I have a little angst every time I share something online. I worry about how all of my accounts on various social media services are connected. I want to make sure that every blog post that I write is posted to twitter and Facebook, and every item I share from Google reader is also relayed appropriately. It should be no surprise that there’s no good publisher centric solution to this problem. The Web is designed to be distributed. In some ways it’s quite pathetic to see all the little services crop up to try to fight the web’s distributed nature. Also, the social site that has critical mass changes every few years. Aggregator after aggregator will compete to pull in more sources. Publishing site after publishing site will compete to publish to more places. Interoperability is great but amongst the mishmash of connected services, the end user suffers.
I’ve written previously about how to promote yourself with social media. This post is intended to revisit and update that, but sadly, I haven’t come up with a system I’m completely satisfied with. I’ve been inspired by Ed Dale’s approach to the creative process, leverage, and market leadership (See video #124 of this podcast). Stephen Fairley’s social media blueprint for law firm marketing, and also Perry Belcher’s Social Media Matrix.
Requirements for a better system for sharing stuff online:
* Predictability: I need greater confidence in what will be the text of the tweet. For example if you relay an RSS feed to Twitter, you never know where it will be truncated.
* Inbound speed: Robert Scoble has given up Google reader for Twitter as his primary source of news, claiming Google Reader is “too slow”. I believe he meant the speed of the actual user interface not the delay fundamental to the polling nature of RSS. I think this is a bit premature due to the length restriction on tweets and the amount of great content that is still only accessible via RSS that is not automatically syndicated to twitter.
* Channels: I also have to consider different audiences by audience on twitter is a very tech heavy crowd, where is my audience on Facebook is more family and friends which have slightly more general interests are so interested in establishing myself as an alternate geek on Facebook but I don’t want to alienate my friends with excessively technical links. Another problem is that not everything a bookmark do I necessarily want to share.
* Leverage. I want to be able to share things from my phone while I’m standing at the bus stop.
* Recoverability: And ideally I’d like to archive everything in somewhere that I can search it and get it back later.
* Auto-scheduling (queueing): Ideally I would be able queue my links and blog posts so that nothing was tweeted more than once an hour.
* Feedback loop: It would be great to be able to track metrics on who clicks what.
* More outbound services: the more services I can post to the better, (Ping.fm leads Posterous but doesn’t allow for automated input).
Some people would probably also want all of their comments to be collected, that is a noble (but even more difficult) goal.
With all that in mind I put together what I think is the state-of-the-art (pathetic as it may be) in publishing to social media. It is probably already obsolete, but here goes. The goal is to make sure your content is distributed efficiently with as little work for you as possible. The purpose of this process is to establish yourself as a market leader – meaning an expert in a particular topic area.
In the first section I cover some of the basics which most people will have already have figured out and have hooked up. For example, most people will have a blog, and will have it connected to a Facebook page or their personal Facebook stream. Another common pattern is to connect your blog’s RSS feed to your LinkedIn group, where your blog posts appear as news items. The goal is to reach your audience wherever they prefer to consume your content. By replicating your blog posts to social networks, you will encourage discussion around topics of interest and get “back links” when others share your posts. The goal is to automate this so that you don’t have to think about sharing your posts after you write them, it just happens automatically.
I mentioned Facebook and LinkedIn as to places where it’s immediately obvious that you should replicate your posts. Another is Twitter. You can use FriendFeed to relay your blog’s RSS feed to twitter. You can also use other services like TwitterFeed or RSS2twitter. None of this is rocket science and you’re probably doing it already. However, I do want a mention before we move on that it is important to bookmark your own content. It is important for the same reasons that you would want your stuff published to a social network (discussion, and further sharing by others). At the moment I don’t happen to know how to completely automate this process but hopefully someone watching this will chime in with some tips.
The less obvious way in which you can establish market leadership is by just sharing content. The key is to begin using some type of content hub. Up until recently FriendFeed would have been my top pick but lately Posterous is becoming the hub of choice. Many people like Posterous because it’s easy to post via e-mail. I have never had the desire to post to the web from e-mail, however you can share via e-mail from almost anywhere, and it is also a very predictable format which I’ll get into in a minute.
By market leadership I mean that when you blog either as yourself or is your company, your real goal should be to establish your expertise in a particular niche knowledge area. You can do that either by sharing things or creating original content. If you just sharing stuff, it is best to do it quickly, share quality content, and predictably share things that your readers would want to see. You don’t want to surprise your readers with anything shocking or potentially offensive. Of course, the best thing you can do is participate in the comments and discussion that goes on around the topic area that you’re publishing in. It is by establishing this leadership that you become a trusted voice. It is easy to turn that trust into sales of your products, increased followers etc.
It is critical to decide upon a hub and posting strategy to maximize your efficiency. You don’t want to waste your time posting on this site and linking on that site. I wouldn’t lose sleep about getting this perfect, but if you at least decide on a strategy, and I recommend one here, you will get leverage through automation. The goal is that while you’re standing at the bus stop flicking through today’s articles you can – with the click of a few buttons on your phone – share to multiple networks. Ideally you’ll give the appearance that you’re always online researching things.
So let’s get back to Posterous for a minute. Posterous is a blogging service allowing you to post anything by simply sending an e-mail. However, Posterous is more than just a blog, it also relays your content to Facebook and Twitter and a few other networks. Posterous is not my dream publishing service or the ultimate solution to the social publishing problem. I also continue to pay attention to FriendFeed, PingFM, and others hoping a more publisher centric service will arise.
The most common scenario in which I’m looking to share something is when I’m cruising along in my web browser. Posterous – as with other bookmarking sites and social networks – has what’s called a browser bookmarklet. This is a bookmark you create in your browser that allows you to share whatever page you’re looking at. Again, the only reason why I’m recommending Posterous is because of its ability to take whatever content you put into it and publish it out to multiple networks (Posterous calls this auto posting).
The subject of the post becomes the text of your tweets when it is relayed to Twitter. Unlike some of the RSS relay services where you can’t always predict what the text of the tweet will look like (or where it will be truncated).
Another very common scenario is to share something from Google Reader. Google Reader is an excellent blog aggregator. You can share to posters from there. I haven’t found a good way to share from Google reader using the share from my iPhone, this is where sharing by e-mail comes in handy.
One thing I wish Posterous would do is queue your items so that you can share all bunch of them at once without overwhelming your twitter followers. Posterous also has advanced features for routing certain items to twitter as opposed to Facebook. This is useful if you have different audiences (friends versus followers) on each service. One thing that I do appreciate about Posterous its ability to store a copy of whatever I’m sharing.
You can probably tell I’m not thrilled to have Posterous as the hub of my sharing system. Hopefully it won’t be too long until another service comes along to address some of my requirements above to put the publisher back at the center of the process.