Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
December 18, 2010 1:16 PM

The One Thing About Social Media That Most People Don't Think About

How much do you enjoy walking in on the middle of a movie? Right. Figured as much. Well, welcome to Social Media.

Yesterday, someone recommended that I connect to a specific individual on Twitter. Their exact comment was, "this person is one of the smartest people I know... and they're brilliant on Twitter. I have been following them forever." High praise. I hopped over, checked out who else this individual was following, who was following them and then looked at their Twitter stream. I could not make heads or tails of it. A lot of @ replies that were one to three words long, the occasional tweet to a link without out much context, some random tweets about how their day at the agency was going and a handful of retweets.

That's when it hit me...

It feels like I'm in the middle of a conversation. It feels like I'm walking into the theater in the middle of a movie. Not only do I have to keep pace with the action as it unfolds, I need to figure out the characters and the back-story as well. I quickly hopped over to my own Twitter feed, this Blog and even the Podcast page. Same feeling. If someone told you to check out my content today, they're basically parachuting you into the middle of a jungle... and I hope you can figure your own way around/out of it.

It's an ongoing evolution.

As we evolve and create content, it changes. This is normal. I don't think anybody would want to come back to this Blog if the content was repetitive. But, we have to also imagine that many people are discovering our content for the first time, and it's incumbent on us to ensure that those people feel welcome. This doesn't mean that we have to change much, but it might be wise to leave some breadcrumbs for the newbies.

What could that look like?

  • First time here? You could ask that question and then link it over to a brief bio about your space, yourself and maybe even point those people to some valuable content you've created.
  • Interrupt your broadcast. Every once in a while, it might be wise to tweet/Blog something like: "if you've just connected to me in the past little while, you may find this interesting..." with a link to something that truly exemplifies what you're all about.
  • Featured posts. You'll notice that on the left-hand navigation of this Blog. It's just a handful of older Blog posts that seem to have resonated with this audience and also best reflect the type of content you will find here.
  • The "about" page. Make your "about" page and your "bio" page that much more prominent. You can even start off with a warm and welcoming line to everyone who is connecting to you for the first and what they can expect from following you. Maybe even record a short video so they can see and hear you.

All of this is going to affect adoption.

Not a day goes by that I don't receive an email with a question that stops me dead in my tracks, because it validates that the majority of people do not understand how Twitter works or the way a Blog is set-up. Most people are not used to content being published and flowing in near-real-time. Most people are used to an environment that treats everyone as if it is their first time visiting (like the majority of websites). Social Media is not like this. And, much like the social circles we have when we connect in person, they can be complex, challenging to navigate and difficult to understand at first.

Think about the content you publish. Now, think about how someone visiting you for the first time might feel. Is it working for you?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Jan Gordon
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, this is a great post, very helpful, I'm sure we can all identify with this and your suggestions are great. SM is a work in progress we all need some guideposts along the way.

    Reply
  • Posted by Martin Buckland
    Mitch Joel

    How true Joel, great words of wisdom! I facilitated a presentation to a group of persons experiencing career transition. I was astounded how the majority had no clue on how to conduct themselves on social media let alone use it as a tool!

    Reply
  • Posted by Mehrtash
    Mehrtash

    it's a live it's alive ; )

    Reply
  • Posted by Erica Diamond
    Mitch Joel

    Great post. Always great insight. Thanks for keepin it real.

    Reply
  • Posted by Adam Singer
    Mitch Joel

    Great points Mitch - I agree a popular posts page and a clear about page can solve this well. But it's tough, as you say, to sometimes jump into something new without proper context. I think that just takes time - and while we may get that, not everyone will. As much as we'd like to think people have been following along the whole time, they may have not. Chris Brogan actually is superb at this (he frequently injects a "hey, new here?" type item into his streams). I almost never do this just because I guess I *want* people willing to dig back in time and figure me out. But it's an obviously smart approach. Thanks for the thoughts.

    Reply
  • Posted by Josh Muirhead
    Mitch Joel

    Personally, I hate coming into the middle of the movie - but if it's a good movie, then I'll sit and watch (even ask a few people around me what has happened)

    It's extremely true that right now we are in a funny spot - most of us like information coming at us from point A, to B, to C ext. That's not the case anymore with most of what we do.

    Almost everyday I'm introduce to a new blog, person on Twitter or something else. I jump in, often not near the start, or the end, and within a few moments I have to choose if I'm going to continue to receive information from this person (i.e. RSS or Follow), or if I'm going to move on -

    But that's when the amazing is separated from the "just ok" -

    If someone was to land on Seth Godin's blog, they won't need to go to his first post to get high value from his most current post - in fact, they might think he is even smarter because of it.

    Although I agree that there is an importance of filling the picture out, and insuring that people know what the hell you're talking about - you should be doing that with the majority of things you publish daily (Twitter is a little harder, but certainly not impossible) - Think of a photographer who has to explain 8 of her pictures before someone got what they where looking at...


    Great post Mitch,

    Josh Muirhead

    Reply
  • Posted by Jason Falls
    Mitch Joel

    The ONE thing? Please? "Social Media People" don't think about dozens of things. Most of "them" aren't trained marketers or communicators, they wouldn't know a metric if it hit them in the nose ... I could go on. You're right. Many people don't think about the non-linear display of social media content. But don't be mistaken: there are lots of things they don't think about. Good thoughts, sir.

    Reply
  • Posted by Keith Owings
    Mitch Joel

    This is a great post. It really puts things in perspective. I'm going to start looking at my social media with these things in mind.

    Reply
  • Posted by Tony Faustino
    Mitch Joel

    Great insights Mitch. I've been blogging a little less than a year, and am learning by trial and error how to cultivate a community from the ground-up. After reading this post, I now realize I've taken for granted how someone who's arriving to my blog for the very first time may feel upon his/her arrival.

    Your points about the Featured Post sidebar and the short video for new visitors hit me like a sledgehammer. We should be providing these folks with warm introductions and kindly showing them around (as if we were the hosts of a party). With so many choices available from a Google or Bing search (at least this is how the majority of my referrals find me), I should be providing these introductions to differentiate myself and my content.

    Thank you. These are constructive ideas I've recorded on my blog to-do list for 2011.

    Reply
  • Posted by Becky McCray
    Mitch Joel

    And that I why i posted a Guided Tour on my site. It's really just a Page that takes people through the basics in a friendly way.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    I'm glad you brought this up as a good friend and I were discussing this the other day. He mentioned that he followed me because I had @ replied to about 5 people out of 20 posts. It's a fine balance: having a personality, building relationships and sharing content. Having a "first time here" post every so often would be great. Thanks for the great content Mitch.

    Reply
  • Posted by Rob
    Mitch Joel

    If you will check out my tweets you could understand a better way maybe maybe. Keep focused on content. It's all about content!!! And stay away from doing RT lists on a single bound tweet!!! When I tweet with ALOT of content I put it into my blog and reference it in the tweet. PERIOD :). Sometimes I tweet random junk in tweets :)

    Reply
  • Posted by Joe Sorge
    Mitch Joel

    Very dead on. thanks for the reminder Mitch. Happy Sunday.

    Reply
  • Posted by Kneale Mann
    Mitch Joel

    One of my mantras for 2011 is to stop talking about my 20+ years in radio but yet again it needs to be referenced. All my years coaching media professionals, one element was pounded into their grey matter and that is to make it interesting for the non-participant, the listener, the person or people who don't have a microphone and a transmitter.

    Perhaps it's my 27 years in media and marketing that makes me want to wrap up the Twitter stream before I move on with the next part of my day but it is quite funny to see how some use it like a private message board while fancying themselves quite the expert.

    yeah
    right on
    sounds great
    cool
    see you then
    hey thanks!
    don't think so
    doubt it
    word

    Reply
  • Posted by Stacyknows
    Mitch Joel


    What is important to remember is its"Social" media. You wouldn't blurt out your lifes story on a first meeting. As relationships evolve you learn more and more about one another. I often wonder how social all the "social media experts" >

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Well wow, it sure is a point of view I did not consider, ever.
    Now that I am more into social media, it sure slipped my mind, but if I stop a second and remember, yes trying to wrap your mind around a social media "person" wasn't easy back when I started. I constantly felt like I was missing something, and I still had the false belief I had to follow each and every message Tweeted in my stream to be able to understand what was going on - which is easy when you follow 10 people.
    It's something no thinks about anymore as time goes on, but it sure is worth taking a few to reconsider one's SM presence in light of this, to make it more friendly for the newcomers.
    You sure gave me something to think about in the coming week.

    Reply
  • Posted by Barbara Reed
    Mitch Joel

    Thanks, Mitch. This is a very good reminder to all to make everyone feel welcome into the conversation.

    Reply
  • Posted by I Write
    Mitch Joel

    I appreciated your thoughts in this post, Mitch.

    I do not like walking in during the middle of a movie. I hate missing anything.

    Your example of the 'brilliant' tweeter really hit home for me. As an individual relatively new to social media and one who has been trying to make sense of this brave new world, I have come across lots of blog posts and articles on how to engage appropriately on Twitter, including exactly what you described - the 1-3 word tweets to someone, which is considered engagement. I find it really frustrating and feel like an outsider trying to crash a party or an voyeur peeking in the window to see what's going on.

    Anyway, I will continue to read and observe and tweet and post as it makes sense. And as I grow in my understanding, I really welcome the insights of people like you who help me see my thinking isn't really off the wall after all.

    Reply
  • Posted by Genie
    Genie

    And here I thought it was age that made it so hard for me to catch on to this Twitter thing. Actually, I'm already getting better at jumping into the middle and making a judgment whether or not to pursue the rest of the conversation. But sometimes it is tiresome, and I simply scroll on past the "mumbles" and "thanks" to something that actually makes sense. I agree that posts on Twitter and even Facebook are "social" and therefore don't have to be a more-or-less complete piece of writing. But it would be nice to have some sort of reference as to just what the sam hill they're talking about. And blogs and websites would profit (literally) by welcoming the newcomer. Your post really got me thinking.

    Reply
  • Posted by Tiina Niskanen
    Mitch Joel

    Thank you for a nice image and path for thought: social media is like an ongoing discussion or movie - or music - most websites like static paintings. There're all kinds of music styles: some allow improvising, others not. The more musical or trained have it easier to join the band, changing from classical to jazz is impossible for some etc.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Mitch, Your exact example happened to me this week.. enjoyed a blog post about Twitter, so I looked to maybe follow the author. But the long stream of @replies w/out a lot of other content plus the low following/followers ratio gave me second thoughts. I put him in the RSS reader instead. A Twitter stream and a blog are constantly changing so this a great reminder about perspective, and the need to take closer looks vs. one-time snapshots.

    On the flip side we do need to think about new visitors and that momentary snapshot they do see at any particular moment. Crossing over to my own website and blog, I certainly need to simplify and leave better breadcrumbs, so that goes on the Resolution to-do list. Thanks.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mitch
    Mitch Joel

    This is an interesting thought. I tend to believe that the blogs speak for themselves, so I have no worries there. I'm not sure how I'm perceived on Twitter, and I may need to consider that one some more. I wonder about my newsletters, where people sign up for them and they get the latest one and go from there, without knowing what I might have written in the past 7 years previous. I'll admit it's on my mind, but other than creating a book of some kind or spending the time trying to get them all online I'm not sure there's much more I could do in that regard.

    But it's something to think about.

    Reply
  • Posted by Kerry Rego
    Mitch Joel

    Chris Penn does this and I appreciated it but I didn't think it through. I will make sure to "break the broadcast" to introduce myself more often. Thanks for bringing it up!

    Reply
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    Mitch Joel

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    Reply
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    Mitch Joel

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    Mitch Joel

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    Mitch Joel

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