Oct 22, 2009

Rise of the Robots (Twitter Strategy)

When we use social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, many do so with the intent of creating an online portal into their personal world. We share what matters to us, and the more private things we tend to keep to ourselves (with some exceptions to this rule). But the overall trend we currently see today is that the social media sphere is becoming too large for an individual to manage on their own and thus they are overwhelmed in trying to keep up and often times what could have been an excellent outlet for a message turns into a mediocre experience at best.

If you are one of the many social network gurus (experts, specialists, etc), you often contend that in order to be successful in social networking, you must drive your following into the stratosphere. There are many methods which are in use which do this, from the automated following routines of software which follow other people en-mass based on your selection of interested keywords to search for, to more humble and, albeit more involved, approaches such as being yourself and tweeting only what you have time to tweet.

With the automated approach, we're not really garnering new followers in the manner which we seek. Instead we're actually exploiting the fact that a majority of twitter users are using automated methods to determine following of other people. In this sense, we're using the Rise of the Robots to our advantage, because all of those automated robots managing multiple twitter accounts and social media networks on our behalf are following other accounts which more than likely are also automated in turn.

Unless you are a celebrity, simply being on a social network really isn't going to give you a massive audience. Being @Oprah, for instance, and having a Twitter account almost guarantees a massive following with each and every follower hanging on your every tweet (Oprah has nearly 2.5 million followers at last count, yet she is following only 17 people). But for us mortals, there isn't much of a following for our accounts and so we are in the position where we must figure out the best method by which to build a following.

If we look at the social media experts, they often claim they know the secrets to building a huge following on Twitter, or how to build a successful social media campaign for yourself or your company. For any intelligent person, it is soon understood that there is a fair amount of automation involved with this process to build a following, and quite honestly the line blurs between what it is to be successful and what is not.

In the digital world, are you a success if you have tens of thousands of followers? This question applies to any social media platform past, present and future, because we must realize that quantity doesn't always equal quality. In the Rise of the Robots era of Web2.0, one cannot help but think that a majority of the "people" who are following you are automated software agents looking for search terms at the request of their operator.

So we ask again, is this following worthwhile? Sure the numbers look impressive, and yes you are certainly reaching a large number of people (regardless if automated software is making account decisions for them). But in the end, the question is whether or not that large following has a sufficiently high ROI to warrant the numbers.

To this end, it's a toss up as to whether you should be a purist (posting all of your own content), or if you should automate the process and kick back as your numbers begin to skyrocket.

My personal philosophy on this matter happens to be a combination of the two as a strategy.

In the beginning, you are most certainly going to need to build a following sufficient enough to warrant the account as a marketing tool. In this regard, it is safe to say that you should initially get a twitterfeed.com account and send at least one or two RSS feeds to your twitter on an hourly basis. Nothing obnoxious like 5 posts each per hour, but something low and reasonable in order to vary your twitter content while automating the activity level of your social media space. You should also during this time feel free to actually add tweets of your own to the mix when you find the time, something relating to you personally (work, entertainment, etc).

Instead of being completely automated, we're looking at a hybrid approach to the process which will alleviate the workload on your side and offload much of that to automated processes.

In as much as following and unfollowing people, this should be a process which you do manually. If you are using an automated process to cycle RSS to your twitter feed, then those who are searching for like minded content will inevitably follow you. When this happens, take some time periodically to go through your list and choose who you wish to follow as a reciprocal. Don't be worried if some of those followers inevitably unfollow you, as this is simply a normal fluctuation (as well as a byproduct of other less scrupulous methods for gathering a high following in twitter)

What sorts of RSS feeds should you use in Twitterfeed?

I would suggest your Blog RSS feeds for starters. If you have a Facebook account, then I would suggest finding an RSS for that as well and adding it. The idea overall is to create an integrated network whereby updating one updates the rest via inter-connectivity. Also, look for news and blog RSS feeds which are relevant to your social media message and include those as well, in order to stay on top of the leading edge news and happenings of your field via twitter.

When you've reached a number of followers which you feel is sufficiently high, this is the time when you begin to prune your list of followers in order to create a more targeted audience.

You will more than likely find that much of your following would not be interested in your message, and therefore those are the first to go. Some of these followers would be WebCam Girls, Home Marketing, SEO Experts, and generally any home based business or social media spam accounts. If they aren't being sincere, then chances are they aren't interested in what you have to say.

The reason you wait until your following is sufficiently high before doing this is to give yourself a buffer of loss during the process which will ensure you are refining the following to a more targeted group, while keeping your numbers high enough to entice others to follow you. As your following becomes more targeted, and the numbers are remaining high, that is the time when you begin to reduce the twitterfeeds and instead put more effort into your twitter account with more tweets from you as a person.

That isn't to say that you shouldn't have been tweeting all this time to begin with, but you should be weening the RSS feeds off of the account which will result in more tweets and content directly from you as a person.

One thing to keep in mind is that your twitter account should also be branded to reflect what you or your representing entity. Design aspects for this are very important, just as building a website would be. So take the time to understand your audience, and how exactly you wish to brand yourself.

The last thing to remember is to be sincere. You're trying to sell something, whether it's yourself, your services, or a product, but you must keep in mind that you are dealing with a community. This isn't a hard sell Tupperware party or car lot. While people are interested in you or what you have to offer, keep in mind that being human isn't a bad thing, and showing that you are just a normal person like everyone else will put your followers at ease while increasing your credibility. Don't be afraid to talk about something not involving or related to work.

In short, loosen the tie and have some fun. Try to balance being serious with being silly, and you may find that something you've said ends up going viral, thanks to your massive following ;)

Oct 18, 2009

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

by John Perry Barlow
Co-Founder Electronic Frontier Foundation

Davos, Switzerland
February 8, 1996

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.

You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.

You claim there are problems among us that you need to solve. You use this claim as an excuse to invade our precincts. Many of these problems don't exist. Where there are real conflicts, where there are wrongs, we will identify them and address them by our means. We are forming our own Social Contract . This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.

Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.

We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.

Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonweal, our governance will emerge . Our identities may be distributed across many of your jurisdictions. The only law that all our constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We hope we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis. But we cannot accept the solutions you are attempting to impose.

In the United States, you have today created a law, the Telecommunications Reform Act, which repudiates your own Constitution and insults the dreams of Jefferson, Washington, Mill, Madison, DeToqueville, and Brandeis. These dreams must now be born anew in us.

You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.

In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media.

Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.

These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.

We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.