Category Archives: Social Networking

Sharpening the Saw: Organizing My Social Media House

Ducks in a rowAt the beginning of the year, I’d made a commitment to learn 10 new tools and blog my findings. A quick review of this blog shows that I didn’t meet that goal.

To this, I’ll swiftly blame a busy schedule. There’s the family (of course), and work (don’t get me started), and the internet with all its shiny baubles.

But there’s also this: it’s challenging to learn a new tool well. Take, for example, my Google Hangouts post. It indicates that I’ve learned how to use the tool. But have I adopted it as a tool in my personal learning network?  Have I used it to support any of my training sessions? No.
And as I checked Jane Hart’s list of tools, I realized that there are quite a few on that list that I use poorly.  I have a Twitter account(#1 tool for learning, according to Jane Hart). I subscribed to blog feeds via Outlook once upon a time, and switched to Google Reader when I realized I could access the feeds on my more convenient mobile devices, then switched over to Feedly(#19) out of necessity. And I’m on Facebook(#9), and Google+(#10), and Tumblr(#65), and*… I think I once had a Diigo(#21) account, or a, or both. I was basically subscribing to information overload, and thus ensuring I paid little attention to any of my feeds.

So the latter half of the year I’ve focused on consolidation and organization.

I once believed that I needed multiple accounts for most of my information services: one for “business,” one for “personal” pursuits. With the advanced search algorithms available in email, and the prevalent use of hashtags, and other advances in the tools we use, no more. So I’ve consolidated:

  • I’m directing all correspondence to one email account;
  • I’ve transferred all those folks I follow into one Twitter account (I once managed (poorly) three of them);
  • I’ve given up on the news aggregator accounts altogether.
  • I’ve mothballed my personal blog; my whimsical posts on Facebook fulfill that need to boast about my kids to family and friends.
  • I have done away with about 7/8 of my e-newsletter subscriptions. Goes a long way to reducing my Inbox clutter.

I’m not doing away with my information feed.  Rather, I’m working to refine my personal learning network so I can get to this information readily.  All that talk about mobile learning? The way I see it, it’s really key for informal learning.

For most of those e-newsletters I’d unsubscribed from, I’ve been able to add them to a blog feed. Of the rest, many of these topics get repeated in my Twitter feed, or Google +. And if not, well, I’ve learned that I don’t need to read everything that crosses my path. I’ve done fine. I’ll do fine.

My primary source for articles to read will be Feedly, which I’ve sorted into lists: Training, Work Related, Corporate News, etc.  My other feeds, such as Google +, will probably fall into dis-use (although that’s a tough call as I’ve found some fairly intelligent discussions there), and I’ll sign into Twitter rarely — to join one of the Twitchats I appreciate, for example.

Future Considerations:
Most of these decisions are about time and mental bandwidth.  I have so little of each.  But again, it comes down to learning the tools. Each social media account I’ve opened, I’d done so because I’d gotten caught up in the press. But I’d never tapped into their potential.

One of the tools whose potential I should harness is LinkedIn.  These posts feed there automatically, but LinkedIn is about managing your professional presence, and a wayward post or two a quarter doesn’t do it. It’s likely that I’ll be more participative in some LinkedIn groups in the coming year.

For the other tools, I’ll need to ensure they align with what I’m trying to accomplish. Twitter is a perfect example. Most of the people I follow primarily post links to articles that they believe are interesting. Well, I’ve already subscribed to feeds of articles I believe should interest me. Which do I spend my time on? I may benefit from honing the people I follow in Twitter. I may benefit from better application of lists. I may do just as well to chuck Twitter altogether, and focus on the lengthier discussions available in Google +.

At the end of the year, I find that I appreciate Jane Hart’s challenge. It showed where my personal learning gaps were — not with new tools, but with the resources I’d already signed up for.


* and there was Plaxo, and Ning, and Posterous, SlideShare, ScoopIt, Yammer, Klout…

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Enhance Virtual Training Engagement With Hashtags

“Oh, my goodness, I think there’s a chat box blowout going on here!”


Image from, #hashtagyourlife

I can hear David H. through the thin walls of our offices, and can’t help but smile. Just a few weeks earlier, he’d shared with a group of Total Trainer participants a technique for engaging his virtual audience that he just stumbled upon one day – hashtags.

A hashtag is a word or phrase, preceded by the “#” symbol, used to “tag” a longer comment – a form of metadata. It was popularized in Twitter to help users of that social media tool to search for comments by a specific topic. #learning, for example. Or #FF.

“I was watching the chat during one of my webinars and noticed that a lot of folks were talking about the same topic,” David shared. “So I said: ‘Looks like there’s a topic trending in the chat box.’ and typed #listen (that was the trending topic). And the chat box just blew up.” He splayed his hands out to illustrate.  “I thought that was pretty cool, so I tried it again.”

Now, the #chatboxblowout, as David calls the practice, is a standard facilitation technique for his webinars.

Sometimes David will comment: “I see a topic trending in the chat box…” and participants will start adding hashtags to their comments.  Sometimes the participants – particularly the Millenials – will add hashtags without any prompting. Either way, adding hashtags to the chat spurs conversation and engagement with the majority of those on the call.

An added benefit:  just as hashtags were created as a grouping/search tool in Twitter, so can David search for content in his webinar chat, by topic, should he later want to refer to a specific comment someone had made.  Being able to recognize a participant’s comments as relevant to a subsequent topic can boost morale as well as engagement, indicating to the learners that the facilitator is actually paying attention to their contributions, and prompting more meaningful dialogue.

Back in today’s training session, David is narrating the comments that are filling up his chatbox with the fervor of a soccer announcer. There’s no denying that a simple “#” has provided a great deal of excitement in his classes.  #somethingtoconsider

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Circles vs. Lists – A Few Thoughts on Google+

KTLA Channel 5 aired a story today about Google+, asking if the world needs another social network.  A fair question. They also recommended giving Google+ a try, because it allows you to group your friends into circles and share your information specifically with the people in those circles.
Whenever I hear this, I tend to sigh and say: “You can already do that in Facebook!” using lists.  It’s true.  Basically, Google+ centralizes many of Facebook’s features into one location, and puts a pretty bow on it.

If you haven’t already gotten tired of reading one’s opinion about Google+, allow me to explain.

When we first started using Facebook, we needed to know who our friends were, to request to be their friend online, and to wait for that request.  This implies that we know everyone we’re friends with on Facebook and places some restrictions on who sees what, limiting our social interaction to those folks we know, not necessarily those folks we’d like to know.

For example, on Twitter I can follow anyone I want, like @rainnwilson.  He’s a funny guy, but he doesn’t need to be my friend on Twitter in order for me to appreciate his pithy wit.  Which is good for Rainn, because he’s got a job of his own, and co-creator of Soul Pancake, and likely doesn’t have any sort of time for the masses of followers retweeting him like word paparrazzi.

Facebook allows similar one-sided interaction between person and audience using Facebook Pages, without limiting folks to 140 characters. So anyone who “Likes” Rainn’s Page is able to see a different set of content — videos, article links — without having to personally know the guy.

That’s Google+.  A Facebook Fan Page that incorporates features of a Facebook Personal Page to have a conversation with your “fans” when you want to, and to limit what you say to them when you don’t.

Google+ claims that this is due to its inclusive nature. You INCLUDE your family and friends when you want to. You tailor your posts to what you know they’re interested in.  And you could do that in Facebook, too.

For instance, during those dark times of my life when I was addicted to Farmville, none of my Facebook friends knew because I made sure the innumerable Farmville posts I needed to send out only went to those on my Farmville list.  Those on my Farmville list were also likely in my Acquaintances list, and so were excluded from my normal Facebook posts by default. Which was handy if I was posting a quick thought from a mobile app.

So: going back to KTLA’s story: Does the world need another social network?  I’d say no, but I’m not saying that Google+ shouldn’t have a chance.  I like Facebook for the control it gives me. It’s not pretty, but it’s functional.  I like Twitter for the people who compose their posts like artists, and for the “right-thereness” of the information.  I don’t think that Google+ will replace those networks based upon the fact that it uses circles to group one’s connections.

Rather, I want to explore Hangouts, which appears to be a Google version of the Tweetup, with video capacity. Similary, I think Huddle, the group chat, would be neat.  These opportunities to interface with more than one person within the Google+ network holds more promise to me than the initial hype. I’m hoping that once more of my friends are able to join this network(and as Google’s developers make a few tweaks here and there), Google+ will have more relevance for me. Otherwise, I’ll likely use it as frequently as Google Buzz, which I remember to check once in a blue moon.

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