[tweetmeme]At the beginning of September last year Clive Thompson published an influential article on NYTimes called A Brave New World Of Digital Intimacy. In the article, Clive discusses an interview he had with Facebook’s Founder Mark Zuckerberg on how Facebook’s newsfeed (dominated by short status updates) has been central to the sites success. He asks…
“In essence, Facebook users didn’t think they wanted constant, up-to-the-minute updates on what other people are doing. Yet when they experienced this sort of omnipresent knowledge, they found it intriguing and addictive. Why?”
Clive cleverly pokes fun at the Facebook status culture with the line “I’m so totally, digitally close to you!” and points out that…
Social scientists have a name for this sort of incessant online contact. They call it “ambient awareness.” It is, they say, very much like being physically near someone and picking up on his mood [etc] through the little things he does…
Understanding the dynamics of ambient awareness in the digital world is crucial to using social media effectively. In fact, increasing others’ awareness of YOU is what signaling and brand building on Twitter is all about.
I think we’ll all agree that, at least in its infancy, status updates were Twitter’s main MO. I think that’s changed as the UI and culture has developed and I’d argue that many people have evolved away from using Twitter to tell everyone what they’re doing all the time. Beyond socializing and sharing information, Twitter for many of us has become an essential tool for signaling, creating community and self branding. By engaging the social web correctly with Twitter, we can find and target individuals and groups and signal to them that we share interests and goals, that we belong to common communities and tribes. This type of signaling is the most effective way to build relationships and community over the web. Why? Because you can sincerely engage people based on mutuality and reciprocity.
How To Use Twitter For Effective Signaling On The Social Web
Signaling and branding are two of the most important uses for Twitter that work hand-in-hand, and while most people “get” how to use the tool effectively to broadcast and communicate, they miss hundreds of opportunities to create value and social capital for themselves and to network effectively. Here are some ways you can create the most value for yourself as you post to Twitter…
When You Share Content, Don’t Forget To Also Credit The Author Publicly
If you’re like me, you read constantly and you’ve got a list of favorite blogs and communities that you go to as much as daily for your information. I share noteworthy articles and posts I read on Twitter daily. Sharing ideas and content is the primary way I use Twitter and almost all of my my favorite writers and blogs have Twitter accounts. In fact, now that Twitter is mainstream almost anyone who is actively creating content on the web is on Twitter. Knowing this, we can create value for ourselves as well as the those whose content we enjoy. All we have to do is include the author’s Twitter account in the tweet when we link and share content (or even say “read X on @techcrunch or @rww” if you would rather credit the blog – most big blogs have Twitter accounts too). Not only does the author or person running the online community’s twitter account instantly see that YOU have shared the content with your community, they can also see that you’ve promoted them and given them credit. Win-Win, right? As Tara Hunt would say, you’ve just created a little bit of Whuffie. Kudos to you.
This can have huge benefits if you do it consistently. Over time, going the extra mile to give credit for content that you share by simply adding “by @[username]” or “on @[blog'stwittername]” when you link to content tells the author that you’re interested in their work, that you share interests and that you’re a regular reader. It’s validating for them, it helps them with their writing/blogging goals (they want to spread their content) and you’ve identified yourself as a member of their tribe and given them a reason to be interested in creating a relationship with YOU. This is serendipity at work. As a blogger, I love when people who read my stuff let me know who they are – there’s no need for anonymity anymore – real time public sharing and credit giving creates friendships quickly and effectively. I always reach out to regular readers and I find that when I consistently credit other writers, they also reach out to me. I have many good now-offline friendships that started this way online. Now contrast this with a Twitter post that has the same link with no credit – You’re not directly creating a trigger point to start a relationship so the chances of the author being aware of you is much lower so the ball never starts rolling. While it required the same effort to post the Tweet, the mutual benefit of the author and reader are much much lower.
Ok, so now that the meat of the point has been established, here are some other ways that you can use credit to create social capital -
Make Public Introductions with the people’s @usernames: For all the reasons stated above, introducing people, along with a short description of why you think they should know each other on Twitter benefits everyone. Not only are you creating goodwill by endorsing BOTH parties, by introducing them in a public way, you are also endorsing them to your followers. Introducing people on the web is a high value action for all.
Recommending Someone On #FollowFriday: We all know what #followfriday is for – it’s for finding the cream of the crop in the Twitterverse using the crowd as our guide. And of course, it’s not completely altruistic in practice, is it? Follow Friday is about you recommending others for mutual gain. You receommend someone, they get followers AND it signals to them that you’re aware of them, that you endorse them etc etc. I find that people create the most mutual value on Follow Friday when they focus on a single person and give explanations why they are making the recommendation. Tweeting a message like
“@globalpatriot inspired me this week. He writes a great blog on Global issues that I frequent #followfriday”
is much better than a post like this…
“@whyshouldIcare @whoisthis @whatsthepoint @dontcare #followfriday
Now that I’ve outlined a few ways to use Twitter for effective signaling, I hope your creative juices are flowing and you’re starting to think of other ways that you can use Twitter for signaling and creating relationships in the future. Remember, including people’s names in posts helps them find you and can often be an indicator of mutual interest and be used for mutual benefit. Giving credit and making recommendations in positive ways consistently can only benefit you in the long run…So go forth and crank up that antenna.