation. Express yourself. If you do this with integrity, people will visit you because they are interested in what you have to offer. This is the give and take game of social media. And when you play it right, the rewards will be real and fulfilling.

So go ahead – toot your own horn!

Photo credit: Fiskfisk on Flickr.

Fitness for Tweeters

I’ve signed up for Tommy Vallier’s Twitter Pushups Challenge. It’s based on the Hundred Pushups site, where the goal is to work your way to complete 100 good-form pushups in about 6 weeks. It’s a great challenge, and the program looks achievable. I’m pretty certain I can get there, even though the most pushups I’ve ever been able to do is 30 (at the height of my karate training about 3 years ago, back when I had abs and biceps).

Last year I lost a bunch of weight (about 28 pounds and 6 sizes) strictly through diet. I’ve managed to put back on about half of that, and realized recently that if I don’t do something soon I’ll be grown out of all my clothes again and be right back where I started (or worse).

This time, I’m not only going to cut the fat and calories, I’m going to get back to being more physically active again. That means daily power walks with the dog, yoga and yes, 100 pushups. Not only will I be thinner, but I’ll be in shape too (there’s a dramatic difference).

So why blog about it? Because if I tell everyone I’m doing this, I’ll be less inclined to make up excuses why I can’t. It’s like the world is watching this time. Well at least my 5 or 6 readers are. 🙂

And this time, I’m not going to weigh myself. Weighing oneself is not effective if one is also doing strength training like pushups and yoga – because you are building muscle too, and muscle weighs more than fat. The scale is not an accurate representation of your real fat/muscle ratio.

It’s not about what the scale says. I am 5 foot 8. I am not a small person (for a female). I will never be 120 pounds. I will never be a size 2. (Nor do I aspire to be either of those things).

The secret to a successful exercise and healthy eating regimen is not what the scale says. It’s about how you feel physically and mentally. It’s about bringing your body, mind and spirit into balance.

Anyone want to join me? I’d love to hear your thoughts. And sign up for the Twitter Pushups challenge today!

Canada Day on Twitter

My idea is a simple one. Any Canadians who use Twitter should change their avatar picture to something that represents this great country of ours, in honour of Canada Day tomorrow.

So get in there, Twitterers and get your maple leaf on!

Happy Canada Day!