When I’m busy or preoccupied, you won’t find me very “present” on social media channels like Twitter (@customersdotcom, @pattyinboothbay), Facebook, and LinkedIn. I tend to participate in fits and spurts. But so many people ask me WHY I tweet, and link, and blog, and tag, and retweet, and follow people that I’ve given it some thought. I know that I should do it for the PR and SEO value. We’re a small consulting and publishing firm. By being “out there,” more folks are more likely to find us. And, I have gotten leads through Twitter.
But that’s not why I monitor Twitter, post on Facebook and LinkedIn, read and post in Quora, and engage in other time-consuming, focus-interrupting activities. I do it because I learn things. As soon as there’s something that comes across my radar—unrest in Egypt or Libya, elections in Uganda, the need to become knowledgeable about a new topic or technology quickly—I hit the social media world. Twitter is fantastic for monitoring current events. You just set a search term, or find the current hashtag, and begin monitoring the flow of information flooding in. You quickly discover the best sources among the flood of commentary, and you can start following them directly, or link to their blogs or the other places they post.
Learning isn’t always event-triggered or need-driven. You learn by following and watching really interesting and insightful people. The more time I spend on Twitter, for example, the more value I place on the caliber of the insights and links I get from the people that I follow. So the best investment of time I’ve found in social media is to find really insightful people to follow and then to begin following all the insightful people they follow. Always move up the ladder of social intercourse, not down. That means that I have to unfollow people who post about things I don’t care about (for me, that’s sports, celebrities, and whining). That way I can follow people whose links are really insightful. I prefer tweets with observations, commentary, and links to interesting stories, videos, or other sources. I’ve found I’m using Quora in much the same way I use Twitter. There are topics and people I follow. But I also wander around serendipitously and stumble upon amazing information, resources, and insights about things I didn’t know about. That leads to following more topics and more insightful people. Whenever I appreciate something, I retweet it, or favorite it, or let that person know that it was really helpful and valuable.
So why should you invest time in “hanging out” in the social media world? It feeds your brain, not your ego!