Tag Archives: social

Navigating a Sea of Information: Considerations and Tools

All, I hope the new year has been welcoming thus far. As promised, here are some of the considerations, processes and tools I use when navigating the daily seas of information. Keep in mind, this is merely the process that works for me and, therefore, it may not work as well for you as individualized processes can. I hope it can inspire some new perspectives, at least. Clearly, I’m a 21st century over-thinker.

I employ a four-step process for transforming information into action: Collecting, sorting, learning and implementingBelow, I only focus on collecting and sorting; learning and implementing are where individuals come into play.

Navigating the Seas of Information

  1. Collecting Information:
    1. Considerations: Why do I seek information? Where does the information I’m exposed to originate? How can I ensure a balanced diet of information?  While the first consideration is for the individual to decide for her/himself, I see four major areas of information sources, listed below. By viewing each of these sources as just as important as any other source, a balanced diet of information is possible.
      1. Authoritative: Websites, blogs, media, publications, speakers, etc.
      2. Social: Friends, family, coworkers, followers, etc.
      3. Experiential: The random experiences throughout the day that do not derive directly from authorities or social networks but happen nonetheless.
      4. Creative: The ideas, connections and questions we formulate within our minds, often spawned from other types of info sources.
    2. Tools:
      1. Google Reader (Website): This is an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed that I use to centralize and automate Authoritative and Social information from all of the websites and blogs I so choose. Google Reader is a tremendous time saver as you don’t have to manually go to each site (I’m at 35 per day and counting) over and over throughout the day. Further, by sorting all of my different feeds into folders, I get a leg-up on the sorting of my information. You can mark items as being read/unread and star items as well–whatever helps you know which information is new or important. You can also send articles from G-Reader straight to Instapaper (see below). I only use G-Reader this when using a desktop/laptop, however. For mobile access to G-Reader I use Flipboard.
      2. Flipboard (Mobile: iOS, Android): This is my go-to mobile Authoritative & Social information app (free). I use Flipboard to access my G-Reader feeds, Twitter feeds/lists, Instagram and Facebook updates and other information sources. It is free and is, in my opinion, the most visually impressive and fully functional way to view information on the market today. Imagine a virtual magazine of everything you’re interested in and more. That is Flipboard.
      3. Tweetdeck (Desktop App): This is my Twitter (Authoritative and Social) client of choice when using desktops/laptops to help me sort and browse all of my Twitter feeds and lists (Twitter lists are a major step in towards making Twitter work for you). I use the browser version, but there’s also a fine desktop version. You can also send and schedule tweets from this app. Given Twitter’s recent API changes, the fact that Twitter owns Tweetdeck provides a sense of security with this tool.
      4. Social Networking Sites (Website and Mobile Apps): For Facebook and some of the newer social networks (Authoritative, Social), the best interface is the native website or the official mobile apps. Sure, there are a growing number of semi-effective Facebook clients out there, but none is quite as good as the original thus far–at least when it comes to content intake alone.
      5. Evernote/Mobile Devices: Evernote is the BEST way to capture any type of information as it is available for all platforms including mobile. Given that our phones are our ever-eager companions throughout experience, availability and ease-of-use make Evernote powerful. It is the best way to centralize and organize the information you collect throughout the day. This app allows you to collect any form of information media (photo, audio, video, text) and tag/catalog it for later.
      6. Email: Some of us still get information (Authoritative, Social), work or otherwise, via email. May not love it, but live with it we must…for now.
  2. Sorting Information
    1. Considerations: What information do I consider worth knowing? What are the different reasons to know something? How do we separate the important from the unimportant?  When considering how important information is, I typically consider these four factors:
      1. Urgency: Is this information time sensitive? Is someone else waiting for my response?
      2. Utility: Is this information useful for navigating different parts of my life?
      3. Passion: Is this information regarding something I’m already interested in?
      4. Inspiration: Perhaps this information is neither urgent, useful nor something I already care about. That doesn’t mean it can’t hold some tangential or inspirational value!
    2. Tools: Having collected information with the above tools, I skim and sift through article titles, ledes, and opening paragraphs before rerouting anything of interest (the four factors above) into these tools for later consumption:
      1. Instapaper:  Instapaper allows you put everything you definitely want to read later in one location and it exists as an awesome mobile app as well as a website. When browsing through G-Reader or Flipboard, I have the option of sending articles directly to Instapaper. There is also an Instapaper plugin that allows you to save any webpage you’re looking at in a browser instantly. Instapaper is typically not the space for urgent information as there is no scheduling or timing aspect of this tool. It is purely a depository.
      2. Social Networks: This is where a lot of urgent information goes. Further, if the information is something that could be urgent, useful, interesting or inspiring to friends, social networks are great. Here are two awesome ways to deal with social information:
        1. Storify: Storify is a great way to curate and share themed information. With Storify, you can present information you collect from social networks or websites into a visually accessible “story” that you can then publish. I like this platform as it’s considerably more digestible than a mere list of links in addition to the editorial license of curating content into your own themes. Here is an example of a Storify I curate here.
        2. Paper.li: Paper.li is a great way to regularly collect and curate information from sources you designate. Paper.li is different from Storify in that it automatically collects information from designated sources and self-publishes new versions of your “paper” at intervals you set. Further, you can setup your Paper.li to sort the content into topical sections, each of which appears in your single paper. This is different from Storify, which is more of a single “section.” Here is an example of a weekly Paper.li I curate here.
      3. Evernote: Some articles are so important that I want to keep forever. Here, articles are sent to Evernote. Keep in mind that with the free version of Evernote, notebooks are not shareable so the information is only for you.

As you can surmise, this process does take time. However, utilizing these tools dramatically reduces said time and effort involved. Also, practice makes perfect. #ExtraSelfAwareness.

Do you have a great tool you use? Perhaps you have a consideration of your own. How do you absorb information? Let me know, comment below.

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@wluLex: Student Social Media Curators, Creators, Innovators.

This school year, starting in September ’12, the Washington and Lee University Communications & PR office challenged itself to create a socially legitimate channel for sharing and distributing relevant information to W&L students currently living in the small town of Lexington, VA.  Up to this point, the office has successfully engaged alums and parents via its Facebook page and Twitter handle, @wluNews. However, that simply wasn’t good enough…we were missing a huge and vital part of our audience: current students.

The current student population is most directly impacted by, and constitutes, the current snapshot of the active W&L community. They are what W&L is (sure, W&L prides itself on its vibrant alum network, but that’s more of what W&L was. Though I’m certainly not trying to downplay the importance of heritage). Not to mention, current students possess the greatest savvy of how to navigate the modern virtual information space. And of course, with this savvy comes the efficacy to be very selective when it comes to considering what is “relevant” and how to find it. A classic marketing problem presents itself yet again-the audience we want next the must is the most difficult to reach.

So, how can this valuable audience be engaged? We have less than enthusiastic stats on email readership, website page views are shockingly low and the news aggregator, a daily email titled “Campus Notices,” provides so much one-size-fits-all information in such a dry manner (text only) that its value is lost to students. Further, it takes no time to realize how little time mobile-ready students are willing to spend searching for and absorbing information. Long emails, 40K+ page websites and information hunts are simply unacceptable for students who are on the go and looking for time-sensitive info.

…Instant and ubiquitous gratification of the need for socially and personally relevant news…that is the name of the game.

So, what is socially and personally relevant to students? What is the best platform for making this information available everywhere? How can an official University office gain the necessary social legitimacy to find itself in the realm of the relevant?

Enter wluLex. Boom.

Mission Statement: wluLex is the student-led social media hub of creativity, information & interaction for the W&L community in Lexington.” 

Mission Statement

We interviewed an impressive pool of applicants for eight paid positions. In interviews, which also served as focus groups to learn about the current social media landscape on campus, we challenged students to blend the concepts of social media, school pride, relevant awareness and the growing ubiquity of mobile tech. What is relevant? Who is relevant? Why is it relevant? How does it become relevant? Where and when do you find it?

The students we hired are not simply savvy and diverse. Most importantly, they are curious and ambitious. They have a vision for how connected this community can be and they are willing to attain it. Here they are (these are the bio posters/infographics we’re using as part of our official launch campaign, which is taking place this week):

So, what has the team accomplished?

  • Amassed over 700 Twitter followers with great levels of engagement.
  • Created a workflow that involves each student having a different “beat” of student life and being responsible for taking that beat social (art, student organizations, student programming, varsity sports, campus recreation, community involvement, admissions and academics). Additionally, weekly meetings to synergize our visions are key. Finally, office hours which include individual Personal Growth Plans (blog post to follow soon) help keep each member intellectually and passionately engaged and improving.
  • Create content as well as curate. Examples:
  • Create an avenue for the student body to pose questions directly to other students.
  • Create an avenue for different University departments to quickly spread information to their audiences.
  • Provide insights on which social media platforms are currently relevant. Namely, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. (We’ve just launched our Facebook page and will be unveiling our Pinterest page in the coming weeks.)

And we’re just getting started.

What do you think? Have questions? Maybe some recommendations? I’m so all ears.

Campaign: #wluSocial Homecoming and Young Alumni Weekend 2012

Colonnade

Pic of #wluHome Instagram campaign on Colonnade. 2012

As part of my new job (Web Communications Specialist in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs), I have been charged with identifying and presenting valuable student information with the help of my awesome student team. Last week was Homecoming & Young Alumni Weekend at my alma mater, Washington and Lee University. Here’s the skinny on our campaign:

Purpose: Promote social media engagement across multiple platforms regarding Homecoming & Young Alumni Weekend at W&L.

Background: Homecoming/YAW is the first major event weekend at Washington and Lee. In addition to Homecoming sports games and official reunions for the classes of  ’03 and ’08, recent alums of any year are welcomed back. These are typically the people who still have a bit of college left in their systems…and want to find out how much there is ;). It’s a beautiful thing. The fraternities and sororities (W&L is above 80% Greek) host luncheons, cocktail parties, and dinners before throwing massive block parties to which everyone’s invited. Brunches are had a professors’ houses. Club reunions are abound. Given these things plus the fact that W&L alumns are notorious for appreciating time spent in Lexington, it’s bound to be a fun time every year.

Campaign: Essentially, “This is why you love W&L.”  People plain just love everything about coming back: the place, the people, the new memories. That love needs no flashy taglines or meta conceptions of what it means to “be back”. It’s easy to sell an idea when people can’t wait to have it.

Execution: This was our second big social media push (the first being freshman move in 2012). That campaign, along with my office’s experience and plenty of industry commentary told us that pictures were a great way to go. They are interesting, easy to digest, and often defy language–the perfect combination for memorable, or sticky, content. We wanted to utilize our current social media strengths (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Email, Website Release and Guerrilla) and throw in a few new tools. Here’s what we did:

  • Facebook: We used the Facebook to promote the hashtag #wluHome, Instagram contest, Storify page, and Pinterest board. A lot of our alumni audience hangs out here, so we treated Facebook as the “catch-all” information platform.
  • Twitter: #wluHome (click it to see the tweets). The team, which curates content and manages the handle @wluLex added the hashtag #wluLex to all Homecoming/YAW related tweets. It caught on quickly, as evidenced by the volume of tweets using it.
  • Instagram: We promoted use of #wluHome tagging. Emails, website, Facebook, Twitter, and guerrilla efforts all pointed to this. Check it out! (I like to use Statigr.am to browse Instagram. Great tool when you don’t want to stare at tiny screens.) 135 photos tagged! We also held an Instagram Contest.  Results here.
  • Storify: This was our first Storify attempt. We rolled it out after the event (had to wait for content to roll in). I think it went well. Basically, Storify is a way to create “stories” with socially-derived content. It’s a great way to round up, summarize and/or present social topics or events.
  • Pinterest: This was also our first Pinterest adventure. This was also an after-event’s-over deal (had to manually collect content). In fact, we’re still brainstorming ways to use it most effectively. Here, I simply selected some of the best Instagram shots and created a “wluHome 2012” board. It was really easy using Statigram as there’s a Pin-It plugin.
  • E-mail: E-mail to all registered alums mentioned hashtag #wluHome as well as the Instagram contest.
  • Website: Two news stories, one promoting the Instagram Contest and another promoting the Storify page. We also promoted the event via the popular weekly “Scene on Campus.”
  • Guerrilla: We hung a big banner in the most eye-catching part of the Commons–high contrast, multiple layers of fabric; a real standout. Also put up Instagram/#wluHome signs around photogenic spots on campus. Here:

Instagram/#wluHome sign

  • Concluding Thoughts: Awesome. This was a well-executed, multifaceted campaign across several platforms. Participation was strong. Engagement on Twitter was great as well. Of course, I’ll aim to get better participation and engagement for our next big campaign (there will be at least 7 more by year’s end). Next time, I’d love to crowdsource the voting process for the Instagram winner. I’d also like to have people create some Pinterest boards on their own (for us to get content from). Time will tell, but great start.

Scheduling Tweets and Posts: Hootsuite Scheduling and Buffer

For many of us, managing social media connections is but one of many aspects of the daily grind. What is a great way to reduce the stresses of managing these connections? Scheduling your content delivery in advance.

When it comes to scheduling tweets and posts, there is one question to consider: is this content time-sensitive? Time sensitive posts relate to specific events whereas non-time-sensitive posts are made during non-event times. Both types of tweets/posts are important for event publicity and maintaining interested followers, respectively.

Scheduling Time-Sensitive Tweets & Posts:  Hootsuite. Hootsuite is a popular and powerful SMM (social media management) tool that does everything from managing multiple social profiles, scheduling tweets, and analyzing traffic data. Further, Twitter’s recent API (application programming interface) changes have given Hootsuite some staying power–a valuable asset in the tumultuous world of 3rd party SMM clients. I won’t get into all of Hootsuite in this post–just the scheduling features:

Pros of Hootsuite Scheduling:

  • Unlimited number of tweets/posts you can schedule in advance (I have yet to encounter a limit).
  • Tweets can be scheduled very far in advance (I just scheduled one for 2030, yikes!).
  • Tweets can be scheduled down to the minute.
  • Tweets/posts can be scheduled with attachements and geo-tagging (location).
  • Facebook posts can be scheduled to be seen only by certain groups, lists, or networks (which are created in Facebook). LinkedIn posts can be seen by “anyone” or “connections” only.
  • You can create a stream of scheduled tweets and they’ll appear chronologically, by release date (this is unlike Tweetdeck, which shows scheduled tweets by order of scheduling–which is confusing).
  • Scheduled tweets can be deleted or edited.
  • Free version supports all the scheduling functionality.
  • Links are automatically shortened, saving valuable character space (uses Hootsuite’s shortening, ow.ly).
  • Facebook/LinkedIn thumbnail images can be removed (not changed) and captions can be edited.

Cons of Hootsuite Scheduling:

  • No time-zone indication (so be careful).
  • No calendar mode to see a calendarized layout of upcoming tweets.
  • Facebook/Linked in thumbnail images cannot be changed–only removed.
  • Hootsuite does have an “AutoSchedule” feature (similar to Buffer, below), however you cannot pick the times in the day that the posts are sent. This is why I prefer Buffer for auto-scheduling.
  • You cannot connect your bit.ly account.

Scheduling Non-Time-Sensitive Tweets & Posts: Buffer. Buffer “holds” your tweets & posts and sends them out, one by one & automatically, in time intervals you get to choose. Further, Buffer is partnered with Tweriod-a tool that analyzes your followers and determines the times of each day they are most likely to see your tweets-so you can set your intervals for maximum exposure.

Pros of Buffer:

  • You can set up as many tweet times per day as you’d like.
  • Tweet times can be minute-specific.
  • You can have the tweet times apply only to certain days of the week.
  • Works across multiple platforms: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
  • Links are automatically shortened, saving valuable character space. You can also connect your bit.ly account.
  • You can set the timezone.
  • Tweet times can be optimized with Tweriod.
  • Tweets can be edited/deleted.
  • Pending tweets/posts are listed chronologically and newly added tweets/posts are added to the last spot.
  • There are analytics for each post: Retweets, mentions, clicks, potential clicks, and favorites.
  • You can add photos or pics to tweets/posts and you can choose the thumbnails that appear (Facebook and LinkedIn).

Cons of Buffer:

  • Only works with Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. The free version only allows one of each.
  • While you can have different tweet times for different days, you can only have one set of similar days with the free version.
  • While tweet times can be determined with Tweriod, Buffer and Tweriod are different apps, so you have to go to Tweriod and then Buffer (as opposed to only having to go to one spot). Further, Tweriod only works for Twitter, not Facebook or LinkedIn.

Overall, this duo is highly effective with manageable downsides. Great ways to schedule the process of scheduling tweets and posts.