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Social Media for Humans (in 3 Easy Steps!)

Lately, lots of people have been asking about how to handle social media on an individual level. The questions really boil down to this: “How much should I share?” and  “How ‘strategic’ should I be about what I share?”

My answer is simple:

1. Keep an eye on the content you’re putting out about yourself and determine if it’s an accurate representation.
2. Think about what content you want to — or should — share.
3. Try stuff, and see how you like it. Keep doing the stuff that feels right and quit the stuff that doesn’t.

Business Strategy vs. Personal Strategy

There’s a difference between organizations and individuals when it comes to social media. Generally speaking, an organization’s goals are relatively static; it’s strategies and tactics that, to varying degrees, change more often. But, as a human, goals change all the time. Sometimes, there is no goal. I’ve certainly published content about myself that had no point except that I wanted to say it. (Actually, that pretty much sums up my 20s.) But the same goes for real life, too — we have all sorts of pointless conversations with each other because that’s what humans do. The seemingly pointless actually does have a point and that point is socializing. That we would create technology to facilitate this was inevitable.

Organizations are starting to get comfortable with the notion that if they can figure out how to socialize with us — or at least connect with us in social spaces without pissing us off — it might lead to business. But, ultimately, their goal is business. No matter how you cut it, how awesome an organization’s social media engagement is, the hard truth is that they’re trying to sell you something. There’s nothing wrong with that (Go, capitalism!), but organizations aren’t in the business of being our friend. They’re in the business of business.

So, like I said: sometimes, for people, there is no goal. At other times, our goals are quite concrete: Get a job. Sell a house. Find a daycare. And during those times our social interactions, online and off, are often in service of those goals. It is in those times that we are grateful for all the non-goal oriented interactions we’ve had with people, because now we feel okay about asking them for favors. We get a little (ahem) strategic about who we communicate with, and how.

When my son was a baby, my goal was to find some new friends to hang out with because I felt kind of lonely as a too-busy working mom with two young children. Did I write that goal down and create a strategic plan to find friends? Nope. I organized a happy hour with a bunch of chicks I knew via Twitter. People that seemed funny, smart and interesting based on the stuff they were sharing. I formed an opinion about who they were and whether or not I wanted to hang out with them based mainly on what they had shared online. In other, more gross jargon-y talk, I selected them based on their personal brand.

But getting overly “strategic” about your personal social media usage can be skeevy. It removes some of the humanity that makes social media…social. On the flip side, not stopping to think about what you share can be damaging to you, your employer (and therefore, your employment), and your family and friends. So, how can you be thoughtful about what you share online without going overboard and creating a spreadsheet and quarterly reports about your bad self?

My© Patented™ Process♥

1. Keep an eye on the content you’re putting out about yourself and determine if it’s an accurate representation.

To take care of the “keep an eye on the content” part of this, Google yourself, and set up Google Alerts (see our 5-Minute Guide to Google Alerts) for your own name, and any other names or terms you want to keep an eye on.

As far as whether or not it’s an accurate representation, you can decide that for yourself. Or, better yet, ask someone who doesn’t know you very well to Google you and send you a recap of who they think you are based on what they find. You might be surprised.

If what they find dismays you, start cleaning it up by creating new, more accurate content (or, if they didn’t find anything — start creating ANY content). LinkedIn is a great place to begin because it’s very low risk (in terms of sharing personal information) and ranks highly in Google search results.

2. Think about what content you want to — or should — share and make public.

  • Does your Facebook profile show up in Google search results? Do you want it to? How much can strangers see of your profile?
  • Are you going to use location-based networks like Foursquare? Who do you want knowing where you are?
  • Who do you want knowing what your political or religious beliefs are?
  • Do you want to connect with clients or co-workers?
  • How might revealing personal information affect your professional life and vice versa?

There are no right answers. What do YOU want to to share? There are valid reasons for making lots of your information open to the public, and many risks, too. It’s just like the stock market: some people have a high tolerance for risk and others don’t. Figure out how safe you want to play it, and start there. It makes no difference what works for someone else: figure out what feels right to you. Start with what feels comfortable. Over time, your risk tolerance may increase as you start to see some of the personal rewards that can come from healthy social interactions online. I don’t know what that “reward” may look like for you: keeping in touch with family, expanding your professional network, establishing yourself as an expert in your field…there are endless possible benefits.

3. Start trying stuff out, and see how you like it. Keep doing the stuff that feels right and quit the stuff that doesn’t.

This one should be pretty self-explanatory. Explore. Hey, it’s the internet: it’s pretty fun, and you won’t break it.

Online vs. Offline

Ok, really? This “process” is just a digital version of what we do in real life all the time. We edit ourselves every moment of every day based on our environment (am I at home or at work?), our company (am I with my boss or my swear-like-a-pirate sister?), and our motivation (am I trying to get a job with this person or trying to get them to wake up?). The thing is, in real life, we rarely need to stop to think about it. It just happens. It’s a natural human response to our surroundings.

Online, we don’t have those same social cues. Updating my Facebook status feels different than standing in front of a room filled with 500 people, and yet the two actions have a similar effect. So, here’s a pro tip: don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t stand up and say in front of a room full of strangers. It sounds simple, but I’m often amazed at the things people say online that they would never have the guts to say to someone’s face. So, while you don’t need to draft some kind of complex content diagram for yourself, it’s important to take a minute to think about what you want to share online because of its ease and relative permanance.

I’ll admit I’ve had my fair share of awkward moments where I’ve shared something that I later wish I wouldn’t have. It happens. It’s easy to forget when you’re tweeting or blogging or Facebooking that you’re writing something that could be seen by a whole lot of people — some of whom you may not know — and that it’s contributing to their idea of who you are.

So while “personal brand” is a popular term (and one I’ve been known to use myself), I don’t think anyone needs to take themselves so seriously that they need to create an official brand strategy for themselves (and, by extension, some kind of complicated personal social media plan).

If I had to sum up my thoughts on this in two sentences, it’d be this: Think, but don’t think too hard. Be the best human being you can be, and it will come through in everything you do — online and off.

Podcast #26: Social Engineering (or whatever)

In this podcast we touch on some recent reader questions around Facebook privacy and the importance of being smart with your profiles, pages, and other accounts online.

We discuss the difference between phishing and social engineering scams, and the ever-present annoyance of spammers and and weirdos.

Tune in next time when the ladies dive in for a closer look at Firesheep and some of the surrounding controversy.

Additional Links:

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Have a topic you’d like us to talk about? Drop us a line at [email protected] or leave us a comment on our Facebook page!

Event: ClockworkShop – Social Media 101

Next Wednesday, November 10th, Clockwork is hosting our first ever (and first in a, hopefully, long series) ClockworkShop – featuring the Geek Girls Guide.  Once again, Meghan and I will be discussing Social Media and providing an overview of the social landscape.  Our Social Media 101 presentation has been billed as one for ‘newbies’ and the deck is certainly one of our more well-traveled slideshows. To be honest,  The Geek Girls Guide is ready to get past the social media hype and start exploring new ideas, emerging technologies and bigger conversations.  We are the first to say that we have no interest in pigeon-holing ourselves as ‘social media speakers’.  The more compelling part of the social discussion is how we are changing culturally.  There is so much to discuss and to be explored around that cultural shift.

One of the points we make on the Clockwork website, and in so many conversations, is that the web has always been social.  This recent, overwhelming interest in social channels has been fun to watch.  But it’s not new.  The web has always been about connections, conversations and relationships.  The tools that facilitate these are just that much more accessible.  Business is about relationships.  Our culture and how we communicate is changing.  There are much bigger conversations to have.  We want our Social Media 101 session to be the first of many – empowering our audience to tell their own stories and connect with messages and influencers that resonate with them. But we want to make sure that everyone is on board for the next ‘big thing’.  We can’t push so hard for what’s next if there are still people with questions about what’s now. 

This website was developed to be a resource for people outside of our industry.  Many social media practitioners are talking about the value of the medium inside of a vacuum.  They are talking to each other.  We wanted to add another voice to the discussion and focus our energy outward.  These workshops are not for people in our industry.  They are not for Social Evangelists. It’s just that there are still so many questions and still so much confusion around social media – what is is, how it should be used and how we should be thinking about it – that we still think these introductory discussions are necessary.  So, as much as we want to continue to push the needle forward and encourage and facilitate new conversations and new adventures, we also can’t disregard what our audience is asking of us.  

Do join us next week on Wednesday evening.  There are only a few seats left.  And do look for future ClockworkShops featuring the Geek Girls Guide, and many other brilliant and talented Clockworkers covering everything from knitting, to bicycle maintenance to technology and usability.  We are excited to expand our education and outreach efforts.  We look forward to sharing that work with you.  And, as always, we thank you for being a fellow geek, or geek wannabe.

Quick Tip: Forwarding Google Alerts

Geeky reader Evelyn from Florida wrote in with this: “I read your post The Five-Minute Guide to Google Alerts. I’m trying to figure out how to forward only Google Alerts (not all emails) to another email address that’s not Google (in other words, to my work email address). Do you think you could help?”

Yes! This one is pretty easy, but you don’t do it from Google Alerts. This one you take care of in gmail.

From mail.google.com, go to: Settings > Filters > Create a New Filter

From there, you can specify that if the subject line contains “Google Alert” it should be forwarded to a different account (like your work email address).

Setting up filters is possible in most email systems and can be a great way to keep the massive tide of emails under control. As an example: when we are hiring at Clockwork, I filter resumes into a separate folder that I can review when I choose, instead of having those emails choke up my inbox.

So, that’s it — just a quick little geeky tip to make your life easier!

Podcast #25: Facebook’s New Button

In this week’s podcast, we discuss a new button. No, really. A button.

Facebook switched its Friend Request options from “Accept and Ignore” to “Accept and Not Now.” On Wednesday morning, the Marketplace Tech Report had an interesting take on it (which you can listen to here) that got us thinking: what does this mean? How does Facebook change our social behavior and how does it affect social norms? There’s a lot more going on than just buttons.

Here’s TechCrunch’s take on it.

What do you think?

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Have a topic you’d like us to talk about? Drop us a line at [email protected] or leave us a comment on our Facebook page!

Geek of the Week: Rachel Baker

This week’s Geek of the Week is Rachel Baker, a freelance IT consultant in Chicago. A few months ago, Rachel sent us an email about how much she enjoyed our site and podcasts. When we discovered that she’s quite a geek girl in her own right, we promptly crowned her Geek of the Week. It was a pleasure to talk to her, and we really only scratched the surface of her geekdom. We hope you enjoy our conversation with Rachel as much as we did!

Rachel credits her parents for putting her on the path to nerdery by buying her first computer in 1983, and insisting that she look things up in the Encyclopedia when she asked them a question. She’s worked professionally in technology for over 12 years, and now works on her own doing IT consulting and WordPress web development as Plugged In Consulting.

In February 2009, Rachel and a few friends founded the Chicago Nerd Social Club where they host and throw events for nerds. Yeah, we’re already trying to figure out how to get to Chicago for their next event.

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Have a topic you’d like us to talk about? Drop us a line at [email protected] or leave us a comment on our Facebook page!

Podcast #23: Entertainment Solutions

In our 23rd podcast we talk about the upcoming Minnesota Blogger Conference, as well as some DIY entertainment solutions for kicking cable to the curb and still getting to see your favorite shows.

Minnesota Blogger Conference

When: Saturday, September 11, 2010

Where: CoCo – coworking & collaborative

213 4th St E., 4th Floor

St Paul, MN 55101

(612) 735-7425

Schedule

Resources: Entertainment Solutions

Keep an eye out in the next couple weeks for the videos and descriptions of our systems as well as some more information on gaming.

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Have a topic you’d like us to talk about? Drop us a line at in[email protected] or leave us a comment on our Facebook page!

A Streetcar Named Desire To Post My Pic On Twitter.

A couple of weeks ago some friends and I attended a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire at the Guthrie Theatre.  It was a real night on the town, with dinner beforehand, and excellent seats to a truly entertaining production.  For those of you not in the immediate area, it should be noted that the Guthrie is a world renowned theatre that attracts exceptional, even famous talent to it’s stage and behind the scenes, and it isn’t unusual for Broadway bound shows to begin at the Guthrie.  Streetcar was no exception, boasting a killer cast with remarkable pedigrees, and even pulling in a bit of pop culture with the casting of Ricardo Antonio Chavira from the ABC show Desperate Housewives in the role of Stanley Kowalski.  The role made famous by Marlon Brando in the 1951 film.  This isn’t a review of the show.  My feelings for the production are pretty straight-forward.  I loved it.  The staging was perfect.  The casting was brilliant.  Everything about that show made for a perfect evening.  But for the last two weeks, one moment has been gnawing at me and I wanted to share it here, to get your thoughts, and perhaps contribute to a conversation that has got to move forward.  

We were seated just before curtain and our seats in the theatre were excellent.  I was thrilled.  The lights were dim, the stage was set, the warm glow of a streetlamp the brightest point in the room.  That set was impressive, it looked like an actual spot in New Orleans.  The weathered brick, the dingy interior, the colors and textures perfectly muted to suggest a certain age to this exterior.  I pulled out my iphone to take a picture of this gorgeous set and as soon as I got it up to eye level the usher was next to me telling me the set was copyrighted and I wasn’t allowed to photograph it.  I nodded and tucked my phone into my pocket.  That was that.  Only it wasn’t.  There wasn’t sufficient light for me to get a decent picture anyway.  But that wasn’t the point.  I really just wanted to rave about that initial impression of the set and the mood it set for the audience.  But, the set was ‘copyrighted’ and that wasn’t ok.  

These last couple of years arts organizations have taken a big hit with the economy.  Seeing plays falls low on the priority list when you are watching your finances take a nose dive.  As this sort of entertainment falls lower on the list, it may fall away from the radar.  Certainly arts orgs are countering the effects of the economy with more aggressive marketing and trying to pack a lot of value into ticket prices.  But non-profits never have enough money to really market the way they want to.  There are always corners being cut.  Meanwhile, someone like me, with zero interest in ripping off any set construction ideas, and a couple thousand followers on Twitter, has a desire to do some free marketing for an arts org, and I can’t.  It makes no sense.  

Recently, Meghan and I have conducted a series of workshops for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council.  We talked about websites on a budget and the basics of social media.  Sure, the Guthrie didn’t have anyone in attendance.  But they aren’t entirely unlike so many of the arts orgs we talked to.  Because of budget constraints and different priorities, arts organizations are sort of slow to recognize the power of web and social tools.  They know they can sell tickets on the web.  They know they can present marketing messages there.  But, beyond that, they seem to focus much of their dollars and energy into the things they’ve always done.  I am a closet theatre geek, and I’ve watched that slow progress with a special interest.  My old college theatre took forever to get a Facebook page, and they made little, if any, use of their website.  They weren’t on Twitter, and I doubt that they are there now.  And yet, ticket sales and community support are vital to the ongoing health of that department.  Even here, the biggest, most prestigious theatre, The Guthrie, took forever to invest in a redesigned website.  Settling for a giant image as backdrop for their site for years.  Now they seem to have a dynamic, Drupal powered website and a very active Facebook page.  In fact, the Guthrie is doing some of the things we talked about in the MRAC discussions — letting their audience in on how elements of the stage come together.  It’s so compelling watching the actual craft of stagecraft assemble whole, realistic sets.  Theatre isn’t just about the actors — the set and the costumes tell the story too.  Sometimes, as in the case of A Streetcar Named Desire, the set IS pretty darn close to a character.  Hot and heavy and dingy and weathered and well traveled, and noisy – setting the tone and even aggravating the heat and tension of the plot.  

Having worked on a number of stage crews in my youth, I know how tedious getting to that final set can be.  But how miraculous it seems when everything comes together.  It’s a real art – deciding how to present a setting, considering the staging, the actors and what they need from a set, what the text requires combined with what the director envisions.  There is so much that plays in to those choices that would, honestly, be riveting to some audience members or potential theatre-goers.  Not to mention the opportunity to reach new audiences, sell more tickets.  Maybe the Desperate Housewives guys wasn’t such a great draw to some.  But perhaps that set would have inspired someone to want to see it close up.  

I guess I just think that arts orgs, and especially theatre arts, need to start embracing some of the new social tools and abandoning the way it’s always been.  Sometimes we stick to what we know because it works.  But these days, when the economy is in the toilet, and people are staying home, we can’t afford to be stuck.  We have to look to our evangelists and our ambassadors to do what comes naturally — to talk about us. To rave about us, even.  There is something romantic about going to the theatre.  The whole experience, the entire event, has an air of romance.  A good theatre experience can take you along for a multi-sensory ride and when done right you’ve got something to think about and talk about for days or weeks.  Let us talk about it.  I’m not going to steal your set.  Chances are anyone who does have unethical intentions around your ideas has other ways to pursue them.  We don’t need to get crazy and shoot flash pictures during a performance.  Nobody wants that.  But I do think letting us borrow details to tell the story and talk about our experience with it will only serve the production, and the theatre itself, very well. 

SXSW Panels

Today is the last day of voting for SXSW panels. We’ve already asked you to vote for us (but, if you haven’t, today is your last chance!). But don’t just vote for us — there are tons of awesome panel options to choose from.

How to Vote

  • Visit the SXSW PanelPicker. (Our session is here.)
  • Create an account (it reduces fraudulent voting), but don’t worry: you won’t be added to any mailing lists (unless you want to be!).
  • Click the thumbs-up (or thumbs-down) to vote!

Who to Vote For

Don’t just vote for us! There are a number of great proposals out there. Need some guidance on where to start?

If you’d like to support other Minnesotans, check out this post by Kary Delaria that includes a list of panel submissions from MN.

Or you can check out this list of panels that have caught our eye as we’ve been browsing and voting over the last couple of weeks. These are all people we don’t know IRL, but whose topics looked interesting to us. And that’s what this is all about! Explore, find new topics and help decide what should — or shouldn’t — be at SXSW!

Project Management for Humans (No Robots Allowed)
Organizer: Brett Harned, Happy Cog
    • What is the most effective way to gather project requirements?
    • What’s better for my project, Agile or Waterfall process?
    • How can I manage the process as it transitions from UX to Design, to Development?
    • How can I effectively communicate with and educate my clients on web development process?
    • How do I deal with all of these personalities and keep my focus on the project itself?

The Emerging Role of Social Media in Education
Organizer: Richard Byrne, Free Technology for Teachers
    • How are teachers using social media to bring global perspectives to their classrooms?
    • What are the obstacles teachers face in trying to use social media in their classrooms?
    • How is social media helping teachers create better learning experiences for their students?
    • How are mobile devices being used to increase student and parent engagement in schools?
    • Why aren’t more schools embracing the use of social media by teachers and students?

No Excuse: Web Designers Who Can’t Code
Organizer: Wilson Miner, Rdio Description
    • Why should designers know how to code their designs?
    • How can designers use code skills in increasingly specialized teams.
    • How can designers develop code understanding if their job doesn’t involve writing code?
    • How can hybrid designers work effectively with other developers?
    • Is there a place for developers with design sense?

Successful People-Based Acquisition: Buying People, Not Code

Organizer:  Bill Boebel, Rackspace Hosting  
    • What made this Webmail.us acquisition by Rackspace special?
    • What made employees and founders want to stay on board?
    • How can this be replicated?
    • What other companies have had success with this method and why?
    • What has not worked for other companies?

Viral Marketing with The Oatmeal

Organizer: Matthew Inman, The Oatmeal
    • How do I come up with creative marketing ideas for a boring product?
    • How do I get people to pay attention to my website?
    • I’ve created some rad content – now how do I get people to read it?
    • What’s a good creative process for brainstorming effective viral ideas?
    • How do I make funny things? How do I make things that resonate with an audience?

Girl Developers++: Getting Women Equipped to Ship
Organizer: Sara Chipps, Girl Developer LLC
    • How can we get more female software developers?
    • Why aren’t women comfortable in traditional educational settings when it comes to technology?
    • How can I start an initiative to educate women in technology in my community?
    • What are some of the roadblocks women run into when learning how to code?
    • As a man, how can I help make women feel more at home in the software community?

Startup Success: Entrepreneurial Women Share the Team-Building Secret
Organizer: Rynda Laurel, ryndalaurel.com
    • What is a successful team, and how do you build one?
    • How to be a team leader, and how to determine what your strengths and weaknesses are so you can partner up with those that compliment you.
    • How to use Marketing, PR, Social Media and Networking to find your team and build communities around your startup.
    • How to look at the big picture and build international teams.
    • How we did it and still encourage others to take the plunge.

Social Marketing Lessons Learned on the Farm
Organizer: Nathan Wright, Lava Row
    • What cultural factors make farmers and rural people “naturals” at building community?
    • What can other businesses learn from the up-and-down commodity markets that drive ag and rural business?
    • How do Dust Bowl and Great Depression memories make for better business decisions?
    • How are smaller ag-related businesses effectively leveraging social media?
    • What makes social marketing a good fit for agriculture-based businesses?

Podcast #22: The Pain of Self Promotion

In podcast #22, we discuss walking the fine line between self promotion and being an annoying blowhard, and how to get over the resistance to self promote.

Podcast Summary

Originally, we sat down to discuss the ins and outs of Interactive Project Management. But, instead, we decided to talk about self promotion. Mainly because we are dealing with our own feelings of uneasiness about promoting a SXSW panel submission.

We discuss questions like:

  • Is this a “girl thing?”
  • How can you promote yourself without being annoying?
  • Do the people you’re connected with online mind if you talk about yourself?
  • Is there a difference between promoting your business and promoting yourself?
  • How do you get a sense of what your “personal brand” is online? Does it match with who you really are?

Things We Referenced

  • Meatspace:an idiom for the “real world”

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Have a topic you’d like us to talk about? Drop us a line at [email protected] or leave us a comment on our Facebook page!