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Seesmic, TweetDeck or PeopleBrowsr: Which One’s Right for You?

My travel plans (visiting family in Indianapolis) have eaten into my blogging schedule as of late.  I’d hoped by now to offer a post comparing Seesmic, TweetDeck and PeopleBrowsr.

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The great thing though about the net is there’s bound to be someone else to pick up your slack.  Enter Michael Hyatt and John Haydon.

Michael recently published a post comparing all three.  I have to say that in my recent use of these tools I’ve come to the same conclusions.  I never thought I’d find a UI I’d like better than TweetDeck, but after using Seesmic these past few weeks, I’m having no desire to go back to TweetDeck.

Like Michael, I am simply overwhelmed by PeopleBrowsr.  I created an account several months ago and never jumped in all the way.  They’ve made some decent changes since then, but after playing with it some more, I find it’s just too much for me.  Seesmic, though, seems to be the best of both worlds.

If you’d like a simple, straight-forward compasion of all three, just visit Michael’s post, “How to Better Manage Your Twitter Followers.”  And, if you’re new to Seesmic and want to learn more (especially if you’re a visual learner like me), then check out John’s Viddler page.  He spent the weekend working on three new, simple to understand, Seesmic vids.  You can also view all three below if you prefer.

Video 1 of 3

Video 2 of 3

Video 3 of 3

I’m About to Kick Twitter In The Nads (I Want My Collateral Replies Back)

First off, I must acknowledge @thebrandbuilder who is responsible for the title of this post.  He (Olivier) made that very comment in a tweet he wrote earlier tonight.  For whatever reason, he was slow to understand exactly what the Twitter crew had managed to mess with regarding our Twitter experience, but once he got it he was pissed.

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And so was everyone else.  From @KrisColivin to @ConversationAge, all of Twitter is abuzz with what looks, on the surface, to be a monumentally DUMB decision on the part of Twitter.

Previously, under the “Notices” section of the Twitter.com interface, you could choose whether or not you wanted to see every @reply sent by someone you followed (regardless of whether or not you followed the recipient) or just @replies sent to others you also followed.

Apparently, in his May 12th Twitter blog post ol’ Biz believes a lot of us were confused by these options.  He even goes so far as to say, “receiving one-sided fragments via replies sent to folks you don’t follow in your timeline is undesirable.”

Says who?  I say it’s one of the best ways of discovering new and interesting people to follow on Twitter, Biz?  How often do you actually use your own service?  And what about #followfriday when so many of us share with our followers new twitterers they might consider?  If my #followfriday tweets begin with @someonemyfollowersdontknow, they’ll NEVER SEE THE FREAKIN’ TWEET!

@ConversationAge said it best:

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And then she followed it with this gem:

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Since I started this post, ol’ Biz has added an addendum to his blog post:

Discovery Still Possible

Spotting new folks in tweets is an interesting way to check out new profiles and find new people to follow. Despite this update, you’ll still see mentions or references linking to people you don’t follow. For example, you’ll continue to see, “Ev meeting with @biz about work stuff” even if you don’t follow @biz. We’ll be introducing better ways to discover and follow interesting accounts as we release more features in this space.

While this example may be true, and is an obvious attempt to quell the uproar, it still doesn’t solve the problem of not being able to see the tweet by someone I follow that BEGINS with @soandso when I don’t follow @soandso.  Maybe I find these “one-sided fragments” interesting enough to click the “in reply to” link within the tweet.  I discover more tweets from @soandso and decide to follow.  That opportunity for discovery has been taken away.

My hope is the uproar is loud enough that Biz comes to his senses and puts the option back in.

Amazing Grace: How Tweet the Sound?

It was with much interest Sunday that I read an article from Time Magazine regarding the rise in the use of Twitter during church services.  In many instances, it’s even being pioneered by the pastors themselves.

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I immediately sent a link of the Time article to my pastor (@petetackett) via Facebook to get his thoughts:

I think Twitter and Facebook plus other social networking tools will be useful to the church.  I think you have to balance both the newness of it with the traditionalists in the church as well as the need for contemplative silence with the temptation to always be twittering.  For us, the next step is figuring out how to make this possible without being distracting.

For years now, students have used their phones and pdas to communicate during church.  Why not let them use them to communicate with the church instead of telling them to put them away?  Hmm.

Pete

I think he’s dead-on.  In essence, it’s coming whether the “church” likes it or not.  The key will be to get in front of it and excercise some control over how it’s rolled out rather than waiting until it’s too late.  Pastor Jon Swanson is a great example of this in action.

For churches that aren’t doing it already, I see many adding new positions in the coming months and years centered around nurturing relationships and growing their congregations via social media-related ministry.  Present staff not trained and not already immersed in all aspects of social media will be ill-equipped to handle it otherwise.

Help Me Help You

I’m wondering if you can help me with a decision I’ve been struggling with for several months now.  I should start off by saying if you’re not a Twitter user, you’ll probably be indifferent to my dilemma.

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Late last year, 88.7 WAY-FM in Nashville, the station for which I serve as operations director, began utilizing Twitter as an additional way to deliver traffic and weather information to listeners (@wayfm_nashville).  Through Twitter’s ability to deliver tweets via SMS, listeners can receive this information right on their cell phones.

While I’ve not yet collected measurable feedback from listeners on the usefulness of this feature (though I did ask for feedback on Twitter while writing this post), a number of people within broadcasting and other closely-related industries have called it “brilliant” and “really well done.”  Maybe they say that because we seem to be ahead of most other stations in this regard.  Though sometimes I wonder if stations that aren’t utilizing Twitter just feel it’s a passing fad.  Will they be proven right?  Too early to tell.

At any rate, my struggle lies in effectively connecting with listeners via @wayfm_nashville who aren’t interested for whatever reason in receiving traffic and weather this way, if at all.  I’m worried that some who follow us will be put off by these 3 to 5 tweets sent every weekday morning.

My first thought is to separate traffic and weather tweets from normal, every day WAY-FM tweets with the creation of a new, traffic and weather-only Twitter username.  This would free up the other username for general information, conversation and contesting.

With this in mind, I grabbed @WAYtoWorkUpdate, which is how we refer to the updates on the air during the morning show.  Next would come the somewhat difficult task of communicating the change on the air, not to mention the added burden of keeping up with an additional username (not only for us, but potentially for those following us).

So, where to go from here?  I would love to get your thoughts and opinions on this in the comments.  Thank you in advance for your time.  By the way, if you’re not in the Nashville market, you can sample WAY-FM online at wayfm.com.  I’d be curious to get your general thoughts on the station as well.

Photo credit, Lee Nachtigal

Podcamp Nashville 2009: A First-timer’s Review

Today, I attended Podcamp Nashville being held at the Owen School of Business on the campus of Vanderbilt University.  Dave Delaney (@davedelaney and @griffintech on Twitter) and the Podcamp organizers were responsible for putting it all together.

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After seeing a few of my tweets from Podcamp Nashville earlier today, several of my followers on Twitter asked “what is Podcamp exactly.”  The name can certainly be misleading, after all it’s about a lot more than podcasting.  As the site explains, “If you’re interested in blogging, social media, social networking, podcasting, video on the net, if you’re a podsafe musician (or want to be), or just someone curious about new media, then please join us.”

By the way, the first Podcamp was held September 8 –  10 2006 in Boston, and Podcamps are now being held all over the world.  Who knew?

Thanks Mitch!

I have to mention that had it not been for the tweets I received from Mitch Canter (@studionashvegas and @wordpulse on Twitter) earlier this week, I would’ve missed it altogether.

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Mitch was one of the presenters this afternoon.  His was titled Podcasting & WordPress.  Mitch knows WordPress as well as anyone.  If you’re looking for great tips and insights into WordPress (particularly WordPress.org), check out Mitch’s Wordpulse blog and podcast.  You can even stream the podcast right on the site.

I really enjoyed Mitch’s presentation.  I’m much less intimidated now about the idea of switching my blog over to the the more robust WordPress.org platform.

Podcamp Nashville 2009: A First-timer’s Review

By far the most beneficial part of the day for me was the networking opportunities I enjoyed.  I met at least three people for the first time that I’d previously known only through Twitter.  There was Mitch (@studionashvegas), his wife Holly (@nashvogue) and Nicholas Young (@nicholaswyoung).

This was the first time I’d ever experienced this Twitter phenomenon.  Kinda cool actually.  Sort of like when I had a profile up at “Love @ AOL” back in the day and went on my first blind date.

School is Back in Session

After the 10am welcome, the first sessions began at 10:30 with three going on simultaneously in half-hour increments until 4pm.  For my taste, the sessions were too short and too many.  In the future, I’d love to see the Podcamp Crew concentrate on fewer sessions, giving presenters more time to really dig into their topics.

Additionally, prior to arriving, I struggled with choosing which sessions to attend.  Often times I had to choose between two equally intriguing-sounding sessions scheduled at the same time.

On top of the three sessions every 30 minutes, there was space given to a fourth for anyone who wanted to sign up to lead one (unconventional to say the least, but I tried to keep an open mind).  I didn’t actually attend any of these “add-on” sessions and never checked the sign-up board for what was being offered so I can’t speak to the quality of those sessions.

Sessions: The Good

I arrived about mid-way through (around noon) and Jared Degnan’s Business Podcasting & Blogging session gave me a good first impression.  One of the best take-aways for me was the suggestion to read Personality Not Included. I’d not heard of this book before today.  Jared could not have endorsed it more convincingly.  I’m looking forward to picking up a copy soon.

I also got a lot out of Dave Delaney’s A Slice of Cake: The Secret to Loyalty, and Why I Love Guinness – An Intro to Social Media.  Dave is an energetic and engaging speaker.

I easily learned the most form Mitch Canter.  His presentation on using WordPress and uploading Podcasts was very practical and helpful.  He easily offered the most take-aways I think.  He also seemed to be well-received by the crowd.  I definitely think they’ll ask him back.

Sessions: The Bad

Podcamp Nashville was free, so I can’t really complain here.  But I was a little disappointed that Bob Marchman’s Font Licensing: A Debriefing was canceled at the last minute.  I’m sure there was good reason.  I just hope Bob is okay.  I was hoping to learn more on this topic in light of a new business venture my wife is working on.

Sessions: The Ugly

Two sessions actually left me with negative impressions.  I have to confess though that in both cases, I gave up on them about 10 minutes in.  Therefore, it’s entirely possible things improved after I left.

The first was titled @#%& it, We’ll Do It Live – LiveCasting.  Three presenters, one microphone.  Late start (not their fault) followed by a lethargic, un-engaging opening.  I left to catch Dave.

Second came Greg Crites’ Joomla – The CMS for the Rest of Us.  10 minutes in Greg hadn’t shown up.  The bright side I guess is I left to discover more of Dave.

Final Verdict

All in all, I’d give my first Podcamp a solid “B.”  For the most part, it was well-organized and the majority of the speakers were engaging and well-prepared.  Many even made themselves available for informal question and answer sessions after their presentations.  All were accessible and more than willing to help in any way.

If you’re interested at all in podcasting, blogging, social media, social networking, video on the net or just curious about new media, make plans now to attend Podcamp Nashville 2010.

Automated DMs: Useful or Worthless?

Recently, I was challenged by a new Twitter follower (@normalrockstar) regarding my practice of sending an auto-reply direct message (DM) to new followers.

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He’d read my post on Twitter navigation and questioned my sincerity.  His DM read in part:

Why is the guy who blogged about “interacting with followers” sending automatic replies?

I responded by saying I felt it “insures that I connect with you promptly upon your decision to follow me, something I think most people appreciate.”  The response came back,

My problem with it is it’s not REALLY connecting.  It’s your automated reply.  It’s like a band having an intern answer e-mail.

I couldn’t get past the truth in those words, interns notwithstanding.  But I’d gotten the idea in the first place from seeing it put into practice by @johnhaydon, someone I respected and admired.  He, unlike most, actually offered value in his DMs by suggesting others to follow.  No self-promotions or links.  I did the same.

But later that same day, I ran across another Twitter conversation where someone was arguing convincingly against the practice of auto-DMs.  Not long after that, I saw a tweet from @kriscolvin that included a link to this (you’ll want to check out this link if you want to put an end to receiving most auto-DMs).

I then started re-reading through many of the auto-DM’s I was receiving from recent new followers.  Admittedly, most were pure self-promotion or empty thank-yous.  I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is it possible, no matter how well-intentioned, for an automated DM to ring anything other than hollow.”

After all, the care I took in trying to create a value-filled auto-DM hadn’t resonated with at least one person.  How many others felt the same way and just hadn’t bothered to tell me?  Side note: one of the things I’ve learned over my career regarding criticism is that, often times, those dispensing it are the ones that actually give a hoot.

What does it all mean?  Well, for me at least, it means no more automated DMs.  Period.  From now on, when you receive a DM from me, it will have been written especially for you.  No exceptions.

And you can thank @normalrockstar.

Twitterverse Navigation: Public Figures Who Get It Wrong (And a Few Who Get It Right)

I’ve been a participant on Twitter for several months now.  In that time, I’ve read dozens of articles on how to and how not to interact within the Twitter community.  It’s certainly safe to say that there are as many opinions as there are participants on how Twitter can best be utilized.  And, for each individual or company who chooses to set up shop, goals can certainly vary.  Heck, ask 14 people to describe Twitter and you’ll get nearly 14 different answers.

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When it comes to traditional brands, a handful are content to strictly abide by the Twitter mantra, “What are you doing?” Their tweets are often a continuous stream of broadcasts.  In other words, an on-going, one-way conversation.  Rare are the responses, or @replies, to the questions or comments from others.

Most would agree that companies using Twitter in this way would be better off not showing up at all.  No one wants a product constantly pushed in their face while at the same time feeling company X is oblivious to what’s going on around them.  Thankfully, it seems more and more companies are putting a great deal of thought into their Twitter strategy.

Are You Not Entertained?

I often wonder though why similar, traditional brand behavior seems to be the rule and not the exception for many of the public figures I follow on Twitter.  While I’ve been encouraged by the number of Christian musicians, authors, radio personalities and consultants I’ve discovered on Twitter, with most there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of interaction taking place between them and their followers.  In fact, the sense I often get from their tweets is, “Isn’t it cool being a fly on the wall of my life?”

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If you’re a public figure who uses Twitter in this way then that’s your call.  And I’ll be the first to say that, for some of your fans, it might be enough.  But have you ever given any thought to what it says about your personal brand?

Having said this, I realize that in the Twitterverse it’s entirely possible that those I perceive as not interacting very often with fans are indeed doing so via DM, or direct message (a message that can be sent only to people who follow you that no one else can see).  Michael Hyatt (@michaelhyatt) is a good example.  When he responds to a tweet from me he often does so by firing back a DM.  My experience though shows that he’s likely the exception.

Engagement vs. Convenience

This limited interaction on Twitter is often coupled with another phenomenon.  Most artists, authors and radio personalities I see on Twitter aren’t following even 5% as many people as are following them.  In fact, many seem to be following only other people within the industry (and maybe personal friends).

When asked about it, one artist I talked to expressed the difficulty in choosing one fan over another. I wonder if some worry about being inundated with DMs from followers.  There are certainly plenty of cons when it comes to DMs.  How about following everyone by default, then leaving yourself the option of blocking the occasional nut case if and when necessary?

To me there seems to be a desire for the best of both worlds as long as those worlds don’t intertwine.  It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where George’s two worlds – the world of “relationship” George and that of “independent” George – threaten to do just that.  George views his independent world as his sanctuary and Elaine’s decision to develop a friendship with George’s girlfriend Susan may ultimately mean the demise of that sanctuary.

Twinfluence?

I recently received an e-mail from a record label rep touting the popularity of a particular artist’s Twitter stream.  According to TwitterGrader, this particular artist ranked in the top 2,000 out of over a million twitterers.  Now, I don’t pretend to understand all the algorithms TwitterGrader uses to calculate their rankings, however I do know your number of followers and the power of their networks plays into it heavily.  What is truly unfortunate though is that the number of people you’re following along with the frequency and quality of your engagement with them has little to nothing to do with it.  Shame on Twitter.

To quote @johnhaydon from CorporateDollar.org, “On Twitter, it’s less about how many followers you have and more about the ‘health’ of your conversations with them.”

Instead, try this.

Is Twitter a passing fad?  Possibly.  Will it exist in even 5 years?  Probably not in the same way it does today.  In the meantime then, I hope this post can serve not as an indictment, but a challenge.  While Twitter is in the mix and growing more popular by the day, why not make the most of it?  If you see some of yourself in this post, I hope you’ll accept the challenge and venture outside your comfort zone a little more.

Twitter’s Pied Pipers?

Finally, for fear of not delivering on the title of my post, I’ve compiled a couple of lists, in alphabetical order by first name.  The first is a list of those I think need to be challenged to follow more fans; fans they’ll attempt to regularly engage.  Keep in mind this list is by no means exhaustive.  Remember too that the opinions I’ve expressed here may in fact be mine and mine alone.  If you disagree, then say so by all means.  If you agree, tell me that too.

Please understand that I believe every public figure mentioned below is an absolute pro.  I’m confident each and every one of them goes out of their way for their fans/readers/listeners/clients.  All I’m saying is I’d like to see them take what they’re already doing in the real world and consider applying more of it to this platform.  That’s all.

Some you’ll recognize as recording artists, while others are radio personalities, authors and colleagues.  In each case, note their following to follower (F2F) ratio.  The number of people they personally follow is first.  The number of people following them is second.

  1. Aaron Shust (recording artist) – 13 to 701
  2. Alan Mason (Consultant, Good Ratings Strategic Services) – 3 to 90
  3. Bart Millard (recording artist, Mercy Me) – 26 to 2,250
  4. Bebo Norman (recording artist) – 21 to 856
  5. Carmen Brown, Dave Cruse, Bill Martin, Jayar and “The Morning Cruise” combined (On-air Talent, The Joy FM / Tampa, Florida) – 140 to 1,843
  6. The David Crowder Band (recording artist) – 18 to 1,697
  7. Jeremy Camp (recording artist) – 92 to 2,481
  8. Leeland (recording artist)- 24 to 1,574
  9. Michael W. Smith (recording artist) – 10 to 2,105
  10. Phil Wickham (recording artist) – 25 to 2,582
  11. Rebecca St. James (recording artist) – 61 to 1,287

I’ve noticed too that not everyone who strives to follow more than a few people is actually doing a lot of listening.  Glenn Lavender of Downhere, Shaun Groves, Bryan White, Melinda Doolittle and Phil Stacey have decent F2F ratios, however, all do quite a bit more broadcasting than actual engaging, at least right now. 

Lastly, here is a list of a few folks I think are doing a pretty good job of engaging and listening to their followers/fans.  Again, note their F2F ratio.

  1. Cameron Strang (publisher) – 552 to 2,127
  2. Charlie Neese (Newschannel 5 Meteorologist) – 209 to 304
  3. Jeff Cruz (Music Director, Z88.3 / Orlando) – 132 to 145
  4. Mark Lee (recording artist, Third Day) – 2,078 to 2,143
  5. Matthew Paul Turner (author) – 1,827 to 1,747
  6. MC Hammer (former recording artist) – 20,349 to 31,047
  7. Michael Hyatt (CEO, Thomas Nelson Publishing) – 4,948 to 4,700
  8. Pete Wilson (Pastor, Cross Point Church) – 1,220 t0 2,034
  9. Star 99.1 FM / New York (radio station) – 1,999 to 715

Max Lucado, Charlie Lowell (Jars of Clay), Stephen Mason (Jars of Clay) and Vicky Beeching don’t follow many people relative to the number following them, but they’re interacting with others constantly.  This is great to see!  Natalie Grant and Mark Hall are two others I’d like to see follow more people, but recently they both seem to be deliberately interacting more.  Same goes for Fee.

Still, for much of the industry, the focus seems to be on gathering more followers and not necessarly the conversations along the way.  I predict that if you’ll put more effort into the engagement part of the process, at least one residual affect will be exponentially more followers.  They’ll also likely be a lot more loyal and passionate about who you are and what you do than if you continue to view them as customers you can sell your message to.

Why Are You Thumbing Your Nose At Twitter?

As you’ve no doubt heard, earlier today a US Airways flight, in a losing fight with a flock of geese, ended up in the Hudson River.  Miraculously, not one of the 155 passengers or crew was seriously hurt.

You may have noticed, if you watched the news or read about it online, that one particular photo continued to turn up just about everywhere.

Passengers stand on the wing waiting for their turn.

Passengers stand on the wing waiting for their turn.

The image was taken by Janis Krums on his cell phone which he then uploaded to TwitPic, a Twitter client that makes it easy to broadcast, or “tweet,” your photos.  You send a picture mail to TwitPic and it automatically syncs it with your Twitter account, broadcasting a message (or tweet) based on what you put in the subject line of your picture mail, along with a shortened link directly to the image itself.  Twitter, by the way, gives you a maximum of 140 characters to state your message.

In Janis’ case, he tweeted this message:

http://twitpic.com/135xa – There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy.

This afternoon before I left to come home from work, over 40,000 people had clicked that link – just an hour or two after it was taken.  At the time I’m writing this (almost midnight) that number has more than doubled.

I’m not sure how many followers Janis began the day with (he’s at just over 2100 now), but suffice it to say, some of them “Re-Tweeted” (RT) or forwarded the above tweet, sharing it with their followers as well.

In fact, before today, I’d never heard of Janis, but one of my followers mentioned the image and the link and before I knew it, I was “tweeting” about Janis and his snapshot to all of my other followers as well.

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It is utterly amazing to me how fast this kind of thing can move on a platform such as Twitter.  I even heard Janis being interviewed on CNN, made popular, no doubt, by his now widely-seen photograph.  According to his twitter page, he’s on MSNBC next.

Interestingly, Janis himself commented on Twitter in a post on his own blog just three days ago.  In it he says:

What can you say in 140 characters or less?  Can you be effective with less words?  There is no room for wordiness.  You need to be on point with your message as quickly as possible.

I don’t know about you, but I think he followed his own advice pretty well.

And wouldn’t you know it, just last week, I argued via Twitter with an industry colleague of mine on it’s effectiveness and future.  In a direct message (DM) to me he stated:

I wonder how many people are twittering?  I guess this will have jumped the shark when I see a sitcom episode around it.

Needless to say, we didn’t see eye to-eye – or should I say tweet-to-tweet – on the usefulness of Twitter.  However, I believe if you’re not participating in the conversation and attempting to engage your customers and those you care about in this environment, people may soon be saying it’s your company that has “jumped the shark.”

For a great example of one company’s use of Twitter, check out @comcastcares.  Their approach may not apply to your industry in every way, but I’ll bet you still find plenty of take aways.