May 16, 2009

Know and Master Your Social Media Data Flow

This Is How My Social Media Data Flows. I'll Explain.

If you're anything like me, you are constantly creating social data. From your blog posts and your tweets, your photos and videos, bookmarks and status updates, you are creating new information, big and small. You might do so in spurts, or you might be creating new content throughout the day. But with so many different social networks out there, and friends scattered here, there and everywhere, there's always the potential you're not sending the right data to the right place. But if you start by knowing where your data is flowing now, you can make minor adjustments along the way to get the recipe right.

On March 24th, I told Harry McCracken of Technologizer that if I were to provide any Twitter user one piece of advice, it would be: "Always know where your data flows, and participate where it lands."

That simple piece of advice is a major challenge to most people. Whether they don't want to step out of their comfort zone, or they believe they only have time for one social network where they participate, most choose one or two places, while neglecting others. Others simply use services like to send all updates to all places at once, a scattershot process to something that probably deserves fine tuning.

My approach to this problem is to always create content while knowing its impact downstream. Here is what I have chosen to do with my data I am creating.

1. Blog Posts

Blog Posts that I create here at are packaged up by RSS, using FeedBurner, and end up in RSS readers. They also are published in headline form or excerpted, on FriendFeed and Socialmedian. Every day, updates in the last 24 hours are bundled up by e-mail and sent to FeedBlitz.

2. Twitter Activity

My Tweets, when posted, be they notifications of new posts (which I do manually, not automatically) or other content, are posted to Twitter and echoed both to Facebook and to FriendFeed.

3. Native FriendFeed Posts

When I post a new item directly to FriendFeed, it echoes to Twitter, which in turn, updates Facebook. Knowing this, I often author the headline using Twitter language, such as @ signs and hashtags, keeping the headline short. I can then, in FriendFeed, edit the headline to use normal language, optimizing the data for where it is consumed.

4. Delicious Bookmarks

Bookmarks I make on Delicious are shared to FriendFeed, and bounced to Twitter and Facebook. I ensure the headline and the source of the article are displayed, and now truncate that to hit Twitter's character limits.

5. Google Reader shared items

Shares I make in my RSS reader not only stick to the link blog, but they impact FriendFeed, Socialmedian, and the shared item counters, like ReadBurner, RSSmeme and now InFeeds.

6. YouTube Videos and SmugMug Photos

The YouTube and SmugMug activity I do is largely family related, so when it gets imported to FriendFeed, using RSS, it is echoed to Twitter and Facebook (like in #3).

7. FaceBook Status Updates

They stay in Facebook, period, which is why I usually just update it using Twitter.

The reason I list each of these specifically is because each stream of data has a different intent and possibly a different audience. Given much of the content flows through Twitter and FriendFeed now, I make a conscious effort to optimize the data for both services. I also recognize that when I post to both services, I just might receive comments and likes on Facebook, which is happening at an increasing pace.

Thinking about the data flow has an impact on how I behave. It is because of FeedBlitz that I prefer to have more than one post in a 24-hour period. I also know that as I am bookmarking sites that cover articles from this blog that I am getting to reward others who write about the same things I do. I recognize that by tweeting too much I could muddy my Facebook and FriendFeed, and have negative repercussions as a result. I also know that I need to make sure the headlines on my SmugMug photos and YouTube videos make sense once they hit Twitter.

It may seem regimented, but once you think about where your data is flowing, you will find a process that works with you. The good news is that RSS is not dead, despite some beliefs otherwise. In fact, it plays a bigger role than ever in terms of shuttling updates to and from services. I have set up my publishing preferences in this way for me because it matches what I believe to be the right data with its right destinations, and when activity from the community participates, I try to be there as soon as I know it has happened, through close monitoring.

And considering this is essentially my social media creation workflow, you might also be interested in the post I wrote last Spring on my own social media consumption workflow. It hasn't changed much at all since.