Let’s face it: The world is getting noisier. Individuals and companies alike now compete with each other in a 24/7 attention economy. As our individual and organizational social networks grow over time, the amount of noise can become overwhelming. It can be hard for people to know who and what really matters to them. For organizations, it can be challenging to know who should be in their network, who they need to pay attention to, and what type of information is of value.
Fortunately, there are a bevy of tools out there to help individuals and organizations alike focus on who and what is important. Here are a few that we use on a regular basis.
We can’t extol the virtue of lists enough. Lists help us categorize our friends and connections so that we can more easily scan what’s going on. Both Facebook and Twitter allow you to create lists, and on Twitter, they can be made either public or private. For example, we maintain private lists of current clients and prospective clients so that we can quickly see their tweets and respond. We also keep this public list of media we follow on Twitter, which helps us stay informed. We also follow other people’s lists, so that we can get a sense of what’s going on in those categories without having to create our own list or follow a number of other people.
One caveat: People change jobs, your relationships change over time, and your interests and needs also may shift. That means that lists often require maintenance.
Social Media Clients
Just like many of us use Outlook for email, there are software platforms available to help you monitor and use social media tools. Many of these tools were started as a way to interface with and extend the functionality of Twitter, though some have come a long way and now provide the ability to access multiple social media sites (to varying degrees of functionalities).
Our personal favorite is Hootsuite. They have a free option, but we find the $5.99/month is worth paying for additional features such as integration with Google Analytics. Hootsuite can connect to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, LinkedIn and a number of other social networks. It also allows you to add team members (with a paid subscription) so that you can easily manage corporate accounts as a team.
But what we like most about Hootsuite, however, is the ability to create custom tabs and columns that display all the info you want in one place. For example, we monitor the lists mentioned above simply by creating a tab that has all of our most important lists on them. You can also create columns out of Twitter searches, so you can monitor for keywords fairly easily.
Other very good social media clients include Tweet Deck and Seesmic, though you can find a treasure trove of social media tools over at oneforty.com.
Social Media Filters
All of the above tools help us filter out noise and focus on what’s most important. There are also a several services that can do this for you.
Our favorite is Gist. Gist takes your connections from your social networks, as well as your email contacts and Gmail. You can access Gist through a wide variety of methods, including through Outlook or Gmail, in Firefox or Chrome (web browsers), or even on your Blackberry, iPhone or Android.
Gist will automatically analyze all of your contacts and will assign a value to them between 0 and 100, based on how important those contacts seem to be to you. It will also seek out your contacts on a variety of social networks, and once confirmed, will import that data (if public) into the system. You can then be able to see status updates from people and companies, sorted by their score.
Whatever tools you chose, it’s important to remember one thing: Things change very quickly. While one tool works today, new tools with new functionalities become available all the time. Don’t be afraid to experiment!