Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Social Media for the Socially Awkward

I’ve had a few people ask me about my social media habits- how do I follow so many blogs, what social media apps do I use, how do I find the time, and so on. I’m certainly no expert. And this isn’t a “how to” type of post- there are plenty of those out there already. This is more a “this is how I roll” post. And if I was really an expert in building community, generating traffic, and maximizing Search Engine Optimization (see what I did there?) I'd be getting more then the few dozen hits I typically get.

A disclaimer up front, one of the reasons I'm posting this is to confess that I am disconnected from the Internet most of the day (and I can't count on the connection I do have at work because of firewalls and, well, it's work). Because of this, I have limited windows to read, post, and follow up with my online community- a disadvantage to someone trying to build an audience. But I hope this background is helpful to the social media novice or those who just don't have a ton of time to devote to being online.

Blogging

I use Blogger to host my blog. Yes, I know I can get better layouts and probably more traffic using Wordpress, but I haven’t bothered to secure a host and put forth the effort. Consider Blogger as the host platform for dummies. (Insert shameless plug for my buddy Peter's upcoming book, Web Hosting for Dummies.) I did update my layout a couple of years ago however, and I like what I have even though it is always in need of some tweaking. If you see a layout problem (or notice that two of my “buttons” lost their hotlinked graphics, which I'm aware of and have been meaning to fix) please let me know.

I try and post three times a week. I can mail-it in with a “Music Monday” post (a song that hits me at the time, or I find a song to match a theme I’m discussing), a book group Wednesday and a “Flashback Friday” (digging up old posts) for minimal effort but I try and have more original content than that. If that’s all you see, or if you see just one or two posts in a week that only means that life is getting the best of me and I need to focus my attention elsewhere.

I link my blog up with Network Blogs on Facebook so that posts automatically update on my Facebook page (used to be my FB timeline- more on that later). I also “connect” with other bloggers through the automatic networking blogger allows. (But I hate to admit I haven’t followed up on that  in a while.)

For posting my blog on Twitter, I generally use StumbleUpon to shorten my link and schedule posts. Plus, su.pr queues my posts in their system for stumbling. Doing so allows me to track how many views my posts get stumbling through their site, though that isn’t a very accurate measure of reads. One drawback is that su.pr has been pretty buggy lately and the scheduling feature isn't 100% reliable.

Twitter

I tweet using the handle @fathafrank (a play on an old nickname from my campus ministry days). I liberally follow-back with a few exceptions: if it looks like you’re selling something, if you’re overly political (unless you’re explicitly political in which case I'll probably only follow back if you're a legitimate news source), or if you’re overly Charismatic (for example, if I follow you and pray a certain prayer then somehow some additional blessing will come into my life. Sorry, I don’t come from that religious background so that’s an automatic turnoff for me). So if you follow me, chances are I'll follow you back. If I find your blog and like it, I'll follow you. Also I randomly follow other Christians posting on specific topics (#MultiplyMovement for example).

I do tweet some personal stuff so you'll see that occasionally mixed in. I follow space topics (exploration and astronomy) as well as sports, so you’ll see tweets related to those periodically. (Especially on game days. It’s a challenge to keep my Christian witness when I’m online complaining about the refs!)

I categorize my follows to better keep track of tweets. If you’re a blogger and I read you regularly, I’ll elevate you to make sure I see your tweets more frequently. Otherwise, I just skim my Twitter stream and click what looks interesting. If I retweet you, that’s my way of communicating I like your post in lieu of leaving a comment. Because…

I typically only check my Twitter stream in the morning on my way to work and I’m doing so on my phone (don't worry, I vanpool so I'm not tweeting and driving!). I try and leave comments when I can, but between thumbing a message on my phone and sporadic cell coverage, it’s easier just to RT.

I should add that I use Tweetdeck on my phone because I like how I can navigate between lists, hashtags, and searches. However, I'm not sure I'd recommend that app because it crashes a lot and the way it filters tweets isn’t very reliable. I also use Hoot Suite on my iPad at home (I don’t have a mobile data plan) because it’s just better all around, but I don’t like the phone interface.

Facebook

I used to link my Twitter account to Facebook, but all my RTs drove everyone crazy. Now I keep my personal Facebook account separate from my blogging. If you send me a friend request I’ll only accept if I know you (virtually speaking) and we have an established social media connection. But be warned, most of my posts will be complaints about the weather, pictures of cats, or silly things my kids are doing. Otherwise, I encourage you to like my Facebook page

Which isn’t just to promote my blog. One of my friends asks me all the time how I find time to read so many blogs. With my page, I make it easy for you: I use that platform to post links to articles that catch my attention that I think you should read (consistent with the theme of the blog of course). These articles come from my daily news-reading, my Google reader, Facebook feeds, or my quick-skim of Twitter. If you don’t have time to follow a hundred blogs, but are interested in what my blog is about, then my Facebook page is perfect for you. Occasionally, I’ll throw out a discussion topic, but I don’t have enough followers (and Facebook has messed around with how updates are “promoted” anyway) to make that work too well at this point. It is also the unofficial page of my small group, so you'll sometimes see announcements or prayer requests.

Google Reader and RSS Feeds

If I’ve read your blog more than once and I like what you write I will add you to my RSS feed on Google Reader. Also if you leave a comment on my blog or share on Twitter or Facebook, I’ll make it a point to check out your site. Again, if I like what I read I’ll add you to my feed.

I manage what I read using the Flipboard and Pulse apps. I used to use ReadItLater, but Pulse blew that app out of the water. Both store updates so I can read when I’m not connected, which works perfectly for me since that is most of the time. Pulse has the advantage of storing post histories from the sites I follow, so I can easily go back if I missed something. And I love Flipboard’s graphic interface. It actually makes managing my Google Reader fun.

With those means, I don’t really keep a blog roll. If I did, it would be huge. I do need to update my favorites (which show up in the top left corner of the page) but otherwise you won’t find a traditional blog roll on this site.

Other Sites

I don't do Instragram or Pintrest... yet. I'm occasionally logged in at FaithVillage or Ransomed Heart. Otherwise, here and my Facebook page are the best places to find me.

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So this is how I do what I do. Is it perfect or fool-proof? Of course not. And I'm open to other suggestions, tips and advice.

What are your social media habits?

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