Social Media and Simplicity, Part 2: Organize
Muhammad Saleem is a social media consultant and a top-ranked community member on multiple social news sites.
This post is part 2 of 10 in our groundbreaking series on how freelancers can use social media and the principles of simplicity to build their business.
Day 2 – The Second Law of Simplicity: Organize
Organization makes a system of many appear fewer.
Because there are so many different things you can do on social media, and because there are so many new sites launching daily, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Of course you can decide not to participate at all, but where’s the fun in that? You’d be surprised how far a little organization can take you in terms of simplifying your social media life and enabling you to better use all the tools at your disposal.
Organize By Purpose
As we mentioned earlier, it is of utmost importance that before we dive head first into social media, that we determine what our goals are and research which social media tools can help us achieve those goals and how. Rather than thinking purely laterally, let’s take the following approach. Imagine your life as a business owner who wants to do three things:
- Create a platform that allows you to then create and share content, giving a potential audience insight into your business.
- Leverage a platform that enables you to easily share the content you have created with a mass audience and establish yourself as an authority.
- Network with others in your niche and build lasting relationships your peers.
Once you have your goals clearly set, they will naturally give way to tools that you should be using. First of all, you need a blog where you put down your thoughts, then you need a socially driven content site that allows you to share these thoughts with a much larger audience (studying the various sites can help narrow down which one is most appropriate for you), and finally, a social or professional networking site that allows you to meet people with similar interests and network with them.
When you start organizing by purpose, you can actually increase the limits you have placed on yourself in terms of the number of outlets you want to use, without overwhelming yourself or becoming inefficient. Here’s one way to break things down:
Create a message:
- Feed reader: Use a feed reader and feeds to aggregate content and come up with potential ideas.
- Search Tools: Research all the information you need.
- Publishing Platform: Create and publish content.
Share the message:
- Determine the kind of message you have created.
- Share the message on the appropriate socially driven or social bookmarking site.
Network with peers:
- Social networking: use Facebook.
- Professional networking: use LinkedIn.
- Conversation management: use Technorati and/or Techmeme.
Organize by Importance
What I have outlined above are the most basic tools you need for success. These are by no means all the tools you may want to use — that decision depends on which tools provide a superior value proposition for your business and whether the time costs are worth the potential benefit you stand to get. For example, here is a set of tools not mentioned above, but which can easily help you stand out from the crowd.
- Micro-blogging sites. Sites like Twitter, Pownce, and Jaiku help you stay in touch with your network while you’re on the go. You can share thoughts that are too minor to warrant a blog post, but you can also share links of interest or content that you have created on your own blog.
- Podcasting/Videocasting. A podcast can help you better connect with your audience and can often be a good tool to supplement the ongoing conversation on your blog.
- Wikis/Forums – Wikis or forums can provide an excellent outlet for collaborative projects or to get more feedback/participation from your community (as a more permanent extension of a blog’s comments).
While the three tools mentioned previously help you build a solid base, organizing your goals by importance can help you realize what steps you need to take next, or determine the most efficient order in which to take the steps (and eliminate any steps that seem superfluous). For example, if you have a blog that centers around conversations, you may want to work on building a forum before you start working on a podcast. However, if you rely more on delivering weekly content (i.e. week in review) then a Podcast or Videocast will ideally supplement your work.
Organizing by importance can also help you answer questions like: Do I need to maintain a social networking profile (as on Facebook) and a professional networking profile (as on LinkedIn), or is there sufficient overlap that I can use one site to serve both needs?
Organize for Optimal Consumption
Once you have determined what tools you need to use based on your goals, and how (or how often) you want to use these tools based on your priorities, you can customize these tools to minimize information overload and accomplish your goals most efficiently. The great thing about the social web is that the tools are what you make of them, and their use is open to your interpretation.
For example, a blogging platform can be as minimalist or complex as you want. You can maintain a very simple blog where you post your thoughts and the community participation/feedback is limited to comments. Or you can create a site where people can comment, help you tag and categorize your content, post their responses as blog posts of their own (like the Daily Kos model), share your content with other people using social tools or widgets embedded in your site, and so on.
Similarly, the feeds you subscribe to can be manipulated so that you receive only relevant content. Rather than subscribing to a site’s main feed, subscribe to a particular author’s content or content published under a specific category (or with specific tags) and a socially driven news site or social bookmarking site can be customized so that you only see and participate in categories that are relevant to you and that you enjoy. (For example, I have no use for the American Football category on Digg).
You can choose what groups you want to be a part of on a social networking site, what content others are allowed to share with you (and what content from you is visible to them), and you can decide under what circumstances these sites (or the users of these sites) can contact you.
Ultimately, the number of tools you are able to efficiently use and the degree to which you interact with these tools (and the communities interact with you) depends on parameters that you define. It often helps to have clear goals in mind, and stepping away from what you’re doing to perform a rudimentary cost benefit analysis based on your priorities, to determine what works best for you.
How you organize your life can make the difference between utilizing 10 tools and reaching 40,000 people or utilizing 5 tools and reaching 100,000 people.
For simplifying the rest of your life, check out John Maeda’s Blog.