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what-is-twitter-bird

I love Twitter.  I’ve told people I love Twitter.  The common responses are “What is Twitter?” and “Explain this Twitter to me, I don’t get it.”  My responses have been different for every person who asks.  At first I told people that if they didn’t already know, it probably wasn’t worth them worrying about — but that’s just rude.  I’ve refined my answer a bit.  I now tell people that Twitter is different things to different people, it all depends on the person.  I think this holds a fair amount of truth.  I now make an effort to give people a specific example of how they might use Twitter, without trying to explain how everybody else uses it.  Here are a few of my explanations…

6 Ways People Enjoy Using Twitter

Voyeurism & Exhibitionism: Watch or be watched.  Some people ( mostly famous people ) have thousands of followers but don’t follow anybody back.  Other people follow hundreds of people but don’t really have much to say.  Whether you want to follow or be followed, you can find all sorts of interesting people on Twitter.  There are a bunch of famous people on Twitter, and more and more are joining up every day.  If you love to watch the rich and famous, Twitter gives you an inside look – straight from the stars themselves.   While I’m not a huge star follower, a couple who I find interesting or amusting are Trent Reznor, Collective Soul, and Rainn Wilson.

Self Promotion: It seems to me that a LOT of the folks on Twitter are there to promote some aspect of themselves.  While this may sound kind of spammy, I think it’s actually been a part of Twitter’s success.  Without these energetic self-promoters, there wouldn’t be so many great links and articles posted all of the time.  Fact is, if you feel like somebody you follow is posting too much about their service or their blog – you just unfollow them!  Some of my favorite people to follow could be put in this category.  Check out Guy Kawasaki, Pete Cashmore (mashable),

Site or Service Feed: Most of these accounts aren’t really given a face at all, but are a straight up branded feed. For something like a sports feed, you might get real time updates to big games or headlines.  For others, the updates are similar to what you would find on the RSS feed to any of their blogs.  If you like their content, be updated instantly when they have something new you might enjoy!  Smashing Magazine, Net Tuts, USA Today Sports, ESPN, Foodimentary

Social & Personal Networking: The heart and soul of Twitter!  You have the ability to communicate with people from around the world.  There are several directory sites where people tag themselves based on interests, occupations, or hobbies.  Twitter gives you the ability to surround yourself with people who are interested in the same things.  Following people with similar interests means your Twitter stream may be filled with links and topics you’ll find interesting!  Being connected to similar people means you’ll have more to chat about, and you never know who you’ll end up talking to!  Some people REALLY get Twitter.  Some of the ‘Twitter Elite’ to check out are Chris Brogan, Mayhem Studios, Buzz Edition, Peter Santilli, and Chris Pirillo.

Professional Networking: Communicate with people from around the world who have the same or similar occupations.  Have a question about a project you’re working on?  Maybe somebody in your network can help!

Search & Be Found: A side note, but one worth mentioning, is that Twitter is quickly becoming a really interesting search tool.  You’re able to see what people are talking about, and get real-time results on topics you’re interested in.  The flip side of that, is that lots of other people are searching Twitter, too, and may see what you’ve said about a topic.  I’ve had 2 interesting incidents with this.  One day I was upset that a friend had almost been phished through eBay.  I tweeted my disgust and was instantly contacted by an eBay representative you asked me for additional information.  Contacting eBay about the incident had not resulted in removal of the listing.  My discussion with eBay’s Twitter person DID get it removed.  Another day I was curious about collecting a small amount of money through a debt collector.  I asked if anybody knew a good collection agency.  Within 20 minutes I received a phone call from one agency, and I received a tweet from another.  Both interested in handling my case!  The really wild thing is that I hadn’t given out my number.  The agency that called me actually tracked me down.  That’s putting Twitter to work!

If you haven’t tried Twitter yet, I highly suggest you do.  At first it seems confusing and unnecessary, but over time you might learn to appreciate it as much as the thousands of people who are as addicted as I am.  I’ve given a few ways that I’ve seen people use it.  Which one might work for you?  Maybe you’ll find a use that I haven’t even imagined.  Twitter is still fairly new to most people, and it keeps evolving.  Check it out!

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blilpfmMy goal for this year has been to check out a bunch of different Social Media & Social Networking sites on the net.  For the most part, I register, check the site out, then forget to ever go back.  I’ve finally found one that I think is pretty cool.  While not ‘new’, Blip.fm was new to me.  I’ve been playing around on the site for about a week now, and for the most part, I really dig it.

I would describe Blip.fm as a cross between internet radio and Twitter.  You follow people and have followers, similar to Twitter.  The difference, is that all of your “tweets”, now called “blips”, are songs instead of text or links.  Blips can have text with them, but you can’t just write a note without having a song attached.  Blip.fm has a live feed that updates to include songs being blipped by anybody you’re following.  You can just let it play and receive a wide variety of music from a bunch of people who, in theory, have similar musical tastes.  Every time you blip a song you can receive a list of people who have recently played that song.  Adding those people to your favorites list should add people with similar musical tastes.  You can add or remove the people you follow at any time.

The good: Blip.fm is a great way to find new music that is similar to music you already enjoy. For people who love music, it’s neat to find people who are interested in the same types of music, too.  Blip.fm is also a great way to listen to music.  Once you’ve created a list of people you follow, you can go to the site and just let the feed play.  You’ll have a wide mix of music played for you all day, with NO commercials!  You can also create a playlist of songs that you’ve already blipped to listen to later.

The Bad: There are a few features and tweaks that need to be made to make the service better in the long run.  My biggest complaint is that it’s very easy to add people to follow, but much harder to remove them.  I’d like a feature on each blip that gives an option to remove that user.  Also, things like comments and “re-blips” can be kind of confusing and need a little more ease of use ( like adding an @ to a reblip ).

The Ugly: Where do they get the music?  It appears that the music you’re listening to is just music random people have linked to.  Often the quality is bad, or it’s a live performance.  Other times you’ll click a song only to be told it’s unavailable.  I’m wondering if they’re going to run into royalty issues for streaming music they don’t have permission to use.

Overall, Blip.fm is a fun service.  It’s a great way to listen to music, and a great way to learn about new music from other people.  It may have a few issues, but the overall experience is pretty fun!

Oh – and by the way, I’m on there at http://blip.fm/glorified_j

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I recently wrote about the People Search Engines “Wink” and “Peek You”.  These sites give you a way to control the information that people will find when they search your name online.  On April 21st, 2009, Google launched their own profile maker, called Google Profile.  Obviously, with the Google behind the project, this profile will be one that will dominate the rest.  I’ve created my own profile, and I’ll run through the steps for you to create one, too!

google-profile

10 Steps to Creating Your Google Profile

  1. Go to the Google Profile page at http://www.google.com/profiles.
    • Click “Create my profile“.  Log into your Google account, if you’re not already.
    • If you’ve already created an account through another Google application, there may be some existing information.  In this case, click the Edit Profile link.
  2. Fill out your first and last name. Remember that what you put here will change your full name on all Google services such as GMail. Use the name most likely to generate search results, such as the name on your resume.
  3. Upload a photo. Click Change photo on the right side.  This photo will appear next to your name in search results.
  4. Fill out any other fields that interest you. These fields include Nickname, Other Names, Where I grew up, Where I live now, Places I’ve lived, What I do, Current company, Companies I’ve worked for, Current school, and Schools I’ve attended.
  5. Verified domains.  You can verify email addresses associated with your account.  This will allow Google services to recognize this email address and your Google account as associated (e.g. All invitations sent to this email address will automatically appear in your Google Calendar).
  6. Add a little personality. This section is a little less necessary, but adds in a little fun.  You have the option to complete sections for A short bio, Something I can’t find using Google, My superpower, and Interests.
  7. Choose links to display on your profile. Google will automatically find a any links associated with your Gmail address like your Google Reader or Picasa accounts.  You can also add links to your blog, Facebook, MySpace, or any other sites where you participate.
  8. Save changes.  Click Create profile to save this initial information.  If you already had some information present, click Save changes.
  9. Contact info.  In the light blue bar near the top of your profile page, you’ll see About Me and Contact Info.  Click the Contact Info tab, then click Edit Profile.  This section is a little more personal, so it’s up to you whether to add any information at all.
  10. Add Photos. You also have the option to add photos to your profile from a number of photo sharing services.

That’ll do it!  Now go and search your name to see what happens!  Odds are if you look all the way to the bottom of the results you’ll see your name with your profile picture.

Useful Links:
Google Profile
Making Your Profile More Useful

My Finished Profile

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twitter-birds-business

So you want to see what Twitter is all about. You are also part of a company that you’d like represented on Twitter. Do you start a page for both? Do you tweet as yourself AND your company? Do you just tweet as the company? I’ve been faced with this question a couple of times this week. Allow me to share my thoughts…

The way you approach Twitter really needs to be based on how you intend to use it. Do you want to build your brand? Do you want to engage your customers and seek out potential clients? Do you want your brand to be the face of your company, or do you have a person who might better represent you? These are all things to consider. When you decide it’s time to bring your company to Twitter, I feel like you have three main options.

  • The Branded Company Account. This one is all business. Tweets will be all company related. You can use it for things like product updates, website updates, special events, and even “Twitter only” discounts! While some people may find value in following this type of account, I feel that they miss the point of social networking. They’re not really providing anything that an RSS feed or an on-site blog could provide. You are also going to struggle to find people to follow you. Those who follow you are probably existing customers, not new prospects. Many who follow you will eventually unfollow due to lack of interest in what you’re tweeting.
  • The Person as a Member of a Company Account. This type of account is really what the majority of Twitter users seem to be. Most users are people who are also promoting their website, their services, their products, or their company. For many, a major motivation to use Twitter is to try to gain followers in order to help promote products or services. The beauty of this type of account is that it can appeal to fans of your company, as well as casual Twitter users. Posting tweets as a person can help you relate to people more than stale company updates can. Ultimately, Twitter works because you don’t have to follow anybody. If you aren’t providing content that other people find interesting, they will remove you from their list. One downside of this type of account is that you do lose some of your freedom. You are representing your company, and you’ll often want to keep things a little more professional, and ‘clean’, than some other users.
  • Multiple Accounts. Some people want their company on Twitter, but they also want to use Twitter apart from their company. Sometimes a company will have several divisions, and they’ll want each represented on Twitter for branding purposes. Multiple accounts would accomplish these things. This seems like a LOT of work to me, but there are those that manage it. There are programs and websites to help you manage multiple accounts, too. Having several accounts might seem like a good idea at first, but remember you if you want them to succeed you have to actually use them! If you don’t have the time or energy to log on and use each account, it’s probably best to pick one of the options above.

Twitter can be a great way to bring your company or website to the masses. The big thing to remember is that Twitter is all about engaging other people. Try to tweet things that people may find interesting or useful. Follow a few of the super popular Twitter users. Watch how they engage and relate to their followers. If you can find ways to do the same, and provide worthy content to those who are following you, your time on Twitter will be well spent!

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gravatarIf you’re a rookie blog commenter, you might wonder how some people get custom icons next to their comments, while others do not.  It’s actually really simple!  Those little pictures are called Gravatars, a condensation of Globally Recognized Avatars.  A Gravatar is an avatar image that follows you from blog to blog, appearing beside your name when you comment on gravatar enabled sites.

To get your own Gravatar, all you have to do is create an account at www.gravatar.com.  Once you have an account, you can add multiple email addresses and assign different pictures to each one.  Once that’s done, go comment on a blog!  As long as you use one of the email addresses you registered through Gravatar.com, you’ll get an icon next to your comment!

This won’t work on every blog.  Some people turn off comment avatars, and some blog software doesn’t support it.  Most do though, and since it only takes a few minutes to do… just do it!

There are a few other reasons to get yourself a Gravatar.  If you comment on a blog, your avatar gives you an identity.  It can be your picture, your company logo, or a picture or graphic with special meaning to you.  Since your avatar will be consistant from blog to blog, it can show people in certain circles that you’re interested in what they have to say.  If you have your own website, it’s also a form of branding.  Commenting on blogs will occasionally compel people to visit your website.  Your avatar could be that extra bit that catches someone’s eye.

Links:

Register for a free Gravatar

The Gravatar blog

Instructions on using gravatars on WordPress.org

WordPress.com goes Gravatar Crazy

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Online Community Strategist Angela Connor recently discussed Twitter Guidelines for employers on her blog.  Her article, “Do employees need social media guidelines?, discusses whether companies should be concerned about the Social Media discussions of their employees – specifically through Twitter.  For any company that deals in material that could be viewed as sensitive or confidential, this is an important topic to consider.  I highly suggest reading her article.

In response to her article, I wrote a comment that she later made into a guest post.  “Here’s why employers need twitter guidelines”   I feel like employers would be better served to discuss these topics with their employees before they become an actual issue.  A quick talk about separation of work and Twitter with your employees could save you the loss of a client, and them the loss of a job.  Something to think about…

Twitter with me!   @jeremylindh

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After starting two new online communities in 2008, I became really interested in other forms of Social Media.  I feel like that term is already getting overused, but for the sake of this post I’m running with it.  In 2008 I moved on from MySpace and started a Facebook.  In a short amount of time I went from bored and confused to having it become a must-check site every day.  I also signed up for Twitter in early December.  A month later I’m over 100 followers, and I watch it all day long while I’m at work.  My new love of Twitter has led me to the decision that I’m going to try everything I can this year.  Which leads me to declare…
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