Yeah, Neigh or Hay?
I’ve been asked several times today what the Left Column is, followed by confused looks when I respond,”The Magic Donkey did the math.”
“Huh? you’re a Smart Ass that can sit on an ice cream cone and tell what flavour it is?”
(I am, and I can, but that’s a post for a different day…)
I often meet people who’d like to be more involved in Twitter for business or pleasure, but are unsure how to begin or have quickly become discouraged as they’ve been overwhelmed with too much information once they’ve started. In those instances, I find it useful to teach them the Left Column method.
Think about it… people are already trained and familiar with reading books, balance sheets, forms and even software/web scroll-out menus from left to right, to the point that it is an unconcious action people don’t even notice they do. It’s a productive habit. If you teach clients to prioritize their listening and engagement focus from left to right in applications like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite they’ll adapt quickly with greater success and comfort.
The basic principle of the Left Column is that you place key listening triggers in the left most column of your twitter app, then line up each one to the right in order of importance or need of response. For me this is never static and I change it dynamically depending on what I’m listening for, or to, at any given time. I shift various groups of people, hashtag searches, or reading lists left & right as needed to make sure that I’ve got the content I want front & center. If participating in a twitter chat session like #custserv or following a conference like #e20conf, that search column moves… you guessed it, to the left position so I read it first. Without thinking too hard about it.
That part is easy to teach, but inevitably clients ask, “How do I know what to put in the columns?”
I simply explain that there are no rules – there is only the Magic Donkey.
The Magic Donkey is a bit of web lore that I’ve always appreciated because of the fun controversy surrounding it. Back in the old days, there was much discussion about how Flickr’s algorithm of ‘interestingness’ to rate & rank images worked. A bot? Semantic context long before such things were discussed out loud? Elves? Five long years ago, a wit responded with this, an a new web myth was born:
The whole premise has always been sticky with me, so much that it is even in my profile, and is the basis for the ‘Left Column’. I don’t listen to what any and every old Social Media Ass tells me to, you know. I’m not a social media anything, I’m just a soul who enjoys getting as much out of Twitter as I can, so I need to do my OWN math, just as I teach clients:
You need to saddle up & ride, then build your own context framework based on what you see & hear around you that makes the ride more fun and gets you to your destination easily.
Maybe this will help you explain to customers how work out their own formula for twitter value and management:
It’s entirely subjective and I don’t actually have a burro as a pet, (I might have an ass who occassionally wears a sombrero… oh, nevermind…) The way it works for me is my inner ThoughtElf applies an algorithm to all I see, read, do or hear. I get a mental poke that prods me to explore the idea further when the ThoughtElf calculates that something will hold my attention long enough to educate, tinker with or stimulate new thoughts. When in Twitter, it means those are the voices who land in the ‘Left Column’.
I’d love to say I read as many tweets as I can from all the folks I follow, but the truth is that I don’t. When I open Tweetdeck, I look first to the Left Column, which is populated with the thoughts and ideas of the mentors, friends, stimulators and even the trouble makers that I listen to the most, or have the most in common with personally & professionally. These are the Brands I follow most closely and include on a separate twitter list for when others with similar interests want a quick look at what’s going on in the left column. When it’s time for a key conference or twitter chat, they get shifted to the right, and I set the left column to my listening/engagement focus of the moment. It’s dynamic. But, it always starts on the left. ;>
It’s really sticky if you think about this idea and apply it when you’re trying to explain the value of Twitter list to clients and customers, as Mike Friaetta noted in this video. Which cracks me up, because Mike is one of the cleverest Social Media Strategists and Coaches that I know, so if he likes using the term, then I know it will be useful to others when trying to explain how to listen carefully to filter for the highest value.
Whether you use a column, list or grouping, there is a lot of benefit in learning to sort digital content into tidy Yeah, Neigh or Hay (hey!) piles for your own knowledge management. Just like you read from left to right.
Ignore the Asses who make rules & ride your own Magic Donkey!
What tools do you use to teach twitter newbies how to manage their feed & calculate interestingness?