Tag : twitter

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153: Are You Throwing Away Income on Facebook?

Football Player Lego MinifigureIn the National Football League, commentators use a term to describe why players don’t make specific plays that would significantly increase their risk of injury. The announcers usually say it with a bit of smirk in their voice.

“He made a business decision.”

The player in question could have attempted a tackle or dove for a first down, but the long-term ability to make plays wasn’t worth the short-term opportunity of a single play. I’ve rarely heard a football player criticized for making that split-second decision. In fact, usually quarterbacks are criticized for getting hurt because they didn’t process this kind of situation quickly and wisely.

During this heated political season and the social unrest of the past few years, auctioneers and entrepreneurs have been inadvertently making business decisions. They’ve taken risky shots on social media. They’ve not processed the long-term ramifications of short-term humor and rhetoric. They’ve invested their personal brand into memes and rants and extra exclamation marks.

Political Teams

Whether we root for team donkey, team elephant, team buffalo, team porcupine, or none of the above, a short scroll through our social connections will tell us that we aren’t all on the same team. That’s actually a good thing. At least it can be. Diversity of opinions widens culture’s horizons and sometimes even leads to idealogical dialogue. Well, it theoretically has the potential for that.

Those conversations have merit in proper forums, most of which are offline. In contrast, social media tends to oversimplify nuanced topics and polarize communities through antagonism. The stock photos are either grandiose or intentionally crass. Often, the statistics are fictional or out of context. Rarely do we check multiple sources to verify a post before it’s shared, liked, or referenced.

The risks for this kind of engagement looms larger than potential egg on the face or estrangement from social connections. As small business owners or sales reps, we can actually reduce future income. See, potential clients—including auction sellers—are going to type a vendor’s name into the Facebook search bar. Unless we’re very careful with your privacy settings, they’re going to see our posts. Those playing on different political teams or even just different sides of a specific issue will now mark a mental strike against us. The opposing position might even unconsciously predispose them to disagree with our business suggestions. It’s a risk that rises proportional to the level of acidity or distastefulness they find.

This doesn’t mean that we abandon unpopular opinions or that we avoid sharing them. It just means that we express them differently. Proselytizing or personal growth is more likely within the contexts of face-to-face conversations, book club discussions, thoughtful letters, careful essays, well-researched & sourced infographics, etc. Raise a hand if a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram post has ever changed your political stance on anything. If they’ve never worked on us, what hubris or ignorance does it take to assume they’ll sway others?

For each of us, some issues might be worth losing business to defend. How and when we defend them, though, can determine the amount of personal credence and professional respect we lose in the process. It is possible to respectfully disagree.

Multiple writers have attributed a quote to Michael Jordan that he actually didn’t say, but the invented statement holds a lot of merit. The global sports icon has (after retirement) endorsed and financially supported Democratic Party candidates including President Barrack Obama. Initially, though, he chose brand building over political involvement. The reason was summarized in this famous fictional line:

“Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

100: The Pinterest Effect

My Current Pinterest BoardsI take notice, when I hear a question over and over again.  And one question I’ve heard a lot lately is, “What is ‘Pinterest’?”

In short, it’s a social media environment that pulls inspiration from the bulletin board at your local coffee shop or the pin board in your college dorm room.  It’s a live stream of images—called “pins”— pulled from other websites and categorized topically both by the website administrators and again separately by its users.  Each image comes with three optional interactions: like, comment, and re-pin (to your board of pins).

Whereas other social media are based on users generating their own content, Pinterest‘s ease of use and popularity is mostly because its users don’t create the original content.  In fact, approximately 80% of posts are re-pins.†  To avoid copyright violation, the pictures are almost all linked back to their originating sites—be they travel, lifestyle, or entertainment websites.

One of my (4) Sisters' Pinterest Boards

One of my (4) Sisters' Pinterest Boards

Women typically account for a higher percentage of users than men do on social media*, and they account for anywhere from 68% to 90% of the activity on Pinterest—depending on where you get your stats.  Most posts are often associated with fashion, decor, cooking, crafts, and inventive solutions for household organization.

Pinterest Board: Inspiration for Biplane's New OfficeUnlike Facebook, it’s not intended for conversations.  Pinterest has grown so much and so quickly that Friendsheet.com, a site that makes your Facebook stream look like Pinterest, has garnered the favor of Mark Zuckerburg††—and might someday be a native Facebook option.  Unlike Twitter, it’s not intended to keep users updated on current events.  Unlike YouTube, it’s exclusive.  You can curate your own pin boards and list of followers only if you are invited by someone who is already a Pinterest member.  Unlike Google+, it’s growing like a weed both in number of users and the amount of time those users spend on the site (more than four times longer than Twitter users per month and almost 30 times as long as Google+ users average per month***)—exponentially expanding to over a million average daily visitors.*

So, why do we need yet another social media site?  And what does Pinterest have that we can’t get anywhere else?

Visual simplicity.

Facebook has images.  Twitter is succinct and sortable, too.  Pinterest, though, simplifies everything to one thing: pictures.  No profiles to manage for its content creators and little, if any, reading required by its consumers.  It lets our short attention spans be satiated quickly—or drawn into the bowels of online daydreaming.

If Pinterest were running for president, it’s campaign supervisor would be explaining its surge in the polls emphatically: “It’s the photos, stupid!”

Facebook, the major social media player with more average minutes of use per month than Pinterest understands our culture’s draw to images, as it sees 70% of its users’ activity centers around its photos.**  But that pales to the photo-centricity of Pinterest, which by default, has pictures at just under 100% of activity.

There’s a lesson there for every marketer.  What makes content quickly absorbable is compelling imagery, imagery which Pinterest users tend to pull from predominantly-commercial websites.  Words—even headlines—are secondary.  As a culture, we don’t’ care about explanations and slogans, if we aren’t drawn to them through the picture(s) they accompany.  As a marketer who helps other marketers, I can tell you that if the design of our marketing media centers around large, singular imagery—and those images are professionally staged and captured—our advertising will be far more effective than the current average of small business advertising media.  That goes for small business at large and the auction industry, which I serve, in particular.

Message is important.  And honing your message is crucial.  But Andre Aggassi was right: image is everything.  And, last time I checked, advertising is part of everything.  If the first thing your media recipients and viewers sees is text—no matter how large or bold or colorful—chances are good that you’re doing advertising wrong.  If they see a solid background with a collage of pictures, we are making them work harder (than if we had used one big, full-bleed image) and, in many cases, watering down the primary draw.  Look at advertising for Apple, Nike, Ford, TNT, and BOSE.  They get it.  So should we.

If potential buyers don’t like what they see in the primary image, what makes any retailer, wholesaler, or auctioneer think potential buyers would care what other pictures we have or what the advertisement has to say?

The Bible says we humans were created in God’s image (one of the ways homo sapiens were differentiated from the rest of creation).  As believers of The Way, we are to be pictures of Jesus in our culture.  While we are wrapped in individual personalities and exclusive physical containers, the essence from the new core of our souls should shine through those translucent shells.

In contrast, the entropy and temptation for us all is to talk religious words, add Jesus stickers or fabric on the outside, and gather with those who codify and police exterior criteria the way we do.  That’s lazy and destructive.  Jesus didn’t come so that we could shine through the filter of him—or worse: the filters of religion, church, and spirituality.  He came to give us life, to change our core, to change the lightbulb—not the lamp shade—in the fixture.  He wants his truth and love and other attributes to radiate from us.

If today were a snapshot of who you are, and you handed that snapshot to a stranger, what would they see?  If you had to hand it to Jesus as a photo illustration of him, what would you have changed about your day before taking that picture?

†” Why Is Pinterest So Addictive?” by Stephanie Buck, Mashable.com. March 24, 2012.

†† “Friendsheet: The Zuck-Approved Pinterest-Style Facebook Photo Browser” by Josh Constine, Techcrunch.com.

* “A Very (P)interesting [infographic]” by Tim, DailyInfographic.com. March 9, 2012.

** “In Age of Pinterest, Instagram, Marketers Need An Image Strategy” by Chas Edwards, Adage.com. March 15, 2012.

*** “The Mounting Minuses at Google+” by Amir Efrati, Wall Street Journal. February 28, 2012.

99: Who Should Manage Your Social Media Content?

Unknown Professional (iStockPhoto Purchase)Last month, I was sitting in the executive office of a company with 200 employees.  The chairman of the board asked me how I could help him offer social media solutions to his clients—how biplane productions could partner with his national firm.  I swallowed hard and then told him I wasn’t interested in such—even though his company’s clientele includes organizations for whom ad agencies would love to work.


Because social media content shouldn’t be outsourced.

Social media is sold every day to small business owners as the new secret weapon in marketing.  “Get your business in front of 800 million people on Facebook and over 300 million Twitter users!”  Never mind the fact that even Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga each have only a small fraction of either of those environments, advertisers think they’ll somehow gain a hoard of followers and fans, just by opening social media storefronts.

If these participatory environments were broadcast media, it would make sense to outsource the work to agencies like mine or those on Madison Avenue.  And for those who look at Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as advertising channels, there’s software for agencies to manage the social streams of multiple clients.

The problem is that social media sites are relational environments—places to do online what we do offline, admittedly with both upgrades and drawbacks over in-person conversations.  In most situations you wouldn’t pay another company to go have conversations with people for you at social gatherings.  So, why would you pay a company to have your conversations with your prospects and peers online?

Does that mean that your company’s founder or president needs to spend their day hitting the like button and responding to Tweets?  No.  But the person doing the conversing needs to be someone who can speak for your company—someone who has bought into the culture and mission of your organization.  The same care you apply to determining who you hire to sell your goods and services to clients offline should be applied to those who represent you in online social settings.

Valuable qualification criteria for this role include:

  • Positive, optimistic personality
  • Understanding what constitutes your brand
  • Connection to sources of newsworthy content for market and industry trends
  • Professional decorum yet with a sense of humor
  • Personal social streams with lots of activity (illustrating environment experience)
  • Flexible spirit and commitment to be constantly learning
  • Good spelling and grammar skills
  • Access to company images
  • 30 or more minutes available per day for conversational interaction and measurement
  • Maybe even public relations training or background

In some organizations, multiple people are granted administrative access.  The main challenge of that is to make sure posts and responses are consistent from one administrator to another.  (Having pre-written guidelines and sample responses can help with this, especially for companies where social media environments are more for customer service and responding to complaints than brand building.)

The social media shepherd in your company doesn’t need to be someone in management or ownership.  But they should be someone you trust with the voice of your brand.  With rare exception, that isn’t someone on the other end of an invoice.

I am embarrassingly weak when it comes to sharing my faith in interpersonal spaces.  I can throw some words up here on my blog or even on Facebook and Twitter.  But put me in a coffee shop or living room, and I don’t have much more than psychoanalytic questions and “Let me pray for you.”

The problem is that the stakes are too high to play the “good Christian kid” card all the time.  (My dad is a minister; so, I have a large box of those cards.)  There’s more on the line than whether someone goes to church or shares my beliefs.  The potential for pain redemption, spiritual wholeness, and worldview change are incredible additions to Christ’s offer of forgiveness, heaven, and purpose.

I’ve got to stop outsourcing these conversations to “professional” Christians and power evangelists.  The New Testament tells all believers—especially me—to “always [be] ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”  That requires more time praying for people and more time inputting Truth into my memory.

It’s good to encourage other believers and love on those far from the Way.  But stopping there is dangerous for our eternal legacy and the futures of others.


[footer] Stock image used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com[/footer]

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An Auction Bidder’s Wish List

I’m the oldest of six children, and my wife was the first of five offspring for my in-laws.  So, I’m thankful that both of our families exchange names for “secret sibling” Christmas gifts.

My side of the family makes it even easier by creating a message thread on Facebook where we post our respective wish lists for our secret sibling to use for reference in their holiday shopping.

To keep you reading, I’ll show you what I posted.

(in this order):
anything from here: http://www.gfa.org/gift/home
gift cards from iTunes, REI, or Dick’s Sporting Goods
solid-color winter beanies
Smart Wool® socks
black Crocks (size 10)
solid color fleece sweatshirts or hoodies
athletic ankle socks
100g Jetpower micro-canister

What you’ll notice is that I didn’t write, “Something nice,” (though everything on this list is nice to me) or “Great deal for the money” (though I hope my sibling finds the deal of a lifetime).  Why?  Because those are ambiguous requests—unhelpful direction.  See, when they go to a store, there won’t be an aisle for “something nice” or “a sweet deal!”  If they Google search for “something nice,” they will get these random acts of results.

This makes sense on a personal level; but, for some reason, auction marketers disregard this common wisdom when advertising the assets in their auctions.  Their headlines, line ads, and websites lead with information that buyers will not type into their search engines, apps, or wish lists.

Raise your hand, if you’ve seen an auction advertisement that said “Investment Opportunity!” Now keep that hand raised if you think anyone is searching for an office building, flatbed truck, bass boat, or 1950’s Texaco sign with those two words.  In our search culture, advertising needs to focus on the facts, not the pitch—even for offline media.  You might be able to schmooze bidders at open houses or at the auction, even though our culture is growing less tolerant of the commissioned sales schtick.  But you’ll be hard pressed to find advertising that works that way.

Recently, I was asked to rewrite some sales copy on a luxury home, since [I assume] it wasn’t getting many bites.  I couldn’t change the facts, just the adjectives and syntax.  Even if I were J.K. Rowling, I couldn’t rewrite that paragraph in a way that would change someone’s mind about that house.  Either they wanted what it had or they didn’t.  If they wanted four bathrooms and an in-law suite, only a house with those specifications would work.  If they wanted an in-ground pool, stables, and a riding ring, they were looking for those words in whatever media they’re using to shop.

Fluff text is inefficient use of space and attention.  There’s no search criteria field in Trulia for “cute,” no check box on Realtor.com for “cozy,” no ebay category for “like new.”  I just checked: LoopNet doesn’t have a menu selection for “potential.”  Pictures, dimensions, location, age—immutable, objective data—will tell someone if an asset matches their wish list; their own emotional and financial situation will translate that information into subjective evaluations.

I’m regularly amused by auctioneers telling their audience that an address is conveniently located in reference to places a half hour or more away from the subject property.  Convenience is a relative value.  Oh, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen “Unlimited potential!” as a real estate headline or bullet point.  I don’t have a real estate license, but I’d imagine legal boundaries and zoning commissions significantly restrict infinity.  But even if the future development of a property were somehow unlimited, who’s searching for that ambiguity?

Whether searching for Christmas gifts, farm equipment, or a strip mall, consumers will echo what Detective Joe Friday said on Dragnet, “All we want are the facts.”  It’s insulting to tell a buyer what the facts mean.  Buyers will most likely know if what you’re selling is a collectors item, if a home is designed for entertaining, if an address is a good business location—based on the facts at hand.

Does this mean advertising should be reduced exclusively to a list of bulleted descriptions?  No—even if in many media, that’d be the most efficient strategy.  Write your sales copy as long as space and budget will allow.  Emphasis, though, belongs to the facts.  Headlines should tell people if what they want might be described in the next section.  Top billing should go to the unarguable.

Make it easy for potential buyers to compare your sale item(s) to their wish list.  That ease of comparison reflects on your brand, whether they bid or purchase from you or not.

Taking It Personally

Outside of sports programming or sitting in a waiting room, I couldn’t tell you the last time I watched TV news.  Beside how partisan each of the networks have proven to be, I’m disenchanted by the 24-hour news network ecosystem’s need to fill so much of their time with commentary.  I don’t need anyone to tell me what I should feel about a congressional bill, a televised debate, an oval office speech.  I think that’s why I’m drawn to Twitter so much as a news source.  News sources there have to dump the main point and a link in 140 characters or less.

News never has been objective; I don’t know how it ever could be.  So, I don’t ask it to be.

Maybe that’s why after sitting through literally over 5,000 sermons and Bible lessons, I’m so drawn to my TruthWorks Bible study, where I’m pointed to a passage of Scripture with three questions: “What does the writer actually say?” and “What does that mean—in a big picture context?” and then “What do I do right now with this truth?”  It’s good to have wise, educated people bring light to Scripture; and I believe teachers can be agents of the Holy Spirit.  But we need to be careful not to rely on other people to tell us what to believe; we need to be like the heralded Bereans, who “received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

87: Measuring Your Social Media Influence

Peer Index Graphs

When we were in high school, popularity was dependent on multiple factors: who your friends were, what your interests were, how many people knew your name (not to mention if you had money, played sports, drove a cool car, or were part of a band).

In some ways, social media environments like Facebook and Twitter have become the new places to determine social standing.  Through online social sharing, we are communicating many of the same markers used in our student years.

When you’re building your brand through social media, it’s good to visualize your standing and your progress.  Multiple companies are working to turn various, measurable data points into some form of comparable social score—some sort of official rank.  Rather than popularity, these scoring systems aim to determine how influential you are—how people interact with your online content.

Almost all of these scoring systems are still in beta stage, as they tinker with algorithms toward more accurate insights.  Because of this, don’t be shocked if your score fluctuates without a drastic change in your social media interaction.  Almost all of these scoring systems are Twitter-centric, because Twitter is more about broadcasting and getting your message to a broad audience—as opposed to Facebook and others, which are meant for sharing among friends and family.  Almost all of these scoring systems focus only on the last 30 to 120 days and appropriately so, as relevance is measured in the now.

Below you’ll find a non-exhaustive list of  some of the social media measurement tools I’ve consulted to see how my online brand is faring.

Klout Dashboard
If I could pick only one social measurement tool, Klout would have the tool box to itself.  Their site is fast—much faster than some of these other analytics sites.  Their service is free; and they currently allow you to connect up to ten different social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, FourSquare, Tumblr, Blogger, Last.fm, and Flickr.  (According to their website, Klout is also working to connect your Facebook Pages, YouTube, and Google+ streams.)  Klout shows you comparable social media users, including those you influence and those that influence you.  Klout not only shows your current ranking but also your trajectory.  It also offers web browser plugins that automatically show you other Tweeters’ scores next to their tweets.

Browser PluginsTwitalyzerPeer Index
Peer Index includes some of Klout’s capabilities but also maps the topics of your tweets on a graph of eight categories.  (It’s interesting to watch my topic map change over time into different shapes.)  The thinking behind this is that, typically—just as with blogging—the more topically-concentrated your posts are, the more likely you are to gain an interactive following.  Currently, Peer Index measures your influence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora, and your RSS-enabled blog.  Also like Klout, Peer Index offers web browser plugins that automatically show you other Tweeters’ scores next to their twitter handles—at Twitter.com (even if only mentioned in a tweet) or on any site where their Twitter handle is listed.
As the name implies, Twitalyzer measures only your Twitter activity.  Twitalyzer has maybe the largest selection of raw numbers amongst the Twitter analysis sites, but that’s in part to reporting both Klout and Peer Index scoring data with their other metrics.  You won’t find any fancy graphs here, but I really like that their scores are annotated to tell you your percentile for each number in the matrix.

Tweet Level AdviceTweetLevel
Also a Twitter-only measuring tool, TweetLevel has weak graphing and very little in terms of comparison with others on Twitter.  One thing I like about this site, though, is that it gives insightful recommendations for improving the various contributing factors to your score.

The main thrust of this Twitter measurement tool is currently to show you the best times to tweet content, based on mapping of your past tweets and the number of impressions they received.  At time of writing, uptime and score processing speed have been tremendously flaky, as the Crowdbooster team is adding to the site’s capabilities.
If you’re a fan of graphs, you’ll like TwentyFeet.  Outside of Klout, this site tracks probably the second-most amount of social streams.  I’ve had a couple issues with its beta version in load times and in unintended, automatic tweeting of scores.  With ongoing maintenance, this site might move into the top tier of measurement systems.

This site leaves a lot to be desired.  It doesn’t explain scores or offer the robust reporting of other sites.  Unlike other sites, which measure in ratings from 1-100, MyWebCareer shows your score in similar fashion to a credit report.  MyWebCareer claims to rank your search engine results, too, though it doesn’t seem to lift the veil to see how it compiles such.
My Career Score
Facebook Analytics
Facebook’s “Insights” tool is what it claims to be: insightful.  Where this analytic tool excels in in measuring your audience demographically—something the aggregate sits don’t (and probably can’t) do.  The graphing is interactive, allowing adjustable timelines.  The only sizable drawbacks are (1) it’s available only for pages, not for profiles; (2) you can’t compare your scores to those of others; and (3) you can’t include your scores from other social media for a more holistic view of your online presence.

This list will probably look very different a year from now.  Several other entities, including Nielsen—yes, the folks who measure television audience—are working their way into the social measurement game with new measurement units and matrixes.  As with search engines and other website categories, natural selection will eventually create an oligarchy of reliable, standard players that prove to own both the most intuitive algorithms and the best user interfaces.  In the mean time, the measurement choices we have are entertaining at least and informative at best.

Social media analytics won’t tell you where to advertise your auctions.  They won’t tell you how many people are absorbing your message—only those who interact with it.  These sites don’t supplant the most important question to analyze your media outlays: “How did my bidders hear about my auction?”  But they can give you a more informed perspective of how you’re doing at building an interactive brand on the Internet.

While many joke about the large amount of time I’m perceived to spend on social media, few know that I too often approach social media as a a competition.  It’s not a zero-sum game, but I work hard to make sure my brands—personal and professional—perform online at a high level, preferably at a level above those I teach & consult and against whom I or my clients compete in business.  (I check my Klout score daily, and that probably isn’t healthy.)

Where it becomes even more treacherous is when likes, comments, and retweets affect my choices of what to post.  The temptation is to post only the Ryan that my six years in social media have shown me is the most popular.  True, some of that is good sense—appropriateness, professionalism, etc.  But there’s a line between appealing to an audience and portraying an authentic personae.

That’s a challenge for all of us to varying degrees, both online and offline.  That’s why one of the scariest prayers for American Christians came from Israel’s King David: “Search me, and know my heart.  See if there be any wicked way in me.”

86: 7 Valuable Social Media Shortcuts

Social Media Shortcut insetThe most common response to my social media articles and seminars usually goes like this: “I should probably get my business on Facebook, but it’s finding the time I struggle with,” or “I can barely keep up with my Facebook.  I don’t know how you find time to be on Twitter.”

Granted, I’m a Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram junkie.  I can easily feed my addiction, seeing as my office is a flight of stairs below my living room; and my bedroom at night typically alternates between the glow of one or more of two laptops and two iPhones.

You, however, don’t need to earn an invitation to the social media wing of the Betty Ford Clinic to improve your personal or business brand on Facebook and Twitter.  Here are seven free or cheap ways to keep your time commitment to a minimum, while connecting with prospects, clients, and peers in these environments.  The first shortcut will make your distribution more efficient and practical; the next six shortcuts will help you more easily develop a constant stream of material to reinforce your expert brand.

What if I told you you could do all of your social media posts for a week or month all at one time and in one place?  You can!  With HootSuite, you can pre-schedule Facebook and Twitter posts, even those with links or pictures.  The free version of HootSuite will allow you to choose from up to five different Twitter accounts, Facebook profiles, and/or Facebook pages on which to post.  If you post both for your business and for yourself, this tool is invaluable; and it makes it easier not to accidentally post a personal post in your business’ stream and vice versa.

HootSuite Bar

HootSuite iPhone AppIf you don’t want to keep HootSuite open in your web browser, you can install a free browser button that will open a small HootSuite window already loaded with the URL of the page you’re wanting to share—which you can schedule for later, if you’d like.  Both Android and iPhone have a HootSuite app, so that you can post (or schedule one for later) in any or all of those same five destinations right from your phone.

Every few weeks, I spend 30 to 90 minutes on an evening or weekend, setting up tweets and status updates to post during work hours.  This frees me to work on billable projects (and meet deadlines) during the times of weekdays when people are most likely to check their social streams—rather than on weekends, when people are less likely to interact with the content.  This is important, because content in Twitter and Facebook streams has a shelf life measured in minutes or hours; so, you want your content to hit in prime viewing times.

Scheduled Status Update

SmartBrief is a free clearinghouse of salient current news, sifted by interests and industries.  Here’s how SmartBrief describes itself: “We deliver need-to-know news in 100+ e-mail newsletters to 4 mil[ion]+ readers.  We read everything.  You get what matters.”  You can register to receive any single one or any number of their newsletters, each of which is delivered daily with a series of headlines and brief overviews of the top stories along a particular topic.

MobileRSSRSS Feeds
Most blogs, humor sites, and news sources now make their content subscribable via RSS feed.  If you’re not familiar with RSS, it’s a tool that aggregates stories from as many websites as you choose into one place for reading.  It saves you time, and you don’t have remind yourself to check each respective site to see what’s new.  I use Google Reader as my RSS reader—the place where all these posts collect.

Don’t have time to check your RSS feed on your computer?  Quickly access it on your smart phone.  Free or cheap apps like MobileRSS enable you to scroll through the headlines and blog titles from your RSS feed, much like you would scroll through Twitter or Facebook posts—right from your mobile device.

Google Alerts
This free service by Google allows you to receive email updates every week or every day with new pages on the Internet that mention terms of your choosing.  I regularly implement these for the weeks or months before writing articles or building seminars.  You can plug in words or word combinations related to your industry, asset specialty, or news trend.  Think of it as Googling something once but getting new Google search results emailed to you for as long as you’d like.  If you don’t want these results pouring into your email inbox, you can also set them to collect in your RSS feed.

OPEN Forum
One of the many perks of carrying an American Express charge card is their OPEN Forum articles, delivered via email.  These articles are written by and for entrepreneurs and small business executives, exclusively for American Express customers.  Don’t have a Centurion in your wallet?  No problem.  They post links on their Twitter stream to similar articles aggregated from other online sources.

I still subscribe to a couple handfuls of print magazines, even magazines I follow on Twitter and Facebook.  Fast Company and Wired are gold mines of sharable content.  If you’re going to subscribe to magazines, go through wholesale distributors like Magazines.com.  You’ll save enough money to literally multiply the number of magazines you can get for the same price.  I also like Magazine.com’s clearinghouse of free magazines and newsletters, where I’ve gotten free subscriptions to magazines like Exhibitor.  I regularly cut out pages from my magazines for articles I want to post later on Facebook and/or Twitter.  (Usually, magazines will post the content from the current print issue on their respective websites after the next print issue distributes—sometimes sooner.)

In an interview with Hemispheres Magazine, Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter, said, “I would describe [Twitter] as a personalized news service.  It gives up-to-date information on whatever you care about that’s happening in the world.”  Twitter’s become that “personalized news service” for me.  I ended my subscription to our local newspaper, and I couldn’t’ tell you what’s on the evening television news.  Instead, I follow Lynchburg’s The News & Advance and various national and international news sources on Twitter.

For one thing, I save a lot of time by engaging with only the content that interests me—on my time table.  Secondly, it’s easier to share the stories with people who might also be interested in them.  As with Facebook, you can sort your Twitter stream into categories (called “lists”), if you want to see only certain groups of people/entities you follow at a given time.  So, if you want to see updates only from family and friends or only from other people in your industry or only from news sources, that’s easy to do.

There are two halves to social media: sharing and interacting.  While you can’t schedule your likes, comments, and other responses in advance, you can simplify the manner in which you collect and distribute the content you want to share.  By uploading more than status updates, you can show your audience that you are a source—or at least a distributor—of engaging knowledge.  Then, when you share updates about your business, these posts will have more credence and smell less like spam.

You do have time for online social networking, if you use your time wisely.

Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “Work, work, from morning until late at night.  In fact, I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer.”  In other words, he was not too busy to spend time with God.  On the contrary, he saw his busyness as reason to spend more time with God.

For various reasons, I really struggle to spend meaningful time alone with God, when I’ve got a lot on my plate and even when I don’t.  My spiritual pathway is nature, and I have to get out into the wild to disconnect from the things that interfere with my connection with him.  Some of the moments I’ve felt closest to my Creator have come where cell phones have no bars.

How ’bout you?  Where and when and how do you feel closest to God?  Maybe reading books or watching videos about him and his work.  Maybe singing or dancing or soaking in others doing those things.  Maybe absorbing podcasts, conferences, or retreats from gifted Bible teachers. Maybe serving people or participating in a cause.  Maybe journaling or speaking to him out loud in a quiet place.

Whatever makes God feel closer to you and you to him, build and prioritize that into your life.  Nurture it.

As for me, tomorrow I’ll be spending my second straight Friday night sleeping on top of a mountain under his stars.


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79: A Social Media Lesson from Socks

KISS Promotional EventI found a puffy envelope, addressed to my wife, in our mail box.  When she arrived home from her studio, she opened it to find a pair of white socks covered with red lip prints—socks neither of us had ordered, socks for which neither of us had paid.

My wife bubbled with joy and explained to me how and why this cotton footwear happened to arrive at our address.  Rather than recount all of that, I’ll let you read the three tweets that say it more succinctly:

“As of yesterday, ALL Christmas orders for KISS have been shipped…early! We are still working on some other orders before our break.”
Dec 17

“I’d like to thank @kissbooks for a fantastic year of albums and service.  You guys rock my socks off!”
Dec 18

“LOL!  Told @kissbooks thanks for knocking my socks off.  So they sent me socks.  Cracking me up. 😀 http://instagr.am/p/zLz8/
Dec 31

KISS Books SocksThis episode illustrates the power of social media: the ability to engage your clients in conversation, the medium that can humanize your brand—and make your customers and friends want to introduce you to their customers and friends.  It’s both schmoozing and feedback, both customer service and brand building, both grassroots initiatives and guerrilla marketing.

Companies that treat Facebook, Twitter, etc. as broadcast channels are missing the mark.  Social media is not an advertising medium—even though powerful, successful marketing can be done there.  No, it’s a social environment.

Your status updates and photos, comments and likes, videos and links tell the stories that you would tell in person—if you could somehow converse with everyone in your collective social circle in one place at one time (of their respective convenience).  They are the advice and anecdotes you’d share at a chamber of commercial cocktail, in the bleachers at your child’s soccer game, in the foyer of your church, and around your living room.

KISS Books SocksIn this social space our lives engage and enrich each other’s lives.  In this space, entrepreneurs can build rapport a friend at a time—and turn friends into followers and followers into brand evangelists.

If you look at Facebook as just a line item in an advertising budget or Twitter as a free place to paste your auction line ads, you’ll be far less likely to get this kind of online street cred:

“Wearing my kewl socks from @kissbooks to shoot my first wedding of 2011. http://instagr.am/p/0InU/
Jan 1

Join the conversation.  Don’t spam it.  You can keep your steady stream of auction announcements dripping into our news feeds, or you can contribute content and conversations that make your brand more contagious.

Categorically, I’m an extrovert.  I have to work at listening and asking questions in conversations—at reigning my narcissism and tales of adventure.  I love my life and have to remind myself that others might not or might not want to hear about it, anyway.

Likewise, I have to remind myself that God likes two-sided conversations, too, even as he forebears the soliloquies I call prayers.  For God to be heard, I have to ask for his voice, read his letters to me, and interact with others who are actively pursuing his voice.

Because my spiritual pathway is nature, I can enrich the exchanges by heading out into God’s handiwork or even looking at pictures and articles about it.  It’s not easy to be still and listen—especially when I’m afraid of what he wants to say to me—but it’s necessary to keep our conversation and relational richness alive.

How ’bout you?  Have you ever heard from God?  What do you do, when it’s been a while since you heard from him?

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