Using Google Reader and Twitter Search to Listen

Old Radio

Since I began subscribing to RSS feeds, Google Reader has been my organizational tool of choice. I have also used Safari and Mail and follow some feeds with iGoogle, but as the volume of blogs began to grow I settled on Reader.

At first, I used it as a blog bucket but soon I needed to get organized and dug in a little deeper. The interface seemed a bit stark until I got under the hood and began to explore the ‘Manage Subscriptions’ option. Google Reader allows you to create multiple folders to organize your feeds. I follow a diverse range of blogs and Twitter searches so this has been really helpful. You can create folders on the Manage Subscriptions page or while viewing an individual blog summary. The ‘Feed Setting’ drop-down menu allows you to assign a specific blog to existing folders or add a new one. Reader Play provides a slideshow view of blog abstracts (by feed or folder) and allows you to easily ‘star’ favorite items.

Using Twitter Search feeds…

One powerful, free, online listening tool that is often overlooked is the advanced search page available at: search.twitter.com. With Twitter Search you can drill down and discover what people are talking about based on multiple keywords, location, date, etc. When you develop searches that are useful, subscribe to the RSS feeds with Google Reader just like a blog.

Why should I care?

Following and organizing blogs and online searches is a very powerful method for discovering new content, participating in online conversations, staying in touch with your customers and fans, researching your industry, and finding new sources to follow. The obvious thing to do is search on your company or industry keywords, but with a little experimentation you will soon discover a vast world of possibilities.

How do you get the most out of Google Reader and Twitter Search?

‘Old Radio’ photo courtesy of Garry Knight

Blogs and Facebook Pages: Creating an Online Magazine

Collections of magazines

When it comes to Social Media everyone is in the publishing business. Blogs and Facebook Pages are forums for community building. Occasional self-promotion is alright, but your followers will not keep coming back unless you provide fresh, valuable content that encourages conversation.

Think like a magazine…

With social communication tools you and your company can develop an interactive, engaging, online magazine that will attract followers and strengthen your credibility and brand. Sounds great, right? Before you jump in, think about what this means. If you don’t have a plan to maintain your presence daily (or at least several times a week), your fans will lose interest.

Stay away from self-promotion…

Look at your favorite magazines. You may see a few discrete appeals for subscriptions (and that card that always falls out on the floor), but what compels you to read them is the content. The focus is on the reader, not the publication. Many bands use their Facebook Pages solely as a billboard to announce upcoming gigs, post new songs, reviews, and generally talk about themselves. If I’m a fan of a company or artist, I already know I like what they do. There is no reason to regularly return to their Facebook Page if it doesn’t offer anything new.

Consistency breeds loyalty…

If The New Yorker skipped a couple of issues or was suddenly missing columns they would lose readers fast. Facebook Pages and blogs require the same consistent commitment to publishing content.

Reach the right audience…

A good magazine brings you unique, targeted content you can’t find anywhere else. Who are you trying to reach and what do they value? Many folks get much of their news and cultural information from Facebook and blogs. If you’re not Hemingway, you can establish a strong identity simply by aggregating content and encouraging discussions with your fans.

Talk about what you (and your followers) love…

I’m a guitar player. I have many friends who are guitar players. The most active conversations on their Facebook Walls are about music they love, or gear, or instruments, or other musicians. If it’s an upcoming gig it’s usually mentioned because it is something special. “I’ll be playing at blah-blah on Friday night” is generally not a conversation starter.

Personal Facebook Profiles vs. Facebook Fan Pages…

Some people are very active on personal Facebook profiles, but when they put up a business Page they suddenly clam up or resort to self-promotion. The nature of social technologies is to blur the lines between formal business and social communication. If you are running out of ideas try sharing other people’s posts you would naturally publish on your personal Wall. Plug in interesting content from around the web and see what gets a conversation going. Comment daily on other people’s Pages, Facebook Groups and blogs with a link back to you.

Create a publishing schedule, keep it active and see what works…

Magazine publishers live and die by deadlines and production schedules. Make a plan for your Page or blog and stick to it. When you see something that works, ask yourself why and do more of that. Most important, keep it fresh and interesting.

What approaches to blogging and Facebook have been most effective for you and your company?

Image courtesy of Long Nguyen

How do you use social technology to listen?

Ear close upThe social web often seems like a huge cocktail party where everyone is shouting and no one is listening. We all want to be found, and followed, and heard. How can we make real connections that lead to offline friendships and business relationships?

Listening with genuine interest is the key to engaging people. Like anything else, developing this skill requires a great deal of practice.

Platforms like blogs, Twitter and Facebook are not well suited for broadcast communications. If you are not paying attention when a post appears, it’s gone.

I am experimenting with asking questions in various ways.

I am digging into Twitter Search to find interesting conversations and engage people with @replies and questions.

Facebook feels more constrictive to me. I am trying different ways to converse, exploring groups and Pages. Some people like guitarist Ken Rosser, have a knack for using Facebook conversationally. He is always interesting, and each post seems to result in an active conversation.

How are you using social communication tools to really listen? What’s working for you?