Cause of the nature of what I do for a living I've been on most of the popular social networking sites since almost day one. If for no other reason then I just needed to know how they worked cause clients would ask about them all the time. But with that said, I have to admit to a large extent I found them next to useless.
Well that has started to change. And as I see more and more people here talking about using them, I thought I might take some time and convey a few things I've learned that might be helpful.
The main reason I found them useless was they were yet another online time drain. The industry I work in can change almost daily so I get news via RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feeds in Outlook. About 125 feeds right now about web design, interactive marketing, pay-per-click (PPC) ads, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla, and just marketing in general.
Those help me stay abreast of what is happening in the industry, give me ideas for articles to write for my professional site/blog, and most important of all new ideas to pitch clients. They take a lot of time to go through. I view that time (and we all only have so much time) as better spent then going through Tweets on Twitter, Facebook posts, or growing my network on LinkedIn.
Well my opinion on that has changed almost 24/7 in the last year as I've set-up and management Corporate Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for my clients. They can actually be pretty darn effective.
Now I could talk for countless pages and hours on end about how you'd go about using each social networking site from a business point-of-view. But that isn't the point of this Diary. Instead I want to offer up a few very simple suggestions on how you can make these sites work for you, not against you as a total time drain.
I am going to keep this simple stupid. Three simple suggestions. Three things that are very easy to do and take almost no effort on your part.
The first, which might make sense is don't follow folks on Twitter or "Friend" people on Facebook that post non-stop or stuff that isn't of interest to you. I mean I wanted to follow Markos on Twitter, but my gosh the guy just Tweets way too much :).
I also "Defriended" (is that even a word?) a lot of friends and family members on Facebook cause I got sick of hearing them ask me to visit their farm or help them play Mafia Wars. With both sites I found that maybe like 10% of the people I followed accounted for like 75% of the information coming through. That just makes no sense and made the sites almost useless for me.
The second, and maybe the most important suggestion, is take a few hours and find people in your industry that are experts. People you respect. Follow them. I find these folks attend the best conferences, are reading the next "hot" book before anybody else knows about it, trying out a new application I'd never heard of, and just are in the know (for lack of a better phrase).
Once you've done these two things you need to go to a third party application (they are all free). The interfaces for Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn just suck. They don't let you sort and organization information in an effective manner.
I use Yoono. It has a plug-in for Firefox and a desktop application that allows you to get Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger (and many others) all in one application/interface. It is one of those things you have to experience to really get it. But it will drastically change how you use each system. Cause not only does it unify all the services in one place, you can also post to each network from it, and set-up saved searches and create lists to find exactly what you are interested in faster.
Another application is Seesmic. The interface is "prettier" and easy to use then Yoono, but I find it has less features.
I hope some of this information was helpful to regular users of these Social Networking sites or people that have been thinking about using them but have not started. I just can't stress how implementing these three simple things changed these sites from something I would consider totally useless, to a wealth of information almost overnight.