Saturday, September 12, 2009

The "fight club" of becoming an online person

Before I advance (or perhaps regress) my thoughts, I need to take care of some unfinished business from my previous post, The "fight club" of starting a blog. That post was partially inspired by a Google Reader shared comment from Andy C. I did not quote Andy's entire comment in the previous post, but I'd like to quote it now:

I despise lists. I despise being told what to do. I despise this quote more than anything 'Even though it’s your blog and you can’t write on whatever you want, you have to pick a topic and stick with it' It's your blog. Write about Persian cats. Write about LOLcats. Write about Linux. Please yourself. Let me decide whether I care to read it.

In the comments to my post, Andy offered a clarification. Here's part of the clarification (you can read the whole thing here):

I agree that most of the article was relevant and useful for 'professional' bloggers. However, most of the people who 'Like' and agree with such sentiments are not professional bloggers.

They are personal bloggers, unpaid, just doing it because they enjoy it. They are like me and I strongly believe personal bloggers (in particular) should feel free to write about anything that takes their fancy.

What [irritates] me is when personal bloggers heed such advice and potentially change their blogging style.

An important point. But let's move on to a related topic that I wanted to explore - when you choose to follow a person on a content-emphasizing social media network, what influences that choice?

Let me clarify my terms first. If you completely follow Facebook's recommended method of using the service, you will choose to follow people based upon a previous IRL (in real life) connection with them. In that case, the content that the people share on Facebook is immaterial, because you're following your neighbor or your high school friend or whatever.

When I'm thinking of "content-emphasizing social media network," I'm thinking of something such as FriendFeed, or at least the way that I use it. In my case, I often follow people who share interesting stuff. And if you look through the people that I follow on services like FriendFeed and Twitter, I have a lot of interests.

But when I read Neil Patel's suggestions for bloggers, I performed a really scary extrapolation which would disgust me, disgust Andy, and probably disgust Neil.

What if someone decided to construct a laser focus not only on their blog, but on their entire social media presence?

To see what I mean, take a look at a rewrite of the "day 2" text that I referenced earlier. Again, I emphasize that Neil Patel did NOT express this thought.

Even though it’s your lifestream and you can write on whatever you want, you have to pick a topic and stick with it. Although there is nothing stopping you from doing whatever you want, your lifestream will be much more popular if you stick with 1 topic.

Now when you read this text, and think of the ramifications, you'd conclude that the idea is just plain silly. Imagine if Louis Gray only focused on early adopter topics and never talked about the twins. Imagine if Anika Malone only talked about her kids and never talked about anything else.

Pretty stupid, right?

Well, then, why do content-emphasizing social media networks sometimes emphasize following the people, rather than following the topics?

Let's take Twitter as an example. Twitter's content-searching capabilities are admittedly atrocious, but one thing that is really easy to do in Twitter is to follow people. And when you follow people, you get the good with the bad. Perhaps you follow someone on Twitter because they posted an inspiration quote...and then their next 10 tweets are of the "make money fast" variety.

Or perhaps someone followed my Twitter account because they saw a tweet that dealt with feature creep. Little did that poor person know that I also tweet about my college radio experiences, the surviving Gibb brothers, and my aging phone.

Wouldn't it be a lot easier for people if I would just laser-focus all of my social media experiences and confine myself to a single topic? In other words, I'd be kind of like a U.S. radio station - no matter what time of the day it is, you know exactly what it will be playing. If you want to read about product management issues, then you could read me on the social media platform of your choice. If you want to read about Barry Gibb, you'd go somewhere else.

Or perhaps there's a better way - follow by topic rather than person. That way, if you're interested in requirements management, you can see what people said about that specific topic, and ignoring all of their LOLcats stuff. FriendFeed now supports topic searching capabilities.

It's interesting to consider that many people that I consider to be professional-level social media practitioners (I refrain from using the term "experts") do NOT restrict themselves to a single topic. As I previously noted, Louis Gray shares the occasional family picture. Chris Brogan dresses up for his followers. Shel Israel gives weather reports. (Yes, sometimes it rains in Twitterville.)

As you can see from reading the post, I bounce back and forth between following the person and following the topic. Some people do not, some do the other, most do both. Because, as even a non-movie goer such as myself knows, there are very few rules.
blog comments powered by Disqus