Tag Archive for 'twitter'

Hacking RSS: Filtering & Processing Obscene Amounts of Information at SXSW

My SXSW session this year, Hacking RSS: Filtering & Processing Obscene Amounts of Information, is at the coveted 9:30 am session time on the final day of SXSW, so I thought that it might be a good idea to outline the presentation here in the hopes that I can entice a few people  to drag themselves out of bed early to attend.

Presentation

You can listen to the audio of my presentation.

Description

Information overload is less about having too much information and more about not having the right tools and techniques to filter and process information to find the pieces that are most relevant for you. This presentation will focus on showing you a variety of tips and techniques to get you started down the path of looking at RSS feeds in a completely different light. The default RSS feeds generated by your favorite blog or website are just a starting point waiting to be hacked and manipulated to serve your needs. Most people read RSS feeds, but few people take the time to go one step further to hack on those RSS feeds to find only the most interesting posts. I combine tools like Yahoo Pipes, BackTweets, PostRank and more with some simple API calls to be able to find what I need while automatically discarding the rest. You start with one or more RSS feeds and then feed those results into other services to gather more information that can be used to further filter or process the results. This process is easier than it sounds once you learn a few simple tools and techniques, and no “real” programming experience is required to get started. This session will show you some tips and tricks to get you started down the path of hacking your RSS feeds.

A few specific topics

Logistics

  • Tuesday March 15 at 9:30AM
  • Venue: Austin Convention Center Ballroom C
  • Tag: #hackingRSS

UPDATED to add embedded slides on 3/15/2011 and add audio link on 3/23/2011.

Community Manager Tip: Always be Professional

The good community managers can maintain professional communications when faced with the most belligerent trolls on the internet without letting themselves be goaded into unprofessional behavior. As a community manager, you are often the face of your company to the outside world and everything you do in the community reflects on the organization that you represent. If your interactions are unprofessional, the company looks unprofessional, not just in front of current and potential customers, but also potentially the media and industry analysts. Staying professional at all times can be harder than it sounds, especially when someone catches you on a really bad day or when you are being bombarded by negative comments. The Earth Class Mail example in the image below provides an example of what can go wrong.

Here are a few tips to help you stay professional.

  • Don’t be afraid to wait and see if other community members chime in with a positive response. A post coming from the organization might sound defensive when the same information would be seen more positively coming from a neutral third party.
  • Don’t post angry. If you start to feel really angry, step back and stop interacting with the public until you cool off. Go for a walk or catch up on some work that can be done without talking to anyone else.
  • Take a really hard look at what you plan to say. Can it be misinterpreted? Would you want to read a quote of that post on the front page of the newspaper? Would you be embarrassed if your mom or your boss read it? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, throw it away and start over.

Additional Reading

Part of a series of community manager tips blog posts.

The Right Mix: Listening and Creating Content

Whether you are managing an online community or a social media program for your organization, having the right mix of listening and creating content is important. Without listening to feedback, you are just creating content in a vacuum without gaining any insights from other people. If you just listen and create nothing, you are all but invisible and aren’t contributing anything to the discussion or even acknowledging that you are listening. The right balance differs for each organization, and it will probably take some time to find the right balance for you and your organization.

Last week, I spoke on this topic as part of a panel session at the Portland Tech America Social Networks & the Enterprise Unite event. I used one slide to summarize my ideas, but I wanted to go into a little more depth here about the topic.

Listening and Creating Content

Listen First

Social media and online communities are all about the people, and people have conversations. They don’t share marketing messages. This means that people from traditional marketing backgrounds need to think a little differently about how they participate in communities by shifting the focus to conversations, and that initial focus should be much more heavily weighted to listening, rather than talking.

Spend some time initially focusing on learning what people are saying about you, your organization, your industry and your competition. By paying attention to these conversations, you can learn so many unexpected ideas.

  • People are probably using your products or services in new and innovative ways that you never intended.
  • People are sharing interesting new ideas about your industry that you can use to improve your personal knowledge or improve some aspect of your organization.
  • Your competition is probably sharing something that you want to know, and it can be worth the effort to see what individual employees at your competitors are saying online.

Listening Tools

One of the big questions is how to set up the right listening posts and filter the information down to something manageable that you can make sense of and process. The tools to monitor conversations range from free to fairly pricey depending on your situation.

  • Free and Easy: I recommend that you start with some free tools that require very little expertise to get a better feel for what you want to monitor. Use TweetDeck or a similar application for realtime monitoring of Twitter, and keep this even if you move to a more robust monitoring solution, since most of the existing solutions don’t do a great job of realtime monitoring. Start with some Twitter searches using advanced operators and set up some Google alerts or Google news / blog searches with RSS feeds. All of this will give you a better feel for the volume of results and some ideas for what you need to filter out of your standard keyword searches. For smaller companies, you might find that this is all you ever need.
  • Free with Knowledge Required:  There are also plenty of free tools or do it yourself approaches that are still free, but they require some time to set up and some specialized knowledge to use. My favorite DIY tool is Yahoo Pipes. If you know how to use it, you can do more advance filtering than you can with the large expensive packages. This requires some time and a bigger learning curve; however, the biggest downside to most of these DIY approaches is that they don’t do a good job of counting results, looking at trends over time or providing pretty charts for your management staff.
  • Paid Tools: The real benefit of these tools is that they are relatively easy to use, they do a good job of counting and charting mentions over time, and many of them provide additional workflow tools to help you manage responses. I have the most experience using Radian6, but there are many other available options. The cost can be worth it for many companies who have complex filtering needs, large volumes of responses, or who want something easy to use.

As a side note, I use Radian6 for monitoring some large volume projects, but I also use TweetDeck for realtime monitoring, and I use Yahoo Pipes to fill in the gaps for specialty monitoring needs. I also have large numbers of RSS feeds that I read regularly.

All of this information can also used as ideas for content, and to be more responsive to your customers or other people who have questions about your organization. You can answer questions or join those conversations, which brings us into creating content.

Creating Content

Creating content in online communities and social media should be so much more than just company messages and press releases. This is an opportunity to show how much your employees know and give them place to showcase their industry expertise where they can talk about industry trends, experiences, ideas and the topics they are passionate about. Writing this type of thought leadership content gets the attention of other people within your industry who link to your content and bring in additional potential customers, which can help improve search engine optimization over the longer term.

Much of this content will probably take the form of blog posts, and it can be daunting for people to have to come up with great content on a regular basis. This is why I recommend that organizations have group blogs where several people with different perspectives all contribute to make sure that one person isn’t bearing the whole load. There are also some tips and tricks for coming up with ideas for blog posts that include writing short posts, reusing other content, reacting to what others are saying, using research, doing interviews, and more.

One of the biggest ways to make sure your content makes an impact is to make it personal. Talk about how you or your job has been impacted by a particular trend or idea. The reality is that people will be reading and responding to whatever you write, and people react more forcefully when they see some kind of personal connection. You want to sound like a real person with thoughts and ideas, and not like a corporate drone.

Getting Started

After the talk someone asked me how she would know when she has done enough listening that she should start to participate and create content. You’ll know when you are ready because you’ll start to feel comfortable listening. You’ll know the language and abbreviations being used and will be eager to jump in. I recommend that you start small and participate gently at first. Start with one forum or one tool (like Twitter), and don’t do too much at first. Follow a couple of people (not hundreds or thousands) and start participating a little. After you really get started, then you’ll need to continue to find the right balance between listening and creating and make sure that you remember to continue to do both.

I did a longer presentation with similar content at WebVisions last year, so you might also find this presentation interesting if you want a little more information.

It's Official, Twitter is Everywhere

tweetmeIf you thought that you could escape Twitter just by staying offline, you were wrong. With the appearance of the phrase “tweet me” appearing in boxes of Sweethearts candy, Twitter is now just about everywhere.

According to USA Today, your chances of getting a “tweet me” heart are about 1 in 80. When I initially read the headline, I assumed it came out of some special promotional arrangement between the two companies, but I was surprised to learn that it was the top choice in an online survey of consumers followed by “text me” and “love bug”. Well, I guess it beats “fax me” and “bite me”, which were previously used phrases. :)

Demystifying Social Media Tools and Techniques

On Tuesday, I gave a presentation about Demystifying Social Media Tools and Techniques for the PDXTech4Good group organized as part of NTEN’s 501 Tech Club, so the presentation was targeted to nonprofit organizations. It was about a 30 to 40 minute presentation followed by 2 breakouts:

  • Learn more about the tools (Twitter, etc.) with Crystal Beasley
  • Monitoring social media sites with Dawn Foster

Here are the slides from the first part of the presentation, and you can download the full size version from SlideShare if you want a better copy than the version embedded below.

View more documents from Dawn Foster.

Monitoring Breakout Section

In the monitoring section, I shared some of my favorite tools.

Keeping up with industry news:

  • Find any good RSS reader and populate it with the top blogs from your industry. Netvibes and Google Reader are good choices.

Real time Twitter monitoring:

Find shortened links to your websites when posted on Twitter:

Advanced monitoring on the cheap:

  • Yahoo Pipes: More involved tool, but you can do some very advanced monitoring. I have a bunch of video and written tutorials for getting started with Yahoo Pipes.

Fall Sale: Companies and Communities Book Discount

In celebration of the beginning of fall, I wanted to offer you a discount on my book, Companies and Communities: Participating without being sleazy.

For the next week, you can get the paperback version of the book for $12.99, which is $3.00 off the regular price of $15.99 by using the discount code QYW8QS6W and purchasing it directly from the publisher. This deal will end on October 6, 2009.

As always, you can still get the PDF version of the book for only $9.99 if you prefer to have a searchable copy that you can carry around on your computer.

Companies and Communities: Participating without being sleazy is focused on helping your company get real business value out of participating in online communities and social media. This 85 page eBook or 130 page book contains practical advice and suggestions for how companies can engage with online communities and social media sites. You can download an excerpt of the book or learn more about it before you decide to buy a copy.

Online Community Research and Social Media Planning

As I work with clients to build online communities, I find that external community sites like Twitter and Facebook are becoming an increasingly important part of the overall online community strategy. As a result, I was excited to read the results of Bill Johnston’s recent Online Community Research Network study on this topic. The study looked at how organizations are incorpating external communities and social media sites in their online strategies. Bill posted more information about the results in his post, but here are a few of the highlights.

Twitter and Facebook are the highest priority external community sites for most organizations followed by LinkedIn. This is consistent with what I have been hearing from clients. My clients also tend to ask about YouTube and occasionally MySpace.
social_media_sites
Each organization’s business goals for using external community sites are slightly different, but some of the most important goals included:

  • Educate and inform
  • Peer-to-peer evangelism
  • Retain customers / loyalty

The most surprising part of this research is the number of people who don’t think they need a plan for these efforts. I disagree.

soc_media_strategy

It’s important to approach your external community efforts (including social media) with clear goals and some thought (i.e. plans) for how you want to approach each site and how everything fits together. The plan should include objectives along with roles and responsibilities that clearly outline who will update each site, how often, and with what content. Without good planning, your corporate presence is likely to look either disorganized and scattered or abandoned and barren.

I think this helps highlight the difference between knowing how to use communities and social media for personal pursuits and knowing how to engage in them to meet the specific objectives of an organization. I don’t have a plan for how I use social media in my personal life, but I do work with clients to help them put together strategies, plans and content roadmaps for using external online community sites. If you don’t already have a plan for your external online community engagement, you should find someone (internal or external) who has experience building corporate online community strategies and plans to help you get organized. You don’t need to spend months on the plan, and it doesn’t need to be a 100 page document, but you should have some kind of written plan.

Does your organization have a plan for your external community efforts?

Twitter 101 for Business

Twitter recently posted a Twitter 101 guide for businesses. It is a great resource for companies considering using Twitter or who are just starting to use the service. Historically, Twitter’s documentation has been pretty weak, and I was a little skeptical, but this resource is very well put together. It does a nice job of highlighting what to do and not do with a strong focus on the social norms and user expectations on Twitter. I want to highlight a few specific sections, but you really should take some time to review the guide for more details.

The first three sections are targeted at people who have never used Twitter and really don’t understand how it works. If you’ve been using Twitter already, you can safely skip the What is Twitter, Getting started, and Learn the lingo sections. However, if you are working with people who are new to Twitter, this would be great background reading for them.

The Best practices section is where the social norms and user expectations are covered along with some ideas for measuring the impact of Twitter. While this is all very basic introductory information, I encourage you to read it. It contains useful information to help you understand how to make better use of the service without running afoul of the Twitter spam policies or violating their terms of service.

The Case studies section is the best part of the guide. It has the usual suspects, Dell and JetBlue, but it also has several less well known examples. They do a really nice job of covering many different types of businesses and different use cases. People always ask me for case studies for business users, and I can always cobble something together, but this is the most comprehensive set of case studies that I’ve seen for Twitter.

The guide also has a link to other resources with books and articles about using Twitter. I also wrote short guide about using Twitter for brands or corporate identities that you might find useful.

Overall, Twitter 101 for Business is very well done and is a great resource for organizations just jumping into Twitter for the first time. Having all of this information in one place is going to save me time when working with clients who are new to Twitter.

Your Twitter Followers Are Smarter Than You Are

Mack Collier wrote an interesting post recently with five reasons why no one likes you on Twitter. If you use Twitter, especially on behalf of a company, you should read his post along with the post that I wrote about using Twitter for brands. Both have quite a few tips for what to do and what not to do on Twitter. I read Mack’s post this morning, and one particular idea really resonated with me after an experience that I had last night on Twitter. Mack said that on Twitter “the people that are following you, are smarter (as a group), than you are.”

I’ve known this to be true before last night. I’ve received all kinds of great information, links, recommendations, and more from people on Twitter over the past few years. However, last night is a great example of how incredibly smart and interesting my Twitter followers are as a group and as individuals.

Yesterday afternoon right before a trip to Powell’s Books, I realized that I had lost my to-read list of science fiction books. I remember putting the list together right after a Beer and Blog discussion with Craig and Amber who made several great recommendations. I even remember adding a few more books to the list based on suggestions from other friends. I suspect that I stored the list in some service in the cloud that I no longer use or maybe doesn’t even exist anymore, and no amount of digging could uncover my lost list of books. Sigh.

Since I needed to compile a new list, I put the request on Twitter to help me get started.

SciFi Tweet

I also provided people with a link to the list of books that I have been reading recently (over the past couple of years) to give people a sense of what I might like. I was looking specifically for science fiction books. I also read quite a few business and technology books, but from my desk, I can see a couple of stacks of books (20+) that I already need to read, so no shortage of ideas in those categories.

I started the list with a few authors that I have already been reading, but haven’t finished reading enough of their work, and by the time I got back to Twitter, the storm of recommendations had started. New recommendations have still been trickling in today, too. The end result was dozens of recommendations for books that look exactly like the type of thing that I enjoy reading. I spent a huge chunk of the evening reading about the books and authors being recommended as they came in through Twitter. If you are interested in the list of recommendations, I have added it to my reading page here on the blog. I’m starting with Cryptonomicon, since Neal Stephenson had the highest the number of recommendations of any author and Todd already owns the book, so it was a convenient place to start.

Let’s get back to Twitter for a minute. Twitter is a give and take relationship. I suspect that I got this overwhelming response for a few reasons: 1) many of my friends are science fiction geeks, so the topic resonates with people; 2) I try to provide recommendations to these same people whenever I can; and 3) I was providing credit and thanking people for their suggestions (I probably missed a few, but I tried to catch everyone). Twitter is a great place for these types of experiences, but you have to be willing to give back and help others when they need it, too.

The moral of the story? Yes, my Twitter followers are smarter than I am.

UPDATE 7/22: Corrected a typo in a name. Sorry, Mack :)

Demystifying Social Media Tools and Techniques

I was in Eugene today to talk to the Willamette Valley AMA about social media. The presentation was similar to the one that I gave earlier this year at WebVisions, but with a few more details on how to use some of the various tools. Here are the topics that I covered and a copy of my slides.

  • Guiding Principles & Strategy for Participation
  • Social Media Activities / Tools
    • Twitter
    • Facebook
    • LinkedIn
    • FriendFeed
    • Blogging
  • Monitoring
    • RSS
    • Monitoring Twitter
    • Yahoo Pipes
  • Managing your social media efforts

Contact me if you would like to have me train your company on online communities or social media.

Related Fast Wonder blog posts: