Category Archives: Twitter

Google Isn’t Worried

The success of Google+ will be one part Google genius and one part competitor shortcomings. 

FACEBOOK – The One Trick Pony 

Facebook is the most pervasive social network to date because it changed how we connect with each other in a way we never could have imagined.  I look at my Facebook Page and it’s like a time capsule of my life and relationships.

Unfortunately, Facebook does not give us much control over the content we consume.  The famous Facebook algorithm determines what posts are interesting to us.  Then there are a few simplistic ways to tailor our feed.  We can select people as “Close Friends” or decide on a friend-by-friend basis whether we want to view all, some, or just important posts.

Facebook hasn’t realized that we’re not always in the mood to read the same types of things.  Personally, I like to read news and tech articles in the morning.  By the afternoon, I’m in more of a Bravo TV and People magazine sort of mood – with a sprinkling of friends and family throughout the day.  The bottom line is that I love to research new social media trends, but not at the same time that I’m stewing over how stupid the Kardashians are.

Our Facebook news feed preferences are pretty static.  Facebook figures if you like to read the news in the morning, then you better like reading it in the afternoon too.

Google+ Circles gain an edge in this arena.  They let you filter your feed so whether you’re in the mood for Social Media, Technology, or trashy celeb gossip, you can switch from one to the other fit your mood.

TWITTER: A Disorganized Mess of Incredible Information

Twitter fanatics will crucify me for saying this… but Twitter is a mess.   It suffers from severe disorganization and Google+ is capitalizing on it.  Half my Twitter feed is filled with people’s comments to each other.  They’re out of context unless I click on the post to explore further and let’s face it… 9 times out of 10 I just don’t care.  I don’t want to see people’s comments unless it’s organized as a thread under a post that I find particularly interesting.

Twitter is one big guessing game (which to me, can often be a timewaster).  There are no thumbnails or article descriptions.  I can’t see photos unless I click on the link and my only clue as to whether I’ll like an article is the 140 character hook posted with it.  Don’t get me wrong.  I do find a lot of interesting stuff on Twitter, but sometimes I have to wade through a fair share of garbage to find it.

Google+ understands that we are visual people.  I want to see an image and an article blurb before clicking on a post.  I want the comments and responses to be organized in a thread below so I know if I’m adding to the conversation or just repeating something that’s already been posted.

The great thing about Twitter is that it’s so public.  The awful thing about Twitter is that it’s so public.  Twitter is an amazing resource because you can follow so many different people with so many different interests without having to be friends.  This makes for an amazing resource, but it also might limit what you want to share.

A few months ago I found myself interviewing for a new job.  I had to fight the urge to retweet Howard Stern or reply to anything that could appear unprofessional to a potential employer.  With Google+ Circles I can post publicly the topics that I want to discuss with the world and more privately on ones that are just guilty pleasures.

Google Genius

While Google+ Circles are the answer to most of Facebook and Twitter’s shortcomings, Google’s genius makes G+ a force to be reckoned with.  G+ offers the most control along with the most intuitiveness of any network available.  Plus, Google is standing behind its commitment to integrate the tools so they can all be accessed in one place.

Google+ is becoming more and more integrated with Gmail.  Whenever you receive a G+ notification, you can intiate hangouts from chats and comment and +1 posts from your email.

Google Local is now officially a G+ feature so while you’re sharing funny cat videos with your friends, you can easily look up reviews for local pet stores.

If you own an Android phone, you can allow your photos to be automatically uploaded to the site (a huge timesaver) and then edit them right in Google+.  Hangouts are better than Skype because you can involve multiple people and share your screen all while wearing a pirate hat and… it’s all free.

Events are far more organized and easier follow with than a Twitter.  Plus they can support tons of photos.  Just check out this transcript from a weekly #GardenChat on Twitter and try to make sense of it.  Then compare it to a Google+ fruit tasting event at Andy’s Orchard.

It’s only fair to compare G+ to its social network competitors.  But while G+ has improved upon a lot of it’s competition’s shortcomings, it’s important to see that Google comes to the table with a lot of innovation that the other networks had never considered or attempted.  Say what you will about the Google+ following, their organic growth will continue to build and integrate into the tools we already use every day.  It won’t happen overnight, but it’s bound to come. 

Afterall, it’s Google.  What’s the rush?

This blog is part of a week long Google+ series.  To read more about G+, choose any of the blogs below:

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Your Business Needs a Twitter Page When…

Twitter has been making headlines lately for breaking news stories and celebrity feuds, but businesses are still unclear on how it might fit into their online strategy.  Twitter can be a powerful tool for marketing, customer service, and industry research.  Here are 5 reasons Twitter might be a good fit for your business:

1. You want more people to visit your website
Your Twitter bio is a perfect place to add a link to your website.  Anyone who’s intrigued by your tweets can easily click the link to learn more about you.  Not a bad way to drive more traffic to your site.  If SEO is important to you, consider adding your Twitter feed to your website.  Search engines love sites that update their content regularly.  A Twitter feed is one way to do that.  As you regularly tweet, using keywords from your industry, you’ll simultaneously be refreshing your site with the keywords that people will use to search for your business.

2. You want to attract a larger market
Whether you sell your products and services locally or worldwide, Twitter amplifies your reach.  You can even narrow down your search geographically to find people talking about your industry nearby.  For example, a CPA could specifically search people using the keyword “taxes” within a 15 mile radius of where their office is located.

Of course, it never hurts to build widespread brand recognition.  This is fantastic for businesses who sell their products online, but also beneficial to businesses that are locally driven.  It’s no secret that online reviews can make or break a business.  Each person that you connect with on Twitter is a potential brand advocate.  Even if they don’t live close enough to become a customer, they can post wonderful things about your customer service or your level of expertise on your Social Media Pages and even online review sites.

3. Customer service is important to you
Consumers love using Social Media to talk to businesses directly when they have questions.  They are likely to tweet you with questions about your products or services because it’s easier than dealing with automated customer service phone lines.  Twitter also makes it easy to know when people are talking about your business specifically.  What a great opportunity to target and interact with people who are mentioning your brand.  You can thank people for kind words and address any bad reviews.

4. You want to be a leader in your industry
Tweet about what you know best!  People will follow you because you are an interesting resource for the topics relevant to your business.  Using hashtags and keywords, you can start or join conversations about the topics most relevant to your business.  You can even use Twitter to search specifically for questions about the topics you know the most about.  Imagine introducing people to your brand by answering their questions about your industry.

5. You want to learn more about your industry
Using hashtags and keywords, you can find tweets about the topics that are relevant to your business, ask for advice, and exchange tips with other tweeters who are knowledgeable about your industry.  You can learn what’s happening in your industry from businesses all over the country.  You instantly have access to a far reaching pool of industry leaders who are quick to talk with you about their experiences.  Gain insights into industry trends, pitfalls, and tested advice.

Twitter can be an incredible marketing tool for businesses who understand how to use it to their advantage.  Knowing what Twitter can do for your business is the first step in making it part of your Social Media Marketing strategy.

The Power of Being Nice

There’s nothing better than the Thank You Wave.  You’re stuck in traffic, but you decide to let a car into your lane.  After merging, they raise their hand up to acknowledge what a nice thing you just did.  It doesn’t cost a penny, and yet it doesn’t happen as often as it should.  It’s a simple gesture that can make someone’s day.  Why would the online world be any different?  Whether you’re an individual or a business, taking the time to be the Nice Guy of Social Media can reap big rewards.

Just like in real life, being a Nice Guy costs nothing.  There’s a whole world of online “Nice Guy” currency right at your fingertips.  Here are five ways to be a Social Media Nice Guy, that only take a click… maybe two:

+K: If someone looks up The Social Vista on Klout, they’ll see that we are influential about Social Media (among other things).  By clicking the little +K next to the topic, you let everyone on Twitter know that you also think TSV knows their stuff when it comes to Social Media.  It’s easy, it’s simple, and you can give out five +Ks per day.  But don’t go overboard!  Only give them to people you actually think are deserving or it will just look phony.

Endorse a Feed:  If you’ve spent any time on Empire Avenue, you’re familiar with Eaves (their fake currency).  Using Eaves to buy someone’s stock will certainly boost your nice factor, but you’re overlooking an even easier way to make nice.

Endorse a Feed.  Most users have a blog or RSS feed listed because it ups their stock price.  An endorsement is the equivalent of giving them a thumbs-up and is a simple way to acknowledge others on the network.  Plus, you can endorse an endless number of feeds and blogs without ever running out of Eaves.

Retweet:  When you find interesting things on Twitter (and you WILL find interesting things on Twitter), show a little appreciation.  Every time you hit the Retweet button, you make someone on Twitter very happy.  That one click amplifies the reach of their message and validates that someone out there is reading their posts.

Comment on a blog

There is no greater accolade for a blogger than when you leave a comment.  The Nice Guy button in this scenario is checking that little box that will alert you whenever there is a follow up comment so you can jump back into the conversation.  Talk about getting on someone’s radar.

Like Something:

It seems obvious, but most people will read a Facebook post and either comment or move on.  Liking lets your friends know that you saw what they wrote.  Spread the love around and “Like” interesting comments that follow a post (whether you commented or not).

When it comes to Social Media, Nice Guys get noticed.  It’s like the barista who memorized your order because you ask about her morning while she’s brewing your latte.  It’s no different online.  With every Nice Guy click, you make someone’s day a little better and you make yourself a little more memorable in the process.

Mark My Words. This is where Social Networks are heading – PART 2

Facebook and Twitter were two very different animals… until Google+ hit the scene.   G+ developed their network around the most popular features of Twitter and Facebook and addressed their deficits by creating Circles.  Facebook in turn stole the Circles idea.  Until recently, Social Networks have pretended that there’s no such thing as competition.  But when they roll out features that bear a striking resemblance to their rivals’, it becomes obvious that they’re paying attention.  They try to play it cool, but they are freaking out!  The new competitive pressure being placed on companies like Facebook and Twitter will completely shift the way they operate.

The more that each network resembles the next, the less incentives we have to create multiple profiles and visit each on a regular basis.  Dashboards like TweetDeck, SproutSocial, and Hootsuite allow us to check several profiles in a single place, but somehow lack the same sense of community provided by the networks themselves.  The bottom line is that few users will visit multiple networks every day and dashboards are just not as fun and community centric as the real deal.  So what’s the solution?  Social Networks will become more like dashboards.

I call this Open Architecture – meaning at some point, I will be able to settle on the network that I prefer but still interact with my friends from outside networks.  How is that any different than a phone company?  The plans, phones, and features that distinguish one cell phone company from another are minimal and easily copied – rollover minutes, touch screens, family plans.  Instead they compete on customer service, coverage, and market share to draw in customers.

I have been an ATT customer for almost 15 years (long before there was such thing as an iPhone).  They reward me for calling people within my network but that doesn’t stop me from calling my brother who has Verizon.  We each communicate over the phones and company we like the best, but we don’t all have to be on the same network to do so.

Social Networks will start taking a cue from the phone companies.  Google already allows users to post their G+ stream to Twitter and Facebook – essentially turning those sites into dashboards.  Facebook will fight this with every ounce of their being, and rightfully so.  (After all, they do have the largest market share when it comes to Social Network users.)  But at the end of the day, the Network that becomes the best dashboard, will get the most traffic.  Facebook will have to follow suit just like they did with their reactions to video chat and Circles.

I love competition.  Imagine how hard Networks would fight over you, the user, if you could easily transfer your profile, contacts, and photos to a different network of your choice – just like phone companies let you keep your number when you make a switch and help you transfer your contacts from phone to phone.

As a consumer I don’t want to be taken for granted.  I love seeing Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and imminent newcomers fight over my business.  Competition is a good thing.  The Networks that embrace it will become giants.  The ones that pretend it doesn’t exist will find they have a lot in common with MySpace.

Check out Part 1 of “Mark My Words. This is Where Social Networks are Heading

Image courtesy of http://ow.ly/aukaw 

Mark My Words. This is where Social Networks are heading – PART 1

I just learned that the small town I used to live in will soon have their own Social Network.  This is the type of town where seven degrees of separation should be more like two.  Everyone knows everyone and they’re all up in each other’s business.  I love this town, but when I read this email suggesting how necessary this Network would be … well to be honest… I had a pretty good laugh.  This is the type of town where if you sneeze, 5 minutes later, someone from across town will call you to say God Bless You.

No offense to Small Town, USA but when they start launching their own Social Network, you know the industry is getting saturated.   Just like any other industry this can mean only one thing.  We’re about to see a fundamental shift in the way Social Networks operate.  In addition to the niche networks that are town-specific, occupation-specific, or even beer-specific, the titans of industry are lining up to launch their answers to Facebook and Twitter. 

Only weeks after Google+ invites began hitting our email boxes, Microsoft “accidentally” revealed the home page of their creation, Tulalip.  Even as the tech obsessed debate the staying power of Google+, details are surfacing regarding Twitter cofounders’ next venture, Lift, for people who have potential – unlike the losers on all the other networks (I kid. I kid).  In the next two months, we’ll even see China’s version of Twitter, Sina Weibo, offered in English.

As more Networks come to the table, each struggles to create THE feature that will win over users…  or to STEAL the feature that is getting other networks noticed.  Not surprisingly, Facebook’s new Privacy tool sure looks a lot like Google Circles.  The more Networks try to stand out from one another, the more they resemble each other.  In a strange way, competition is leading to sameness.

People love to debate which Social Network is better?  But at their most basic level, each one is simply some combination of the following: Friends, Followers, Posts, IMs, DMs, media, Circles, Liking, and Checking In.  That’s it.  Each new network claims they’re something special compared to the others, but realistically, they’ve just developed a different combination of the above… or maybe they’ve just applied a tested combination to a different demographic – say Small Town, USA.

Competition is a relatively new concept for companies like Facebook.  I love seeing Networks work a little harder to satisfy users!  It makes companies better.  It makes them work harder to win over consumers and give us the features we crave.  But when competition leads to uniformity, it’s a game changer.  Most people will not regularly check in to three or four big name Social Networks and then throw in a couple Niche networks to cover their home town and their hobbies –especially if they’re the same thing at their core.  So how will this change the entire Social Networking landscape as we know it?

Check back for Part 2 for my prediction.  Then be sure to mention it to your friends so that when it comes to fruition they can call you a genius.

Facebook and Twitter Users Have Been Known to Get Around

Can you imagine Steve Jobs using an Android smartphone?  Me neither.  Betrayed Apple fanatics far and wide would crucify him if their heads didn’t explode at the mere thought of it.  If the concept of Jobs touching a competitor’s product seems so improbable, on what planet does it make sense for Facebook to have a Twitter page and Twitter to have a Facebook page?

As each other’s greatest adversaries, is it a respect thing?  Are their networks so widespread that not having profiles on each other’s networks would be like ignoring each other at a dinner party?  Perhaps they are recognizing each other as worthy competitors, like boxers bumping gloves before a fight.  Of course, after Facebook got busted planting negative Google stories in the press, it seems unlikely that Zuckerberg is all that concerned with propriety.

What’s so interesting about Twitter’s site on Facebook and Facebook’s site on Twitter is that for such innovative and tech savvy companies, their pages are pretty uninspired.  It is not uncommon for Facebook to go four or five days without tweeting.  Twitter’s Facebook page is no better – limited posts, no photo albums.  It uses only the bare bones Facebook features.  They don’t even bother modifying their wall.  At least Facebook features a couple jet silhouettes on their Twitter wall.  What little jet silhouettes have to do with Facebook, I’m not quite sure, but at least it’s a small attempt at customization.

Obviously both networks are there out of some sort of obligation.  They are on each other’s sites, but they don’t really want to be there.  Their pages are not out of respect for each other.  In fact, it’s not for their benefit at all.  It’s for yours.

Let’s revisit the preposterous concept of catching Steve Jobs using anything Android.  What is the major difference between Apple fanatics and Social Network users?   Apple supporters are in a committed relationship.  They are a devoted, stand-by-their-brand group of people – willing to wait in line for days prior to a product launch just to be the first to have the new iAnything.  They have chosen Apple and will stand by their choice no matter what new Android feature is unveiled.

Apple fans are brand monogamous while Social Media users flirt with every promising networking site that comes along.  Facebook has over 1 million followers on Twitter.  Twitter has over 700,000 fans on Facebook.  That’s just a tiny reflection of the total number of people cheating on one site with the other.  Most users are pretty brazen about their Social Media disloyalty sending Direct Messages to new Twitter followers that read, “Thanks for the follow!  Let’s chat on Facebook!”

Twitter and Facebook recognize that subscribers use both platforms and are not ready to choose one over the other.  Their bland pages on their competitor’s websites are their attempt to prove to you that they are okay with the fact that you are dating them both.  Realistically, they are each other’s direct competition and they don’t want you to have anything to do with the other.

This lack of tech brand loyalty is new and unchartered territory, forcing companies to be cordial and interact with each other’s brands in unprecedented ways.  Social Network subscribers are tough to tie down.  They are all about free love and using whichever site feels good at the moment and few are whole heartedly committed to one or the other.  Facebook hates being on Twitter.  Twitter doesn’t want to have anything to do with Facebook.  But they pretend to make nice for your sake as if to say “We don’t mind if you date other people.  We’re totally cool with that.  Watch how cool we can be!”

Know Your Audience

Since beginning a career in Social Media I have received many kindhearted calls, emails, and messages wishing me success.  My favorite was a Facebook message that read, “Congratulations Teresa.  I have no idea what you’re doing but it sounds like a great opportunity.  Good for you.”  While sincere in their thoughtfulness, my well-wishers were equally confused about my new endeavor. 

While I love the honesty of my friends and family, I realize that clients and prospects may not be as blunt when it comes to their understanding of Social Media and its power as a marketing tool.  They know they need to be on Facebook and Twitter, but they don’t exactly know why… or even how. 

We all know the old saying about making assumptions, right!  As a Social Media Marketer the same thing applies when discussing your arsenal of resources.  Potential clients may be missing out on the value you offer if they do not understand the fundamental benefits of the medium itself.

1.  Your clients do NOT know what Twitter is.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  Chances are most people you talk to have heard of Twitter.  They might even think they know what Twitter is.  Lord knows, breaking the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death before any major networks created both legitimacy and recognition.  But the bottom line is that when it comes to Twitter, there are two types of people: People who have been on Twitter and people who have NOT been on Twitter.

Before I joined Twitter, I just thought it was Facebook on crack!  I assumed it was an outlet for those people on Facebook who insist on updating their status to let the world know that they tied their left shoe… and then 30 seconds later follow up with an enlightening post about how they tied their right shoe, too.  Coincidentally, this image completely deterred me from joining or even checking it out.

When I finally signed up, I thought to myself, “Why didn’t anyone tell me what an incredible resource this is!”  I lost myself for at least an hour, looking at everything from Social Media and California tourism to Fashion and Celebrity Gossip.  It was a refreshing change from my usual Google search in that other people had taken the work out of the search itself – offering up the most relevant articles on the topics I was most interested in.

In a nutshell, people on Twitter know how powerful it is, how difficult it is to gain a quality following, build legitimacy and what a valuable resource it can be in positioning yourself as an expert in your field.  Those who are not on Twitter, have no clue.  Next time you sit down with a prospective client, before launching into the impressive Twitter campaign you’ve planned to amass a huge following, stop and ask the client if they’ve ever been on Twitter.

2.  Having a personal Facebook page, does NOT mean you understand the purpose of a business page.

Just last weekend, someone admitted to me that they know they need to have a Facebook page for their company, but they don’t entirely understand why.  The question always turns back to, “What am I supposed to do with this page after I set it up?”

I’d wager that Facebook is the most recognizable and widely used social network.  Most people are familiar with the personal side of Facebook, where you post pictures, wish your friends Happy Birthday, and occasionally rant about how much you hate bicyclists.  But using Facebook for your business is an entirely different ballgame.

The issue here is twofold.  In some cases, the nature of the business itself does not automatically lend itself to Facebook page purpose.  This is especially apparent with professional industries like CPAs or doctors.  They don’t have sales or events, so what in the world would they use a Facebook page for?  While this makes it very convenient for these professions to quickly dismiss the notion of a social media campaign, it reveals a deeper lack of understanding for Social Media Marketing.

Most businesses limit their vision of Facebook to an image of a billboard where they can publicize their current sales.  They don’t realize that their page should offer an experience to their customers – a setting to hold contests, post interesting factoids, and interact with their fans.  Businesses know they need to have a Facebook page.  It’s up to you to explain how to derive benefit from it.

3.  Most people only go onto LinkedIn to get a job… and that’s it.

I am completely guilty of this!  I joined linked in because I was unemployed and everyone told me I had to.  At the time, I posted my resume and a profile picture and called it a day.  It did come in handy when I’d meet someone who might know of a job opening for me.  I could direct them to my LinkedIn page, rather than kick myself for not carrying 20 resumes in my purse at all times.

But contrary to popular belief, LinkedIn is not just for uploading your resume!  Facebook may still be the place you to post your vacation photos, but LinkedIn has become THE networking site for professionals.  It is a powerful resource to promote events, generate leads, and gain recognition as an industry leader.  But to do so, it requires a level of activity of which most are unaware.

If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “Sales is a contact sport” you understand the secret to LinkedIn.  To benefit from LinkedIn, you have to join Groups, participate in Discussions, and check in regularly – Not just when you’re in between jobs.  It can be a large time commitment and requires consistency – which clients will gladly pass on to you if they can understand the benefit that can be derived.

I can’t really blame anyone for being clueless about Social Media Marketing.  After all, most people go onto Facebook just for fun… not because they’re getting paid to do so.  Social Media Marketing is still on the cusp of becoming the norm in advertising and PR.  We’re at a stage now where organizations and individuals recognize that they need to get into this arena but still struggle with understanding why.

A little bit of education can go a long way!  Your clients are paying you to know more about Social Media than they do.  In fact, just when your clients become familiar with Twitter, it will be your job to introduce them to the next big thing, which they will be inevitably wary of. 

Being a Social Media Marketer is just as much about innovation, creativity, and knowledge as it is about educating.  In fact, I would venture to say now more than ever, the players who understand the value of educating their clients will be enjoy the most longevity in this field.  Being ahead of the curve is one thing.  Bringing your clients along with you is another.  

Osama Bin Laden is dead… reports Twitter

It was surreal.  Our big family dinner was winding down when I received a text message from a friend that read, “White house is reporting osama bin laden is dead.”  Apparently, it had been reported just moments before.  Within minutes, my brother-in-law confirmed the story when his Twitter account alerted him to it.  Everyone whipped out their phones to substantiate the news and the TV was turned on shortly after.

As we sat watching the talking heads, I looked around the room to discover just about every person holding a phone.  (Mine would have been in my hand too if my niece hadn’t been using it to play Doodle Destroy.)  As the newscasters attempted to fill the air time with what little information they had before the President spoke, each person in the room offered their own reports of friends’ Facebook posts or Twitter news feeds.   At one point, someone was even correcting the newscasters who erroneously reported that Bin Laden had been killed a week before.  It was like each of us was working for the Associated Press.

It is shocking to witness over the course of only a decade how drastically our modes of processing information have changed.  I think back to 9/11 and remember being tuned into the television broadcast for hours on end watching the same horrifying images repeat over and over again.  I learned about the details with everyone else watching the same broadcast and it was our primary source of information.  We were limited to knowing only what the major networks knew.

My younger brother was in high school at the time and because cell phones weren’t so “smart” yet, his only information was whatever the school deemed appropriate to tell the students.  When the news about Bin Laden broke, he was waiting to leave for L.A. when he read the breaking news on his cell.   This morning his Facebook status read, “Nothing feels better than being on a plane waiting for takeoff and announcing to the person next to you that Osama bin laden was killed, then watching the news quickly spread throughout the plane.”

The availability of social media and news to our mobile devices not only fuels the speed with which we receive information, share our thoughts and debate our perspectives, but  makes us hungry for information that is renewed and updated on a continuous basis.

After I finally wrestled my phone away from my 6 year old niece, I updated my Facebook status with a simple thank you to everyone who had supported our troops all along the way.   Anyone who knows me would understand that it was a tribute to my husband, who spent our first year of marriage in Iraq, and each person who supported him and his battle buddies while he was away.  I still remember signing up for MySpace before he left so I could read the blog he occasionally posted to.  At the time, I remember how silly it felt to ask him to be my friend online.  Six years later, we are clearly labeled as husband and wife on Facebook while MySpace balances on the brink of extinction.

I cannot imagine what it was like to be a military wife during previous wars – waiting months at a time to hear from your spouse.  Even when a letter arrived they must have wondered in the back of their minds whether they were still safe – knowing full well that the letter had been sealed weeks or possibly months prior.

I was lucky.  My husband usually called me once a week from a Pay As You Go Phone.  Even when he would relay stories about a particularly nerve racking foot patrol or worse, being trapped in a Humvee when a mortar detonated nearby, I was thankful.  I could tell myself, “Yes, he was blown up today… Yes, he cracked a couple ribs and can’t hear so well at the moment… but the fact that he’s telling me this on the phone means he’s safe right now.  If I saw something terrifying on the news, I could even text him and receive a response back by the end of the day assuring me of his safety.

Mobility is now crucial to communication in that it fuels the speed with which we process what’s happening around us.  With that comes impatience for information in its traditional mediums.  The television and radio alone do not satisfy us.   No longer will we patiently wait for a newscaster to relay a story nor will we tolerate misinformation while we hold a mobile fact checker in our hands.

It shapes how we interpret the events unfolding around us.  It is in notable moments like September 11th or Osama Bin Laden’s death that create benchmarks in our minds.  While grim, they offer a telling comparison of how changed our lives have become due not only to social media but its immediate accessibility.  When the news is momentous enough it spreads like wildfire on social networks and before you know it there are crowds of people gathering in Times Square or in front of the White House.

We don’t just watch the news anymore.  We participate.  We determine what’s newsworthy.   Last night, it became clear that our first resource was our cell phones and that the television was secondary.   Social Media is clearly in the driver’s seat.

Social Media: The Ugly, The Bad, and The Good

The very things I hate about Social Media are also what make it so successful.

The Ugly
A friend of mine, who will remain nameless, recently set up her very first Facebook account.  You wouldn’t believe how nervous she was to send her first status update.  Even after two other people reviewed it, she was convinced that her comment about the weather wasn’t witty enough or she wasn’t posting it properly.  Then she proceeded to check back every two minutes to see if anyone had made a comment.  Her fear of putting something out there for the whole world to see was quickly replaced with a feeling of inadequacy when no one else commented on her observation.

Personally, I think this fear of “doing it wrong” or not getting a response are the biggest factors discouraging people from posting online or really utilizing Social Media at all.  We’ve ALL heard at least one person say the following: “Oh yeah, I have a Facebook account, but I don’t really go on it that often.”  People are obviously intrigued by Social Media enough to not only check out different sites, but to actually set up an account as well.  So either they’re lying and they actually log in all the time, but mostly just to quietly stalk their exes or find out who gained the most weight since high school, or there really is something deterring them from returning to these sites.

The Bad
Social Media is rarely intuitive.  Sites like Twitter and Facebook are made up of awful labyrinths of terminology and unclear acronyms.  When I first got onto Facebook, I drove my husband crazy with incessant questions and rants about how annoyingly complicated the whole thing was: “What’s the difference between the News Feed and my Profile… and how do they affect my Wall.  Are my Wall and my Profile the same thing?  When I post a status update, where does it end up… on my Wall, my Profile, or the News Feed?  Are you SURE that if I send this message no one else will be able to see it?”

The first time you heard “Follow us on Facebook” was your first intuition to visit the page and click on the “Like” button?  Probably not.  Once I figured this out, I quickly switched over to a five minute rant (what can I say, I love a good rant) about how stupid that was: “Why not just have a button that says “Fan” or “Add to my Pages” or “Follow on Facebook”… pretty much anything BUT “Like.”  Facebook pages don’t have “Fans,” they have “Likes.”

When I joined up with Twitter, I went through the same ordeal of learning the proper Social Media etiquette, terminology, and acronyms.  I distinctly remember thinking, “What the hell is a DM?”  Then it’s a whole other world of #s and @s that came along with their own rules and protocol.  At first, I hated this!  I’m a pretty intelligent person.  I use to explain to CEO’s why their multimillion dollar 401(k) plans were not 404(c) compliant and how that could affect their fiduciary liability – and here I find myself struggling to figure out how to have or follow a conversation on Twitter.  Not only did I feel unsure of myself, but I hated asking anyone for advice because I was failing to grasp concepts that 6th graders had mastered in 3rdgrade.

The Good
Shockingly, the very things I hated so much about every new networking site that I joined are precisely why they’re so effective.  My first tweet felt much like my unnamed friend’s Facebook post.  It was uncomfortable, not witty enough, and I was pretty sure that I was doing it all wrong – and that millions of discerning strangers would see just how awful it was.  Then it disappeared into the vastness of Twitter, completely unnoticed – because let’s face it, unless your username is @CharlieSheen or @HowardStern, few really care about your first tweet.

Every time you join a new network, it’s like being hazed.  It’s an aggravating ordeal to become familiar with the terminology and etiquette – but the type of loyalty that comes from overcoming these obstacles is priceless.  In reality, The Bad and The Ugly are crucial to The Good of Social Media.  There’s some euphoric feeling that comes when the fog of mystification clears and you can navigate a social media site with ease.  The very fact that your frustration has changed to acceptance means you’ve invested enough time and energy to change your status from confused newbie to insider.  Not only can you speak the lingo, but you understand firsthand that not everyone is a part of the club – seeing as you were recently clueless.