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Building a social web workflow

By far the biggest problem associated with social networking and social media is their capacity for being a major temporal sink hole, whereby we can pour our time and effort in and get very little back in return. That’s certainly what a lot of newbie socneters tell me — but it needn’t be that way, not with a little effort, because in the end it’s the difference between aimless and effortless…

By far the biggest problem associated with social networking and social media is their capacity for being a major temporal sink hole, whereby we can pour our time and effort in and get very little back in return. That’s certainly what a lot of newbie socneters tell me — but it needn’t be that way, not with a little effort, because in the end it’s the difference between aimless and effortless…

What’s a socneter? No, it’s not someone who plays soccer (football from 99% of the world’s population) and scores tons of goals. It’s shorthand for social networker. I thought I’d just made that word up, but after a quick Google, sadly not. At least I get to claim ownership of advertorialinsultomercialist.

As an aside, according to a client of mine — whose job it is to know such things — Emily had this to say: “… as it’s a new word, it’s a neologism, or more specifically, a protologism in that it’s a suggestion for a new word, but isn’t (yet) in common usage.”

So there you go!

The difference between social networking and social media

In much the same way data and information aren’t the same thing (data is the numbers, while information is data formatted into something human readable), social networking and social media are two very different things.

If you use websites like Digg, Reddit, FriendFeed, StumbleUpon or Mixx, then you’re using a social media website, one that hosts, aggregates and disseminates content based on a variety of different rules and criteria.

If you’re using Facebook, Twitter or MySpace, then you’re using a social network, through which people often share on and / or publish to the things they find on a social media website.

Intriguingly, places like StumbleUpon, Facebook, FriendFeed and Twitter bridge the gap between social networking and social media, blurring the distinction — and therein lies some of the mystery and the potential for lost time.

Building a social workflow

How many people in Britain have signed up to Twitter because of people like Jonathan Ross, Stephen Fry and more recently people in the US because of Oprah Winfrey? And how many of those people have since sat there, wishing they could get back the time they wasted signing up to Twitter in the first place. No answer required, I think we all know.

Like almost anything in life, if you want to make the most of your time, you need a plan. Without a plan, unless you’re guided by a friend, or astoundingly lucky, the void where the plan should be will be quickly backfilled by an accumulation of unrecoverable time, most of which is completely and utterly spent.

So what plan should you have? For the purposes of this article, we’re going to look at this issue from a business perspective, but don’t be put off, I think much of what follows will be applicable elsewhere.

If you want to know why you should follow Oprah on Twitter, go ask Mashable. They’re the go-to guys when it comes to socnet soap oprah .. I mean opera.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what your business background is. All that matters is that you follow a few simple, basic rules that will help insure your time is well spent…

Rules for social networking

  • Follow people in your industry, such as thought leaders and even competitors, to keep up-to-date with what’s going on, to get the inside know-how and to pick their brains.
  • Find industry news sources to keep abreast of new techniques, rules, laws, up & coming and / or major players et cetera.
  • If you have a company blog, consider sharing your articles with your social network, or even consider asking those in your social network to write guest articles for your blog.
  • Don’t be afraid to say “Hi!” and be polite on Twitter. Some consider this kind of thing to be the principle source of lost time. Sure, if all you’re doing is making polite conversation, but there’s no reason to not be polite and start a conversation. However, if you do strike up a relationship with someone, take that conversation to Facebook or even Skype, if things get that way.
  • If someone posts an article that you like, make that appreciation known and pass that article on into your own social network. The key thing here is appreciation through reciprocation — share and share alike!
  • Be aware that there are a lot of people out there who are simply gaming the social networks for their own gain and care very little about those people they choose to “befriend”.
  • Don’t be a bore, don’t use too much bad language and don’t moan. We all have our own problems and having yours laid bare in front of us really isn’t going to make us suddenly want to care!

Rules for social media

  • If you’re an avid reader, try to stay on topic in terms of industry-specific articles, news coverage, updates et cetera, and avoid posting similar / same articles from different sources.
  • When you share, avoid overlap — don’t be posting the same articles to different places and have them all end up in the same place. The exceptions to this rule (by virtue of how these services are connected) are Facebook and FriendFeed, which both act as aggregators.
  • If you have a company blog, try not to post too much of your own content too often.
  • While this may sound heavy, ethics plays a major role in my social work flow and I have three strict rules concerning social media submissions and voting.
  • Learn with a purpose in mind — if you find something interesting that segues with a current project, or might be of interest to a client, make use of that knowledge.
  • If finding and sharing interesting stuff is your thing, make that known. Right now, as I predicted back in 2007, social media is undermining search. So you could become a very valuable point of contact for a lot of people in your industry.
  • Share with the intention of helping others — keep a mental checklist of the things those in your social network are on the look out for and be sure to help if you can.
  • Be aware of the difference in time for the people in your social network — one person’s lunch break is another person’s early morning commute, so be aware of the best and the worst times to submit articles, be they your own or someone else’s.

My social work flow

I have a modest spread of social media and networking activities, all of which is centered around sharing what I find, and here’s how it works:

I’ve written an article…

  1. I share my newly-written article via Twitter, using HootSuite to publish to my 3 Twitter accounts, depending on the theme of the article. This can, on occasion, trigger some re-Tweeting amongst followers. HootSuite lets me track the number of clicks on my links.
  2. I share my article via the Blah, Blah! Technology Page Facebook. Again, depending on the theme, I might also share with my friends from my profile, which is often the case.
  3. If I think I’ve written something of special interest, or unique in some way, I then begin the process of sending my article to specific friends on StumbleUpon, Twitter or even Digg (but this is very rare because of the effort and hassle involved), requesting they share, but I don’t do this often.
  4. Meanwhile, my FriendFeed account is grabbing everything I do.
  5. I then use Clicky’s real time web analytics to track the traffic to my blog, and then perhaps interact with mentions on Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook etc live, as they happen.

I find an article that interests me…

  1. I share my newly-written article via Twitter, using HootSuite.
  2. I share my article via the Blah, Blah! Technology Page Facebook, and / or from my profile.
  3. Depending on the theme, I bookmark the newly-found article. At a minimum, I post to StumbleUpon and Delicious, where Delicious automatically posts into my Twitter profile via my Octane account.
  4. I may then share the article via my Mixx profile, and if it’s of special interest, I’ll add the article to the Blah, Blah! Technology Community on Mixx, too.
  5. If I think I’ve found something of special interest, or unique in some way, I then begin the process of sending my article to specific friends on StumbleUpon, Twitter or even Digg.
  6. Meanwhile, my FriendFeed account is grabbing everything I do.

Where it’s all @

A common rule to both social networking and social media is being aware of the time you’re spending in each. That amount of time is critical because it’s the difference between being an investment and being a waste.

Another common rule is to be sure you’re attending the right venues; there’s little point being on one social network if few of your potential clients or peers are. So do a little research and find out where the key players are hanging out.

If you’re totally new to social media, don’t worry! I’ve got that covered, too. Why not download my ebook, The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media

Recommended reading

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

6 replies on “Building a social web workflow”

Thanks for this very useful post. I need a tighter strategy for user engagement and I’ll be able to use your suggestions to help me find the correct path. Thanks again. Rgds Vince

Great tips as always. It’s easy to get in the habit of trying to read or share too much, but your suggestion to focus on things in your interest area and to be selective about what and where you share is right on the money.

I do often find myself deliberating about where to share specific things. Like you I use many different services. I don’t want to be overly redundant, but I also see my different networks as serving different audiences. For example my Facebook friends are mostly people I know in person, while Twitter skews highly towards Web development and Higher Education. But there is some crossover, so I won’t post everything to both places.

Anything I want to keep for myself gets saved to Delicious and those posts are automatically added to Facebook as well. Things I think would be well received on Twitter get shared there, news articles of special interest get Dugg, and articles of particular usefulness get Stumbled. And like you it all gets aggregated into FriendFeed. I need to work on Stumbling more, StumbleUpon has been a great referrer for my blog, but sometimes it’s a juggling act. If something has already gone to Delicious, Facebook and Twitter I worry about posting to too many places, so I have to evaluate each submission on its own. And then sometimes if one is rushed, it’s a matter of convenience. If the quickest way to share is to retweet, then that’s what happens.

Overall I may not share enough, but if I err on sharing less then I’ll do so with the idea of making every share count–so my readers can rely on finding value in the pages, blogs and articles I share with them.

“By far the biggest problem associated with social networking and social media is their capacity for being a major temporal sink hole, whereby we can pour our time and effort in and get very little back in return.”

Thanks for enlightening us about the line separating social media and social network. I guess, I should follow the rules you have provided regarding an ethical way of responding to a social media or joining a social network. I’m looking forward to reading your next posts.

Hi! I’m glad you found some useful information.

Ultimately, from an ethical stand point, it’s about doing the right thing. We all understand the boundaries, but the web can be less forgiving in that if you annoy someone, the chances are, hundreds or perhaps thousands will know!

On the plus side, you’re going to meet some great people, too…

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