Twitter is Marlo Stansfield

Recently, there’s been more than the average level of moaning about how Twitter isn’t what it used to be. The moaners being the tech-savvy crowd who adopted the service early on. They’re not keen on how Twitter’s selling itself to the mass market.

Anil Dash has given a rather pragmatic explanation of why that complaint is wrong and (to the extent that I can muster the energy to care either way) I broadly agree with what he says. Only I would explain it in different terms:

Twitter is Marlo Stansfield; the early adopters are the security guard.

It’s not just that quote either:

  • Marlo wants to control how his drugs (tweets) are distributed via corners (apps/third party website integration)
  • His motives can put him at odds with the dealers (or developer community)
  • His name is his name – sounds like tightly controlled brand/logo usage guidelines to me

I’m sure you could come up with your own. As far as comparisons go, I reckon this one works.

everyword and Michael Stipe

I recently discovered the deceptively simple @everyword project from Adam Parrish. It’s a Twitter account that tweets a word from the dictionary every 30mins. Here’s the latest one:

It gets interesting when you look at how people interact with and around the tweets. Retweeting interesting ones, guessing at meanings, questioning whether something really is a proper word, looking forward to the rude ones and remarking at odd coincidences.

The account is pretty popular and each tweet sparks a conversation about language.

It reminded me of a review I once read of an REM song. It was a while ago – probably a single from New Adventures in Hi-Fi but I’m not certain. Anyway, it mentioned how Michael Stipe could probably read out the dictionary and make it sound better than the lyrics most other people sing.

Turns out a faceless Twitter account that reads out the dictionary and never replies to anyone can be more popular, provocative, educational and informative than a great many others out there.

How to create a social media digest for your organisation

The other week I was asking how people who monitor social media on behalf of their organisations spread the information they come across to their colleagues. See my previous post for the full background. I didn’t really get a comprehensive answer from anyone. Important things might get emailed to someone, but less pressing (but still very useful or informative) information was less likely to be passed on.

I quite like the idea of Netvibes-based social media dashboards (and this post from Econsultancy features a good example of what you can do with them), but those only really offer snapshots of information. What’s more, they rely on people going and visiting them regularly. I’m pessimistic about that – I think you have to give people information through the channels they’re already using.

I’m keen to find easier ways of getting the right information into the right hands. This post offers one solution. I’m still interested in hearing about others.

Btw – I’m writing this quickly on a train. I’ll tidy things up and maybe add some pretty pictures and diagrams later.

The overall idea

While you’re monitoring social networks for your organisation you can (and should) save, like, favourite or star interesting or notable content.

There’s a service called IFTTT that can be used to pick up on the content that you’re flagging as interesting. We’ll use it to save links to a social bookmarking tool.

Your colleagues (and anyone else, if you like) will then be able to see all that content in one place. What’s more, they’ll be able to subscribe to that stream of interestingness using an RSS reader. If your colleagues don’t use an RSS reader that’s fine – we can also feed that into a dedicated Twitter account, a blog (Tumblr, for example) and/or consolidate everything in a regular email.

In summary:

  • Step 1: flag up content found on your pre-existing social media accounts. This will work with Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, Flickr,  Google Reader and across the web using Delicious or Pinboard. See the full list of options here.
  • Step 2: Use IFTTT to spot any new content that you’ve flagged and save a link to…
  • Step 3: A social bookmarking service such as Delicious or Pinboard
  • Step 4: Output those links to Twitter, RSS and email

Last time I set everything up it took me about 15mins in total. Here are a few instructions with some links which will help speed things up for you…

Set up your Delicious or Pinboard account

If I were you I’d set up a fresh account to collect all these links together. Which one you go for is more personal choice than anything. I tend to use Delicious although the way things have been going, it might be smart to pay for a Pinboard account.

Using IFTTT

IFTTT (which stands for ‘if this then that’) is a fantastic tool that connects one social media account to another – it calls those connections between account ‘recipes’ and works with a wide variety of platforms. You’ll need to sign up for an IFTT account and then authorise all your various social media accounts with it.

If you’re using Delicious then you’ll want these recipes to save:

Exactly the same kind of recipes exist for Pinboard.

Getting people to subscribe

I think the important thing is to let people subscribe to this information in the way that suits them best. There’s no point giving them a brand new tool or place to look:

  • Of course, they’re welcome to see everything in your Delicious account (if they use the service they can subscribe to your account there)
  • If they use Google Reader then give them the RSS feed from the Delicious/Pinboard links
  • If they use Twitter, set up a dedicated Twitter account and use any number of services to autopost new items from Delicious. There’s even an IFTTT recipe for that.
  • How about printing off the links once a month and sticking the sheet to the noticeboard by the coffee machine?
  • You can also send links bundled together in a regular email, for which, read on…

Setting up a regular email digest

This one deserves a heading of its own because I think it’s the most useful of the lot. After all, everyone has an email account.

You can use Mailchimp (an email marketing service) to turn those links into a daily, weekly or monthly email scheduled to go out to your colleagues (and any others) at the time of your choosing. First day of the month? 4:30pm on a Friday? Simple.

Rather than write out some instructions, sign up with Mailchimp (other options exist – I just know this one works nicely) and follow their RSS to email tutorial.

Mailchimp has a free plan allowing you to send up to 12,000 emails a month with an email list no larger than 2,000 people. That should be plenty for most people.

The benefits of this approach

  • You’ll increase awareness of some the interesting and useful (but perhaps less critical) information that you see swirling around social networks, distilling it for busy colleagues
  • The sceptics in your organisation, given a purer stream of information and receiving it through channels they’re already used to, may just come to accept there’s something in this for them after all
  • You might even be encouraged to spend more time on social networks
  • The mechanism by which this works (all that liking, favouriting, star-ing, etc) is exactly the kind of activity that you should be doing anyway (but in my

A couple of thanks

With a nod to Gavin Wray who happened to be doing something similar at the same time, Joanna Geary who gave me a kick to finish writing this up (and pointed me towards Handpick.me, which is a paid solution that lets you save links to a scheduled email digest and has a nice group function). Thanks also to the folks at Dance Umbrella who prompted me to think about this while I’ve been working with them and everyone who replied to my last blog post.