THE BLOG
01/26/2009 11:26 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Down the Social Media Rabbit Hole

Last week John Jantsch posted My Social Media System, detailing his twice-daily, daily, weekly, and monthly routines in blogging, Twitter, and so on. In email he asked me (and several others) to join in:

I would love it if you would consider writing a similar post on your blog and then let's hook them all together and create an "at this moment" guide. I think this would be a very instructional free guide in PDF form and I would be happy to collect, document and share for everyone's use - this could change over time obviously.

That's an attractive invitation. For me, though, it's not so systematic. In fact, my 18-month journey into the soft white underbelly of social media is more like delightful, alluring, distracting, disorderly chaos. I'm 61. If this post had a sound track, it would be White Rabbit, by Jefferson Airplane. In fact, I just put that onto iTunes, while I write this.

About Blogging

"But I'm all about business planning," I said. "It's not a blogging thing. It's static." OMG how wrong was I with that one! Falling headlong down the hole. That was April of 2007. I'd just decided to step down from managing Palo Alto Software. The new team wanted me blogging.

"Don't worry," Sabrina said. "You'll get it."

"Install Google Reader," Noah added, "and start reading the blogs. You'll see."

And I saw. Since then I've done more than 1,000 posts on Planning Startups Stories, and Up and Running alone, not to mention Planning Demystified, and dozens each on Small Business Trends, Huffington Post, and Business in General.

Blogging Tips and Tools

  1. The draft blog. Wherever you've got a blog set up, as long as it's on one of the major blog platforms (I use TypePad, WordPress, and Blogger), it's very easy to set up a draft blog. Use your control panel to keep it private, not indexed, not searched.
  2. Use "Post automatically" tools to catch ideas. On my Windows systems, I have Windows Live Writer set up, and on my Macs, Mars Edit, so on either one when I'm browsing something interesting I can automatically post it into my draft blog. No thinking required. Save for posting later, or thinking, drafting, and if not a post, then delete it. Where others use del.icio.us to keep track of these things, I like my draft blog.
  3. Focus on headlines. People browse headlines in the reader, or they catch them in Google. Lists are great, buzzwords, surprises, challenges are good. Don't trick people with bait and switch headlines.
  4. Be real, be yourself, pay attention to style, throw change-ups occasionally, read as much as you can, comment, track back to other blogs, be worth reading.

Managing Twitter

I'm new at Twitter; still getting used to it. I'm following a few hundred people, and a few hundred -- almost exactly the same number, but not all the same people -- follow me. You're welcome to follow me as timberry. And here's what I've figured out so far:

  1. I use twitterfeed to automatically tweet my blog posts. It works for me pretty well.
  2. I use TwitterFox for most of my tweets; it's in the lower right corner of Firefox, and the coolest thing it does is automatically create a tiny URL from a larger URL. So I copy the URL and type into the box in TwitterFox, making tweeting quicker, just a single step, instead of doing the tiny URL step first.
  3. I asked the Twitter world: do I follow people I disagree with (politics, religion, etc.)? Is it rude not to follow? I got lots of contradictory answers. My favorite was Evan saying, "If you follow users you aren't interested in then you break the metaphor." Second favorite is JonDiPetro's answer: "It depends on your agenda - if u r here for bus. leave ideology at the door (imo). If u r here to meet like minds, filter out." So I left ideology out of it. I follow people who follow me as long as they're tweeting in English or Spanish, and are not strident one-issue tweeting repeatedly, or simply sales shouting.
  4. I refuse to add information clutter. I try to tweet posts, issues, and thoughts; not ever where I am or what I'm doing. Sure, I fail at it sometimes, but at least I try.
  5. Confession: Twitter is overwhelming. I could watch it all day everyday, and do nothing else. So I simply stop looking after a while. Then I go back a few hours later to see if you or anybody else has started following me; and I get hooked for another hour or more.
  6. On the other hand, counter-confession: I follow some very cool people in Twitter, and they come up with some great ideas and great links. It works very well for blogging.

Which brings me back to the idea of chaos, and getting lost in wonderland. I can't write about this stuff without admitting that I don't understand it all that well. I've only got a dozen or so Facebook friends, exclusively family, and I'm turning down friend requests because I can't deal with them. I do have a few hundred LinkedIn connections (I'm Timberry there too) and I've answered a bunch of questions on my favorite topics (business plans, startups). So with that in mind, my next section is...

Where Social Media Things Baffle Me

  1. How do you manage your time with all this? How does anybody find the time to follow all those great blogs? What about time for Twitter? The tweets go by and I click the links, mesmerized, fascinated -- I've been accused of acting like a fish following the latest bright shiny things -- and the hours go by. If I had a real job, instead of just blogging, writing, teaching and speaking, I'd be really lost.
  2. What do you do with people you don't know wanting to "friend" you? I get it in Twitter, the answer is always "yes." But in Facebook and LinkedIn, it feels mean to just ignore such requests, but why does anybody want friends they don't actually know? See, I guess I'm incorrigibly too old. I've been linking in only to people I know, business people for the most part; and I've been keeping Facebook for family only. Is that crazy? Social media suicide?