Why We Overtweet

This morning I’m participating in a panel at SXSW Interactive in Austin called Tweeting on the Weekends. The panelist and audience will attempt to address the idea that our digital worlds are overtaking our physical worlds and perhaps threatening to invade our lives in ways that cause more damage than good.

opensourceway via Flickr

You’ve seen the ads, tweeting at the kids soccer games, having a text conversation with one friend rather than actually talking to the friend you went to lunch to be with.

Frankly, I don’t think it’s that big of an issue, more like a phase that I’m seeing evidence is waning, but I do think there are some interesting dynamics to this dilemma and here’s what I plan to explore with the audience today.

Like swimming in Jell-O

I’ve actually never done this, but I’m guessing a couple of things – it’s one of those things you would do because a bunch of other people were doing it, and if you got lost you might just keep swimming.

The surest way to get drawn into any obsessive or useless behavior is to enter into it or anything around it with no plan. That doesn’t mean you know exactly what you’re going to tweet, but you might have an idea why and an even clearer idea of what you want the sum total of your tweeting to get you.

Yes, this is the strategy before tactics riff from me again, but there’s little sense jumping into any tactic, even the deep end of the Jell-O pool, unless you know how it’s going to integrate into your life or business plan.

I’m more important online

You’ve heard the saying; you can be anyone you want online. While I think that’s true to a degree, if it’s another way of saying you can be someone you’re not, than it’s a recipe for distraction, oversharing and addiction.

That’s part of the appeal of the online world though isn’t it? The halls of the Austin Convention Center are teaming with self-proclaimed geeks, the kind that spent some of their high school years getting stuffed in lockers, now sporting entourages and signing autographs for other social media obsessed wannabes.

I know that comes off a bit harsh, but it’s a well-witnessed phenomenon that’s led to some immature and silly behavior.

Here’s the positive. You can remake your persona online – but rather than make it what you want it to be, make it who you really are – but put emphasis the best you. So many people lose their way and their beliefs because people around them throughout their lives have told them they’re not something they want to be. Shed that part and meet and engage people and causes in ways that make you more you and you’ll probably rethink the silliness of it all.

Fusing two worlds

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last year or so, including a chapter or two in The Referral Engine, talking about this idea of converging your online and offline worlds. When I was researching that book I was profoundly stuck by the correlation between companies that did a great job integrating their offline and online customer experiences and the amount of buzz and referrals they received.

I view my online persona and social media participation as a way to expand my reach and enhance the things I’m already doing, not as separate stream and form of communication.

Multiple context disorder

The area that trips so many up when it comes to overtweeting behavior is that they forget there are no contextual barriers in most social networks. Your boss, your clients, your mom and your employees may all see the same tweet or Facebook status update and are left to interpret it in their own view. (Rumor has it that Google has cooked up a new social network called Circles that is said to address this very flaw.)

When you ponder this idea of digital tactics creeping into your personal life remember this question and use it as your filter – Would I do that offline? See, just because you can do something that’s digitally enabled, doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea. Would you call a prospect at two in the morning? Would you talk about yourself and all the cool things you’ve done with someone you just met at a cocktail party? Would you respond to an RFP with the following – Will get U the preso in AM – LOL? If the answer is no, then there’s your filter.

Focus on the house

Facebook is not the house, Twitter is not the house, your social profiles spread far and wide are not the house.

Your hub, your blog, your web site – that’s the house. Build the house, fix the house, decorate the house and invite the party to the house because it’s the one thing you can own and control. (Unless you live in a country that controls your access to the Internet)

Your activity in social media is all about building a persona/brand that draws people to the house, whether you’re a plumbing contractor, consultant or someone that wants to create a path to a better career.

Build rich and engaging hubs wherever your prospects hang out, but remember your always going home.

That’s it, not that big of a deal really – now, I’m off to tweet what I had for lunch.

Adding Custom Content to New Facebook Pages

As we widely reported here and around the web, the new Facebook Page update also came with the announcement that Facebook would no longer support the Static FBML app that so many folks are using to create and display custom tabs and content. In fact, Facebook claims that March 10th is the last day you can install the FBML app. (According to Facebook this will not impact content created using the app prior to March 10)

Since this announcement app makers have been scrambling to come up with solutions for the new iframe driven custom tabs that Facebook is now moving to. There are some promising looking entries including those from Wildfire and GroSocial.

My favorite solution to date, however is a very simple app called Static HTML: iframe tabs developed by Jason Padvorac.

Here’s what I like about it. While many other tools will get the job done, they come with either a price tag or a heavy templated feel. Static HTML jumps in right where Static FBML left off in that it allows you to install an app in seconds (taking care of all the iframe part) and then you can add your own HTML as you please.

Static HTML

Paste HTML code and you're done

This app won’t be for people that have no ability to code a little HTML, but what the heck, pay a designer to create your own custom pages and give your code. I think you’ll be still be miles ahead in terms of customization. A lot of WordPress bloggers have also figured out that they can create basic HTML using the posting screen.

You can return to the app and install additional copies to create additional tabs.

My Trend Radar Points Here

I get inspiration and information by reading blogs daily. (Here’s how and why) I also scan social bookmark sites like delicious and Mixx, monitor my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn communities and subscribe to newsletters like the SmartBrief series or run by AllTop. This routine of content consumption takes up a part of each day and feeds me with a great deal of the ideas and information that I in turn share with my readers.

But, about once a month, I take a step back and dig into a different set of online publications that are more focused on larger, more global issues and trends. I believe consuming this information in conjunction with my daily routine is what allows me to see the proverbial forest for the trees.

When you keep you head down and play in the same sandbox day in and day out you can come to believe that all the people talking to each other all day long have all the answers and that’s a recipe for getting left behind.

Below are the publications that I make a habit of including as a monthly supplement to my reading and content consumption. (Of course I’m always reading about three books at any given time as well – right now enjoying a prepub copy of Tim Sanders new book)

  • Score Card from SurePayroll – nationally recognized economic indicator that tracks the health of the U.S. small business economy.
  • trendRoll – a directory of blog dedicated to trends as aggregated by the folks at TrendSpotting
  • Marketing Experiments – a research lab that runs tests to discover what really works in optimization and then shares the results
  • TrendHunter – is the largest, most updated collection of cutting edge ideas, crowdsourced by thousands of Trend Hunters
  • Econsultantcy – puts out very comprehensive reports on current research and trends – this one requires a paid membership, but it’s worth it.

How about you, what extra research have you found?

WordPress 3.1 Is Big Leap Into CMS

Regular readers to this blog know that I’m a WordPress fan. You may have noticed that I updated the look of the blog with a new theme. At that time I also converted the entire site to WordPress – a feat that I think shows off the power and flexibility of this publishing tool to be a singular content management tool for small business.

The most recent update to WordPress includes some significant feature upgrades and in my opinion moves the tool even farther into the ability to serve as the tool of choice for any web site.

Key feature additions include:

Quick overview of the Internal Linking function

Internal link – This has to be my favorite new feature and reason enough to upgrade if you’re stalling. A very common practice in blogging is to link to other relevant content from past blog posts. In the past this was accomplished by finding the other post and copying the URL to embed in a link. No big deal unless you’ve got over 2,000 posts. Now, when you are editing a post (only when using the visual editor :( ) you have the ability add a link from any page or blog post, including searching through all posts, right from the link editing tool.

Post formats – The new style of WordPress theme takes advantage of multiple page templates in order to accomplish things like I’ve done on thhis site (my home page is a WordPress page template using the Builder Theme from iThemes) With the advancement of WordPress 3.1 comes something called Post Formats. Post Formats allow theme designers to create multiple views of blog post so that sites can have different post layouts inside the same theme for different content.

Theme designers now have the ability to create post formats that include:

  • Aside – Typically short pieces of content, published without a title.
  • Image Gallery – A collection of pictures in a gallery format.
  • Link – A single link.
  • Image – A single image.
  • Quote – An inspirational or noteworthy quote with a citation.
  • Status – Status updates, similar to Facebook and Twitter updates.
  • Video – A single video.
  • Audio – A single audio clip, like a song or a podcast.
  • Chat – An instant message transcript.

The ability to create custom post formats (post types) has been around for some time, but now designers have an ordained set of format names that will allow for standardization across themes. For a tutorial on how to get started with Post Formats visit this Wordcast Tutorial:Add Tumblr Style Features To Your Blog with WordPress 3.1

You might also want to check out this online seminar from my friends at iThemes – WordPress Advanced Custom Post Formats – Wed March 2nd 11 am CT

Admin bar – Next up is a new editing bar that appears above posts for admins when viewing live content. The idea behind this feature is that it offers easy editing and navigation directly from any blog page. I kind of like this as I tend to edit some things this way, but a lot of admins are complaining that it’s in the way and needlessly adds more clutter. (Top nav bars like the Hello Bar are getting popular as well and this may cause some conflicts with these kinds of scripts.) The top nav is turned on by default, but you can switch it off by visiting your account settings.

This nav bar appears by default for admins