Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Some Basic Social Media Recommendations

For those of you interested in the issues I often write about (see the tags in the lower left hand column), I'd strongly recommend trying to network a little more by following, subscribing, and linking to other blogs and sites that you feel others should see. Linking (wherever you can -- Facebook, your blog, del.icio.us, stumbleupon, etc.) and subscribing to various blogs can help them immensely in many subtle ways.

In particular, I'd like to recommend trying out (perhaps for the second time), Reddit.com & Twitter.com. The latter takes a little more work to really get the information flowing, but both can be used very effectively to find and distribute good information. I'll try to describe them both and provide some ideas about how to make them easier to use.

Reddit has recently taken over Digg as the preeminent social media news site. Reddit basically works by people voting up or down articles and comments so that they rise or fall in visibility depending upon how worthwhile the community deems the submitted article or comment. The real beauty of Reddit is that you can customize your personal homepage so that when you log in you can see posts of particular interest to you based upon the "subreddits" which you've assigned to your front page with a simple click. For example... my favorite subreddit is called "Bad Cop No Donut" which presents daily reports about police brutality and corruption. Subreddits are presented with the /r/ addition to the reddit.com domain as in the following example: http://www.reddit.com/r/Bad_Cop_No_Donut/

Without subscribing to the subreddits you'll have to sift through some less edifying (and plainly silly) nonsense... so Reddit is good for finding entertaining links and light-hearted videos if that's what you're in the mood for.

As a final word on Reddit... if you use a Firefox web browser then you can install some extensions to potentially make Reddit function in a customizable manner.

On to Twitter... Twitter may not be what you think it is -- even if you've already tried it before. Part of the problem with Twitter may be the way that tweets appear in the timelines of many users -- as simply generic links and hashtags. But with very little tweaking you can get videos, photos, and processed links to appear in your timeline -- and that might make it much more palatable to many people. First and foremost... the one thing that I know which helps in these terms is a Firefox add-on called "Power Twitter." There may also be extensions for Chrome or Internet Explorer, but I don't really use those browsers very much at all.

Next... I'd suggest possibly using a proxy site to filter your twitter activity. I've just started using a site called "Hootsuite" and it's significantly streamlined my twitter use. Check it out here: http://hootsuite.com/

In many ways, twitter is what you make of it. It's best if you put in some time making some connections, but it's also potentially a good source of information if you just want to follow a few people and then maybe retweet some links to various articles, videos, or comments they post. The main thing is... you are not going to start communicating with all sorts of people right away. You'll have to follow some interesting people, re-tweet the best of their posts, and then post some good stuff on your own. A lot of sites offer some sort of a tweet feature on various articles so you just have to click that and then you can edit the post and share it as you see fit. Google Reader has also incorporated an easy way to share articles you find in your RSS feeds.

So if you try some of these things out and give Twitter a look... eventually you might find some good people to follow for various sorts of information and some people might start following you back. Just give it a little bit of time. If you put a little bit of effort into it you might find Twitter quite useful. To get started... I'd suggest following some of the people in the lists that I've made. Just look at a few timelines each day, see if they post what you're interested in, and then "follow" their posts. It's really pretty simple. As I said... Twitter is what you make of it, so I'd suggest trying it out (again) and seeing if it's for you.

And that's about it. I hope you'll find these sites discussed and the information presented here useful. I know this isn't the kind of thing that I usually write about, but I just wanted encourage some of my more computer savvy readers who spend some time online to check out these sites and maybe start networking.