Crowdsourcing news coverage: Springfield, MA tornado

This video has an AP logo on it, but that's primarily because it was shot from a camera that happens to overlook the Connecticut River in a television newsroom. I don't think it's significantly different in quality than this one (other than the NSFW audio):

We've heard a lot about the Joplin, MO, tornado over the past month. Even with video, it's tough to understand until you know the places you're seeing, and you hear voices you know describe people you know and neighborhoods you know. When all the traffic lights are down, it takes three hours to get a cell phone call out, and the highway through town isn't accessible.

This is when even a privately held, monopoly newspaper in town can open up and say, "We can't be everywhere. Help us out." And people did.

Videos from the tornado | More on YouTube
Newspaper photos | Reader photos
Full story »

I'm sure there will be more photos and videos today, both from people venturing out for the first time, and from news outlets getting out into the neighborhoods in daylight. Wow.

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Why I’m becoming a HootSuite affiliate

I've been using HootSuite for a couple of years now to manage multiple social media networks – multiple Twitter accounts, my Facebook page, LinkedIn and Foursquare. In addition to the multiple accounts, it allows you to schedule tweets, which I do daily for the Gold's Gym account I run, because it gives me the opportunity to get through my feed reader in the morning, space tweets throughout the day, and be present to handle mentions and DMs without having to bounce out to my reader for more links.

HootSuite - Social Media DashboardThey also allow you to manage teams (multiple users on one Twitter account) and give you analytics.

HootSuite went freemium in late 2010. You can still use it for free, but if you want to fully take advantage of the analytics and multiple accounts, you pay a nominal rate (about $5 a month).

I'm not nuts about ads everywhere on a blog, and I don't expect to make my living (or even a decent secondary income) from affiliating, but I'm a big fan of HootSuite, and I'm willing to recommend them without being compensated – so why not get compensated?

Check them out (they'll give you a free one-month trial), and if you like them, stick with them for a while. If you click on a link from my site, it's an affiliate link.

Promoting vs. Engaging

There's a product I've been following the last couple of months, and, while I find it intriguing, I haven't tried it. It's called Fitness Coffee – a coffee meant to aid in weight loss (my best guess is there's some additive, probably natural or near-natural, designed to kick your metabolism into high gear).

They're fairly active on Twitter and Facebook, and they're looking to get further into the social space by giving away an iPad.

You can enter by sending them a picture, blogging, vlogging or doing some Facebook or Twitter something.

OK, comprehensive-ish, but there are some instructions I just don't get. For the blog entry:

Blog about us on your blog with by posting the following and send us the link...

Twitter:

Once you are signed up and following us, simply tweet this to your list of fellow tweeters...

For Facebook:

Simply become a fan or like of Fitness Coffee on Facebook and post the following on your wall...

So, rather than hearing what their customers think about their product (except the vlog, where they want a 15-second clip – not exactly a review), they're steering the message. Why bother?

If you really want to spend $500 on a give-away, get something out of it. People who read blogs, by-and-large, are not stupid. They'll know the copy was written by someone other than the blogger, and they won't care about your product.

Instead, ask for links of reviews to your product. You'll learn where you can improve, and...wait for it...when you get a positive review, you'll get more customers. Because I read blogs written by people I trust, and if someone I trust thinks enough of your product to write a positive review, that might be the thing I need to push me over the edge to spend $10 on an 8.8-ounce bag of your product (when I'm more than happy to spend $6 on a 40-ounce tin of Folger's at one of those bulk membership clubs).

When people are talking about you on the social web, are they really talking about you? Or are they just regurgitating canned copy for a reward?

3 Social Media Books You Don’t Need to Read but Your Clients Do

If you're reading this blog, you probably fall into one of four categories:

  1. You're into social media in some way
  2. You're a Central New Yorker wondering when I'm going to start writing about Central New York again
  3. I've bought you coffee/a beer/lunch and you feel obligated
  4. We're related

If it's the first or the third, this post is for you. If not, you can wait until next week, when I'm doing a whole week of childhood cancer, because you don't feel bad enough about the world these days.

If you're in category number one, you might remember back in August when Mitch Joel reminded me he wasn't writing for me, but rather for people who weren't already sold on the power of the Internet for marketing.

Here, I'm going to give you three must-reads for people who are slow to get into social media, but that you, the person who is already doing social media well, probably don't need to read.

In fact, if you're doing the consulting thing, every time you enter a contract, buy these books for your client and include them in your price. Also, insist that they read them in this order.

1. Trust Agents by Chris Brogan & Julien Smith. The first thing I like about these two gentlemen is that they walk their talk. This book will explain to your clients why they need to give away knowledge, if not product, for free, and why they need to build relationships, even with non-customers, even outside of working hours. If they're not sold on social media after this book, tell them what Brogan charges after a couple of years in social media ($10,000 for a speaking engagement, $22,000 for a day-long consult). If they're still not sold, exercise your out clause.

2. The Zen of Social Media Marketing by Shama Kabani. My favorite part of this book is that it provides how-tos. Most other social media books talk about how to best utilize the platforms (this one does as well), but this book actually walks you through setting up Facebook pages and the like. And because social media is always changing, Kabani and her staff keep the book updated online.

3. UnMarketing by Scott Stratten. Stratten even tells you in the introduction to this book that if you're already using and succeeding with social media to not read his book. Use this book to reinforce what Brogan and Smith write about. There are more old-media comparisons in this book, which might help the stodgier of your clients think about their practices and the way they behave themselves as consumers. If you have initial resistance, start with this book and have them read Trust Agents third.

I hope that saved you some time.

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?

My favorite newsletters

I have two favorite email newsletters, and I wanted to take a minute to share what they are and what I enjoy about them. There are two motivations behind this: (1) to offer you suggestions on how to get me on your list as an email subscriber, and (2) to get you to let me know what your favorite email newsletters are.

1. Funds For Writers by C. Hope Clark

I forget what first got me interested in FFW – possibly a ramp-up to my first National Novel Writing Month – but Hope Clark's weekly newsletter provides a message from her about how to find success, motivation, inspiration or some other writing-related topic; an article from a contributor about writing; available grants, fellowships and contests; and freelance opportunities.

FFW hits my inbox Friday afternoon or evening, and gives me enough food for thought for the weekend – and enough action items to keep me busy as long as I want to be busy.

Clark also does a free small markets newsletter and a free WritingKid newsletter, as well as a paid newsletter.

2. SearchCap from Search Engine Land

SearchCap is a round-up of everything going on in search (SEO, SEM, PPC, local, maps, etc.), social media, and analytics. It's a daily, sent out in the evening, with whatever is new on Search Engine Land that day, along with links to blog entries by many different people across the social/search landscape (Friday's edition, for instance, included summaries of six of SEL's posts, links to 40 blog posts by other writers, and summaries of some of the top items on Sphinn, which is SEL's social sharing site).

The things these two newsletters have in common that I particularly enjoy are:

• They have lots of information
• They arrive at a good time for me to read them and utilize the information in them
• They save me time on searching for all the info
• They provide me with information I wouldn't have thought to look for

Which are your favorite newsletters?

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?

Foursquare as a travel journal

Some of you know my back and forth with Foursquare as a tool. Foursquare isn't going away, so I may as well embrace it – and my guess is that long-ish service outage we saw Sunday morning means they're getting their ducks in a row for some major funding, either in terms of a purchase or a round of venture capital.

I was in Saratoga Springs over the weekend, and I used Foursquare throughout the weekend to mark where I'd been, so that I could go back and recall names, and be able to find addresses and Web pages. It was a handy note-taking tool. I probably abused the "Tell Twitter" function a little, but I tried to take it easy on the anti-Foursquare amongst my followers (I've been telling Twitter less and less lately).

I found Foursquare to be a highly effective tool for the purpose. Even when Foursquare was down, I could tweet my location (I don't get people who tell Twitter where they are, but who claim to hate Foursquare – it's the same thing, just without the 4sq link). Sure, it means if you were stalking me, you could find me. You already knew I wasn't home because I told you on Twitter that I was heading out of town. That doesn't mean you could get by the dogs, the electrified lawn barrier, and the two other things I'm not telling you about.

The two things I like best about using this method:

1. It's digitized. When my brother and I drove from Massachusetts to California in 2003, neither of us had a smart phone, we weren't on Facebook, (what with it being still in development and us out of college) and we didn't have location-based services in general. We kept a road diary, and while I've referred to it for purposes of stories, I've never digitized it. My Foursquare travel journal is already digitized, and I can just copy and paste into a document if I want.

2. Contact information. Most of the venues in Foursquare have some modicum of correct information, including an accurate venue name. That makes a venue easy to find should I want to refer to it in a blog entry or get in touch so that I can go again.

Using Twitter as a Feed Reader

I've been using Bloglines as a feed reader for about five years now, and there are some things I like about it, including the ability to see embedded video within the reader. But as I get more mobile, I find it's not enough.

I've recently launched a new Twitter account at @_ThatJosh (with the underscore; without was already in use). I'm using it as a feed reader rather than a conversationalist, like I do with my main @JoshShear account.

I didn't duplicate the feed list I have in Bloglines. I'm still running image-heavy feeds (like the Dilbert daily comic strip and Josh Spear's trend-spotting blog) through it, but now for the social media, search and entrepreneur feeds I read, I can see what's going on in a list form, with only a headline, a few words and a link.

This is especially helpful when conferences are going on and my feed reader blows up with the live blogging (I still love you, Outspoken and BCI, I'm just making it easier on me).

Here is how I set it up:

1. I created a new GMail account. This gives me the opportunity to use it as a pivot point for anything I decide to do with this particular group of accounts. GMail has a good spam filter, so I don't have to worry about cleaning out the inbox frequently, and Google seems to be OK with me opening as many accounts as I want.

2. I signed up the Twitter account.

3. I went to Twitterfeed and signed in with my Google account (use the "Sign in with Open ID" link). I added the feeds, told Twitterfeed how often to check each, and to post them to my Twitter account.

I use Hootsuite to read Twitter both on my laptop and on my phone (I use the Android application, not the website, on my mobile). I created a tab for _ThatJosh, and put three columns on that tab: mentions (people talking to me), direct messages (private messages to me), and my sent feed, which essentially ends up being the feeds I'm reading.

This is antithetical to how I recommend people to use Twitter, but my goal is not followers: It's a tool for me to make my morning reading routine go smoother. I hope it helps you as well.