When talking about online activity in general, and social networking and/or social media in particular, I often get asked:
How on earth do you keep track of the 7000+ [on Twitter] people you follow, and what they say?
I also often get asked:
How do you have time to be active on all the services, you appear to be literally everywhere!?
There are a two very simple answers to that: “I don’t.” and “I am not.” Yet it appears like I am. This post will clarify how I have things set up, what goes where and when, and what I actually read, and where I actually do my input.
The Main Services
If we start this from the total view it looks like I am active on the following services, to name the main ones:
You can see the contents from a bunch of those networks to the right of this post, under the headline Lifestream, which also has a navigation item in the top navigation. Not all of the networks from the list above though, and you’ll soon understand why.
The Order of Things
Now, no one could possibly be active on all of those networks and have a job and have a family, right? Besides, I have other things to do than to sit around updating everything everywhere, not to mention the updates would be rather boring after a while, as there would be no new/interesting input from someone who spent 35 hours per day updating online services.
I have therefore only a few input tools where I submit my updates. Mainly they are:
This is basically an input service that blasts out your status update to other services. When I type in an update here it (currently) gets posted out to: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Friendfeed, Plurk, Google Buzz, Yammer and Delicious (if I send an update containing a link). This is the main broadcast tool. It is also being used by the next tool, which is…
Hootsuite is a social network client/app/service that can show you different streams of content from different places, such as Twitter, Facebook etc. The main competitors to Hootsuite are Tweetdeck and Seesmic, and both of them are good as well. I just happen to return to Hootsuite more often than I do to the other two. Hootsuite is excellent for reading (I’ll come back to “reading” later in this post) those content streams, but it also allows you to use Ping.fm when you want to post something (see above).
This is on my iPhone only, and it is for photos only, but it manages to push out my images to the following services: Instagr.am (doh), Twitter, Facebook, Posterous, Tumblr and Flickr. It also allows you to check in on Foursquare.
This is listed here mainly because I type my stuff/content for it via its admin interface. Also, when I post articles on here it can/will get announced via Ping.fm and/or Twitter.
Firstly, with Social Networks, there is a difference in “being present” and “being active”. There is also a difference in “sending an update” and “reading all updates from all my contacts”, regardless of which network (Facebook, Twitter etc) we are talking about. I am probably not as fanatically present on Facebook as you are, or trying to keep up as hard with all my Twitter friends status updates as many people are.
When I’m in front of my computer, with my social “hat” on, I mainly read various streams in Hootsuite. This means there is one place for several streams. Today (it differs from week to week) I for example have streams with the following stuff:
- Twitter search results for “hellquist”
- Facebook feed
- Pending posts I have scheduled for publishing
- A (private) list where I have added people I don’t want to miss messages from
- List for web people
Notable observation 1: This means I never, as in never-ever, read my “default” Twitter stream! It quite simply moves too fast, and it mainly contains spammy messages in any case. I have sifted out the people I am interested in for my own list(s) [no.4] or get them via others lists[no.5, 6 & 7].
No 1: lets me keep track of whenever “hellquist” is mentioned on Twitter. This includes all mentions, even those not related directly to me, but as “hellquist” isn’t the most common name on the planet it is usually of interest in any case (for me). It also contains all my messages, as well as all replies to “@hellquist”.
Notable observation 2: This also means I have removed my “Sent Messages” as they will appear in the search stream for “hellquist”, and also that I have removed the “Direct Messages” (as that is 99.7% auto-generated spam in any case).
No 2: is pretty self-explanatory, and contains all my Facebook friends updates.
No 3: is there just to ensure I will not flood people with updates. When I read/surf good articles/content that I would like to share I usually add it to a schedule for when it will be posted. Otherwise, if I send out 10 links during a 1-hour window, people will think I am spamming their inboxes. Most of the sharing can live with going out a few hours later, and this is also the reason why I can set up a full mornings status updates during the previous night.
No 4: The most important one for me to be able to reply to real friends (or people of interest), and also to be able to catch up with my mates who live in other time zones.
Those last 3 lists (no 5, 6 and 7) are swapped/changed on approximately a weekly basis, but serve the purpose of being an input for breaking news from people I might not have myself, and/or people “in the know”.
When Twitter upgraded their systems some time ago they went from going rapidly down-hill as Twitter contained lots of noise, to instead enabling me to be able to view Twitter search results (and save them) and Twitter lists (which obviously can be saved), as that greatly improved the possibility of following specific topics and interests and not missing out on stuff. Their upgrade was, at least to me, a game changer, and they went back to being a valuable and good source of breaking news, information and facts.
Replying and/or reacting to stuff
I mainly read the replies/reactions to whatever I have posted on any network, via e-mail, which is the dark horse not previously mentioned in this post, yet it has a vital part. Yeah, I know, very old-school, but very reliable. Pretty much all the services mentioned in this post has settings for sending out an e-mail if someone has replied, liked or commented on a post I have made. Also, as I get all my e-mails to my phone too I can quickly decide when (and where) to respond.
It might be worth noting that if/when I get a comment/reply, and thus a corresponding e-mail, that e-mail contains a link to the comment/thread. If I want to reply back to that I do so by clicking on that link, which takes me to the comment in question, and I do my reply there, within the service (Facebook for example). Therefore I appear to be “hanging around” in that service too, even though I’m not, I am only there right then, to reply to that specific message, and will be logging out immediately after that. It is very rare indeed that I hang around in Facebook. The iPhone app is good though, for the quick replies.
So, that is my casual set up. A message sent via Ping.fm gets shot out to Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, Google Buzz, Plurk, Yammer, LinkedIn, unless it is a photo going out from Instagr.am. Any likes/comments/replies come to me as e-mails, and if I want to respond to it I do so in the service in question where the comment came in. Pretty simple really.
This also means that quite a few of the social networks get updates from me that are exact duplicates, which of course also is the reason I have chosen to not include all of the networks in the sidebar on the right in my “Lifestream”. They quite simply would contain the exact same message at pretty much the exact same time.
I used to be a lot more serious about these things before I moved to Sweden. See the screengrab below, where I even wanted to be able to have as many messages on the screen as possible, and even cut out on user icons from my friends (they take up a lot of screen real estate) by using commandline clients only.
That screenshot (which was taken to showcase Xmonad, not my Social Networking set up) was actually older than my “proper” setup, which had more “windows” with saved Twitter searches. It is using the best twitter client of them all, TTYtter, which is awesome.
Before you ask, the MSN/ICQ/YIM/IRC client that can be seen in that screenshot is Finch.
All of this also means that I have plenty of time doing my job and seeing my family, as it all of a sudden doesn’t take that much time out of my day: my input is limited but broadcasted widely, and I only respond if someone else has responded, at a time/place that suits me.
I spend an hour or two each day (mainly during evenings when the kids/wife are asleep) just reading stuff online about things that interest me. If I find a link that I think is worthy of sharing I schedule it in for posting (in Hootsuite). I am not auto-posting (letting bots post via my account), I am just spreading the goodness I have found myself over the course of a day. The rest are just plain status updates and replies to others, and can happen at any time.
I am not claiming my way/setup is the best, or how it should be. You are quite likely to have a better one. Regardless, this is how I have it set up. Now you know.