How I use social media
I’m often asked how I have time to use all the services I do such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so forth. I just do – it really doesn’t take up that much of my time, and I find that each of these services provides unique value to me, both professionally and socially. No, this isn’t a “thou shalt” type of article. Rather, it’s a breakdown of how I use the various social media outlets.
I recently did a massive purge of my friends list. I had somewhere around 700 friends, and I sheared that down to a little over 200. I was adding folks without abandon for a while – if I met you once face to face, I clicked the “Accept” when that ever so exciting “New Friend Request” notification fell into my inbox. No more. I’ve sheared it down to people I actually talk to, or talk to me, or somehow interact with my Facebook page. Facebook is where I go to post pictures of myself wearing a fake mustache, or in a giant banana suit trying to negotiate a pose with a guy dressed up as Wolverine, or a video of my rendition of the Whitney Houston classic, “I have nothing.” Facebook is where I go to be stupid. Every once in a while, I’ll receive a business inquiry or friend request from someone I’ve met at a conference or in a professional context online. I’ll promptly decline.
A quick disclaimer: I used to work at LinkedIn. While I was there, I loved working there and I loved the vision of the site. My entire engineering and design team that I worked with has since left, so I can’t attest to how it still is there (though there are still some cool people I know and talk to now and then).
LinkedIn is where I maintain a profile and look folks up several times a week. I used to check LinkedIn on my mobile device once a week at least to look for updates to folks I’ve worked with or had meaningful professional exchanges with, but in recent months the Twitter integration has made it too damned chatty and this feature isn’t useful for me anymore (I’ve expressed how I feel about this in a recent Tweet). For me, LinkedIn is for people search.
Twitter has replaced LinkedIn as my weapon of choice for keeping up with my professional contacts. Nowadays, when I give a presentation or meet someone in the technical field, chances are, they have a Twitter account. I’ll tell them to follow me, and in most cases, I’ll reciprocate. Twitter has the entire ecosystem for me to use my tools on my desktop (Tweetdeck, Seesmic web) and on my mobile device (Tweetie 2 for iPhone, Seesmic for Android) to exchange quick messages and share interesting content. I don’t follow celebrities, and in most cases, I don’t follow my friends since many of them do not use Twitter professionally and cross post to both Facebook and Twitter anyway.
I’ve also met lots of interesting developers via Twitter. I have search columns in Tweetdeck and in my Seesmic Web session for terms I care about: scala, jruby, ruby, python, app engine, java, clojure. When I see someone tweeting interesting content, I will follow them and try to engage them. Most Twitter users are open to meetings at conferences or coffee/beer when they or you come to town. This is an incredibly unique feature of Twitter that allows me to find professionals by what they are currently working on or interested in that I can’t currently get anywhere else. If you work in technology, get on Twitter and start connecting.
I prefer Gowalla to Foursquare in spite of all the hype for the latter. Why? Gowalla has people I actually know adding me. Too many folks on Foursquare are people following me on Twitter that I have never met (very few of the folks I have met on Twitter have added me on Foursquare). There’s an argument here that it helps them find me. I don’t buy it. We’ll meet on terms we agree on, not when you find out I am near you and decide to pop in (the internet is still full of crazies). Gowalla has a nicer app for both iPhone and Android from a visual standpoint and from the fact that they actually figure out in the top three or so results where I am. On Foursquare, the place where I am at is too buried, and if it doesn’t exist, it’s too hard to add it – you have to add an address, city, zipcode, etc. On Gowalla this is a two step process.
So how useful is Gowalla to me? Marginal. If it disappeared tomorrow, nothing would change in my life. This is in stark contrast to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Gowalla’s primary value proposition to me is checking in some place cool and posting quickly to Facebook so my friends can make silly comments.
Disclaimer #2: I work for Google now. We’ve been using Buzz months before it launched internally, and it is super useful to be able to look at all the things members of your team are doing. This is what Yammer has been trying to accomplish. I’ve heard from distributed teams that use Yammer that it facilitates greater teamwork and collaboration. I definitely feel this way about internal Buzz.
The public Buzz is pretty cool, but hasn’t caught on among as many as my friends as I would have liked. I’ve unwired my Twitter connections because I already see them on Twitter. Buzz has a better discussion mechanism than Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter – basically all of those, because it bubbles recently commented items to the top. I use Buzz pretty frequently to discuss local sports and video games with a circle of about ten people. I pity the folks who follow me and don’t care about these topics.
When I first created my Yelp account in 2006 or so, I wrote about 60 reviews in the first week. It was loads of fun to meet other local folks! Nowadays, there are so many reviews that I feel like reviews don’t matter anymore, and I haven’t written in ages. To fill that need, I’ve started guest blogging for The Culture Bite, a food blog run by a friend of mine. I still use Yelp to find reviews for restaurants, though I take them with a grain of salt because folks will downrate a place for different reasons. Some may downrate for mandatory 18% gratuity (lots of places do this, people), loud patrons, a poor parking situation, restricted hours, and so forth. People have different ideas of what should be considered part of the dining experience, and this makes my weight the rating system less.