What if we’d had Twitter on 9/11?


If you're still able to hear from wherever you are, Amy, this is for you.

One of the more more formative events in my life — from the perspective of shaping my attitudes about politics, war and my industry (news) — was the series of terror attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, collectively known as 9/11.


Amy Toyen [via]
There is a whole cohort registering to vote this year who might vaguely remember their parents' reactions that day, another getting drivers licenses who were too young, and more becoming bar and bat mitzvot who were just being born.

It was 13 years ago, and it's very much etched in the brains of almost every adult today, but very soon that won't be the case.

I was walking my neighborhood at 4 a.m. one night last month – a night that ended with The Associated Press confirming the death of a sprint car driver after our normal closing hours. We found out minutes before The AP moved a story thanks to a Tweet from a local reporter.

We didn't have Twitter on 9/11. We didn't have Facebook. We didn't have YouTube. We had Google, but it was still nascent and not doing enough traffic to be archived multiple times daily as it is now — the Way Back Machine picked it up on Aug. 23, 2001 and didn't come back until Sept. 17 of that year.

Residential broadband was just coming into being. Cell phones were really just starting to become a thing everybody had, though most people were still hanging onto their home phones (many because they needed a home phone line to access the Internet).

Despite our seemingly limited ability to communicate (ha!), we still had a problem then knowing when to shut up. News went on for days about 9/11 to the exclusion of just about everything else. NPR, CNN, Fox, it didn't matter. The stock market was closed the rest of the week. Baseball was shut down. If anything else was going on in the world, it was invisible to U.S. media.

The early reports — yes, we did have 24-hour cable news and the Internet — were crazy. 10,000 were dead, another hijacked plane was heading for L.A. and one maybe toward Chicago. And then it was over, and we sheltered in place around our TVs for three days.

Despite the initial reports being highly speculative and wildly inaccurate, we did not yet have the dreaded Internet rumor mill — you know, the one that kills celebrities and retires basketball players.

Can you imagine what Twitter and Facebook would have looked like on 9/11 — especially considering that, even today, nobody with any first-hand knowledge (as in, having been there) would have had any cell phone service (much like that day)? It might have taken days to dig out some facts, instead of the hours it took us.

Let me ask, then: Do you use your social networks responsibly?

Related:
10 Septembers, 20 Septembers
Memorialize 9/11 by being more awesome






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A Twitter listening experiment

It's finally happened for me. Or maybe it happened a long time ago and I'm just realizing it now.

Twitter has become a giant time suck for me. I check it without purpose, just to see if anybody's said anything interesting. I write stuff here and there, and, in general, I've been following about a twentieth of the people who are following me.

I just followed something on the order of 100 new-to-me people on Twitter. A handful of them are people I know but for whatever reason hadn't been following. Some of them are complete strangers.

Some of them are just people whose bios sounded interesting. Some of them are people who do things I'm interested in.

From now until the end of March, I'm going to use Twitter only to listen and learn. I'll respond to replies and I'll favorite Tweets here and there that I'd like to refer back to, but I'm going to stop leaving the window open and reading the same Tweets over and over to see if anybody has said anything in the past twelve seconds.

I've been reading a lot of Joshua Fields Millburn (he of The Minimalists) lately, and some things are resonating with me, particularly with respect to relationships and productivity.

So, I'm going to listen and learn and expand my Twitter network and perhaps, from that, my real-life network. I'm going to write long-form a lot more (including here; grab the RSS feed if you want to be informed when I post), and I'm going to spend the time that I'm just staring at Twitter now to do more important things.

If you have some Twitter folk I should be aware of while I'm re-ordering my Twitter life, please @ me or leave a comment here.

Thanks.

[photo credit]

Keeping Your Network Happy On LinkedIn

I've been getting miffed at my LinkedIn network lately. Here are some reasons, and what you can do to keep yourself in good favor with your professional contacts.

Stay on topic

I posted a while back about places I like to bring colleagues and clients. It's received renewed interest lately, and it had a little blip in the comment stream.

One person (who's a friend and who runs an organization I belong to) said something that was only slightly off-topic, pumping the organization I work for. And someone slammed him as unprofessional for advertising on the thread.

To stop that quickly, I left a comment that basically said, anybody else who only mentions one business might also be advertising, but that maybe we should consider another discussion about staying on-topic, since his comment about unprofessionalism was certainly off-topic as well.

Sell to new connections on first full contact

Your first opportunity to reach someone on LinkedIn is to personalize a connection request. You get about 255 characters, so there's not a whole lot of room for error. If I accept your connection (and chances are I will, unless all indications are you're a jerk), I really hope that five minutes later I don't get a message that says, "Hey, I see you do something. My company makes something that helps people like you do what they do. You should totally come check it out!"

Because that makes me not want to send you any business.

How you should approach that is to introduce yourself and ask what I do, because chances are, no matter how many times you've read my profile, you don't know exactly what I do or how I do it. You just assume you know my business.

Make me trust you first.

Personalize your request.

I feel like a broken record when I say that, but if we're connected on several other platforms, have each others' phone numbers, and occasionally have a beer together, there's no need to customize a request. But if we've met once or twice, or not at all, or only heard about each other, send a note. You wouldn't walk up to me, shake my hand, tell me your name, walk away, and consider me a good connection, would you? [If you answered yes, let's talk about that.]

What other ways are you killing it on LinkedIn?

#cmgrchat

I wanted to give a quick shoutout here to Jen Pedde and Kelly Lux, two Syracuse-area Twitter rock stars who co-moderate a Twitter chat called #cmgrchat.

The chat is for community managers (and people who hate community managers, except not really). It's still in its growing stages, but in its fourth week, 126 people contributed.

» #cmgrchat transcripts

I'm learning a lot and I think contributing some useful information as well . It takes a fair bit of concentration to keep on track and to keep up, but ultimately it's definitely worth the hour each week.

Do you have any other Twitter chats worth mentioning, or that I should join in?

Where will you find your community manager?

You recognize that you need to be on social media. Your neighbor business to your left is bringing in new business after spending a year meeting locals on Twitter, then in real life, and the referrals just keep rolling in. The neighbor to your right is killing it with coupons they upload to their Facebook page and ask customers to print out. The folks across the street have had these Foursquare stickers in their windows for weeks and you see everyone who walks through their door whip out a mobile phone.

You haven't lost when it comes to social media, you're just not winning. You're behind, and you don't have the time, the inclination, or the knowledge (or some combination of those) to get going now. You'd like to bring someone in-house to be your community manager, but how do you find these people?

On the one hand, that person might already work for you. If you listen to your employees' conversations and you've heard words like "Twitter" and "location-based" sprinkled between the words you understand, you might have yourself a community manager.

On the other hand, talk to your customers. If you have customers who have been coming through your door for four or five years, you recognize them, you might make small talk, you might even know a lot about them. The one thing you can be sure of, though, is that these customers are loyal to your brand. They like you, your products, and/or your prices. Something about your business keeps those customers coming back. One of them might be the perfect brand ambassador for you.

I've recently taken a job as a community manager at the Gold's Gym franchise in Dewitt, New York. I've been a member there for five years; I really believe in what they do. I like the way they operate. I like the people. I'd already known many of the staff members and already recognized a lot of the gym members when I joined the staff. With the exception of the details (logging such-and-such in this book, using UPC A in Case 1 and UPC B in Case 2), I already had a good idea of how the gym operated.

In this case, I approached the gym; if someone who fit that description approached you, knowing you needed the social side and willing to do other things you needed, you'd likely have a hard time saying no. On the other hand, could you just reach out and ask someone? Try it. It might get you far.

Winning customers by stretching the rules

For those Syracuseans not in the know, Funk 'N' Waffles is a great little spot on the SU hill. It has a menu of interesting waffle creations (including chicken & waffles, pulled pork waffles, and a new favorite for some of my friends: a stuffing waffle with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce), good coffee, and free wifi.

They are good citizens, opting for local eggs, Dinosaur BarBQue sauces, and other local options when possible.

The only complaint I've ever thought of is that they close at 4:30 on Mondays, which is kind of early.

So, as co-chair of the 40 Below Civic Engagement Task Force, I approached the venue about staying open a little later to host a social networking event, which started at 5:30. I arrived a little before 5, and was pleased to see they had something of a walk-in crowd, which meant they weren't bored in that hour between when they typically close and when we were to start.

Then we brought in 16 people – very few of whom had been there before. And almost to a person, they were so impressed with the venue that they said they would not only return, but bring other new people.

If eight of those people do return with two new people each, and then half of those new people do the same, that's a lot of new customers, thanks to being willing to keep the lights on and paying two employees for four extra hours.

That's a minimal investment for a lot of new customers – and let's not forget that so much of small business marketing is helping the non-profits in your area.

Awesome job, Funk 'N' Waffles.

New Twitter: Sexy? Sure. Useful? Well…

We all use social media differently. Personally, I rarely use Twitter.com to read Twitter, unless I'm using search. I'm a HootSuite or sometimes TweetDeck kind of guy.

I got to see the new Twitter in action yesterday. It's shiny and new, and admittedly kind of sexy. If there's a photo or video in a link, it will load in the right sidebar. Same with threaded conversations (though, oddly, not hashtags or trends).

That's awesome.

Will I use it? Probably not.

» Kyle Lacy: Twitter is Changing and Exploding Myths
» Chris Brogan: Why I Am Still Not Ready for New Twitter

I keep my following list very low, in the 200 people range. But that's still too many people to entirely keep up with. And that's why I prefer to use an application that allows me to set up lists in columns across the page; I can see my mentions and tweets from people in three lists that are important to me spread across my window, which allows me to concentrate on those people.

There are others I follow whose tweets I don't necessarily want in my timeline during my work day. They're not people who I'm likely to go to lunch with today, or who are sharing information I find crucial to my job. They're people I like (or I wouldn't be following them), but viewing them in my stream would destroy the productivity of Twitter for me.

And that's why the new Twitter, while sexy, isn't enough for me. I can't put those people on hold for part of the time and catch up with them later.

What do you think?

Who are we writing for, and why are we reading?

Blah, blah, blah.

I'm in the middle of reading a very funny novel right now. I also have two other books on my nightstand, and I haven't managed to get past page 20 in either, though I hear they're very good – Mitch Joel's Six Pixels of Separation and John Jantsch's The Referral Engine. I've read Joel's blog (same title as his book) and I'm familiar with Jantsch via his previous book, Duct Tape Marketing.

In the past year, I've also read Gary Vaynerchuk's Crush It, Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, Journey to the Emerald City by Roger Connors and Tom Smith, Shama Kabani's Zen of Social Media Marketing, and Jeffrey Hayzlett's The Mirror Test.

On top of that, I wake up many mornings and read Brogan's blog as well as the blogs of Outspoken Media, Bruce Clay, and a half dozen other individuals and organizations with whom you're familiar if you've recognized most of the names here, or with whom you're not if you had to go read everybody's bio.

I walked by Scott Stratten's book in the bookshop today and it hit me: everybody's telling us more or less the same two things:

  1. If you want to run a business you must be willing to take some risks, work some long hours, and in general bust some ass.
  2. You need to be on social media, and you have to interact, giving away a lot for free and boosting other people.

Well, everybody except Connors and Smith, who just needed a way to extend their PowerPoint presentations into book form.

I'm becoming a bit jaded about it, I guess. It's not only the same information (albeit sometimes with slightly different action items), it's the same people going around in a circle. I picked up Joel's and Jantsch's books because Outspoken recommended them. Kabani's people told me I'd probably enjoy it after they saw I read Brogan's book – and it turns out he wrote the introduction for her. I still recommend Vaynerchuk's book to people seeking their passion and Trust Agents to people who just don't understand social media ROI. I just don't feel like reading anything this circle's putting out right now. It's not making me think about anything in a new way, and it's not leading me to any sort of creativity.

It leads me to wonder: Are we all (including the people I've mentioned here), writing for ourselves? For like-minded people? For famous people to write our introductions or to give us blurbs?

Where are you finding value today in words?

Photo Credit: JasonTromm

Connecting on multiple platforms, or why I’m no longer reading your updates

If you move your eyes to the right, you'll see a box labeled "Connect." It's under the search box, next to my mug over there. While you may not have a Delicious account, there's a reasonable chance you have a Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook account. Even all three. And possibly Foursquare, too.

I use those three social networking platforms very differently. Facebook is primarily social for me, although I do operate a Facebook page or 2 for businesses. I play Scrabble with my sister and other word games with my mom and some friends. I check in on birthdays. On rare occasions I'll check the status updates, but really, that is pretty rare. LinkedIn is purely business; even the stuff that feels social is business – I'm sharing professional information, and since I'm a sole proprietor, that business life sometimes spills over into the personal (and vice versa). Twitter is a mix of everything. I definitely don't over-share on Foursquare, and I only check in at clients, potential clients, and places I have a comment about. And I only share that on Twitter if I have something to say about it beyond, "I'm here."

Sometimes I find something worth sharing on multiple platforms, though I find that increasingly rare. More often than not, it's a photo shared on a Twitter platform that I send to Facebook as well so that I don't have to upload it twice.

If you're just on social networking sites to be there, that's cool. I have goals. Which is why if you're flooding my LinkedIn stream with the same stuff I just read on Twitter, totally overwhelming other connections who update what they're working on once or twice a week, I've pulled you out of my LinkedIn timeline. And really, a lot of us are on LinkedIn for the professional networking – we don't care if you're sharing ice cream with your kid. Save it for Facebook or Twitter.

I've been doing the same on Facebook lately, too.

This has a further consequence, as well: once I've pulled you out of my stream, you're out. It's not like I go back weekly to see if your practices have changed. If you point out to me that your practices have changed, I may go check, but if I've pulled you out of my stream and tomorrow you have an epiphany and decide to share good stuff on LinkedIn, sorry, I'm not going to know, and I'm not going to share it with my network.

How are you using these platforms, and how do you deal with people who use them differently from you?

Facebook etiquette: Event invitations

Maybe my blood's up a bit because someone pushed hard for a meeting I didn't want to have and then canceled last minute, but I have to be honest, I'm really sick of getting Facebook invitations to events I'm obviously not coming to.

And by "obviously not coming to," I mean the event is 300 miles away, on short notice (a day or two), on a weekday, and is something you have invited me to half a dozen times in the past without me showing up.

In short, there's no reason for you to believe I have any interest in coming. Add to it that I've actually spent time in your presence only a few times in the past eight years, and every time it's because I'm close with your brother- and sister-in-law, and I have to wonder if I should consider cutting the cord.

No, seriously. I understand that I could just delete the event invitation from my email, but I wrote about this in June about a local social media conference: if you want to be a customer service-driven business, you may as well show some good customer service.

Because frankly, if you clutter up my inbox with stuff I didn't ask for and that I'm already not responding positively to, I'm not only unlikely to patronize your business, I'm unlikely to recommend it. And if I don't like the way you run your business, I'm unlikely to view you as one of my favorite people.

So here is how the etiquette on this works. Let's say you have over 500 Facebook friends and you have an event that's of a special interest. Don't blast all your friends. Reach out to the ones who are likely to come -- those who first are in your general location, and if you really want to target people, invite those who are already your customers or those who are likely to get something out of it.

If your event is a social gathering on a weekend, you might be able to stretch that radius to people who are within an overnight trip. This doesn't include your Facebook friends across the country or across an ocean.

If it's your wedding, well, that's different. If it's a funeral, same thing. But a specialized, very local workshop? Come on.

If you don't clutter people's inboxes, they're unlikely to clutter yours. And if you clutter other people's inboxes repeatedly, they may either reach out and ask you to stop, which, let's face it, is a conversation you don't want to have, if you're the defensive sort, or they may just unclutter themselves, cutting you off.

It's really just a matter of being polite. Get some online manners.