Saturday, February 13, 2010

Deeper Engagement, More Value, and Less Noise In Social Media

With the release of Google Buzz earlier this week, many of the early adopters and technology fans were out exploring its features. It didn't take long before reports circled the Internet about the pros and cons of Buzz,  comparisons between Buzz and Friendfeed, and the likelihood that Buzz will be a Facebook or Twitter killer. For me, Google Buzz invites me to revisit my follow practices within social networks.

In August 2009, I wrote an article entitled, Twitter: To Follow Or Not To Follow, That Is the Question, where I questioned Robert Scoble's great Twitter unfollow campaign.

What Is The Problem?
As a result of the question and subsequent responses, I decided to continue following those that followed me first. As a result, my follower numbers continued to grow but so did my following count. Quickly, my Twitter stream became practically useless. Had it not been for Tweetdeck, I would have missed so many things my friends were saying.

In October of 2009, Twitter released its lists feature and it could not have come at a better time. Quickly, I made a private favorite list, which silenced much of the noise now plaguing my Twitter stream. Later, UberTwitter jumped on board and supported Twitter lists, which made it easier to stay connected both at home and on the road.

As of February 13, 2010, I am beginning to question my decision. With Google Buzz there are no filters set up to control what I see in my stream. This makes it hard to see my friends and colleagues, which means I am not interacting with my core base.

In Google Reader, I cannot even begin to keep up with all of the people who share stuff. On a daily basis, I'm just marking all shares as read.

In Twitter, I'm following thousands of people, but only watching 133 closely. Sometimes, even those 133 people keep me busy.

In Facebook, I follow nearly 1,200 friends, but only watch around 50 in Tweetdeck.

Outside of watching, I do my best to respond to comments and @mentions received on any social networking site. At some point, the number of social interactions becomes too much.

Trying to be fair and watch what others are saying in addition to composing my own thoughts to share feels like a full-time job. I don't like the idea of writing more and listening less, but I bring more value using my time effectively. This means reading more journal articles, blogs, and substantial reports. It also means following substantially fewer people.

The trade off, as I see it today, is a deeper engagement with those who I interact with regularly in exchange for a further reach. If I were to stop following people on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Reader/Buzz, I am sure to lose a considerable number of connections. While unfortunate, I feel like I would regain the use of Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader, and Buzz.

What About Lists/Groups?
Don't get me wrong, I find lists and groups helpful, but users hidden in lists are out of sight and out of mind. It's like folders in my e-mail account. If I remove an e-mail message from the inbox in order to place within a folder, I'll never remember to check the folder. After a while, messages just pile up and become old noise.

To remedy this, any e-mail that requires action finds a place on my calendar. At this point, I can put the message in my archive folder and forget about it until it arrives on my daily agenda.

Proposed Action Plan
The way I feel now, my plan is to simply follow those people I interact with regularly and news sources that provide relevant information. I will do my best to respond to every comment and @mention, but need to focus on reading and producing good content via my blog.

I would love to read your feedback on this situation. What experiences, successes, regrets, disappointments,or tips do you have? I want to be sure I'm doing the right thing and not just reacting. Let's talk about it in the comment section below.

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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