The left column – AKA Your own Magic Donkey

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?


How an Absolute Nobody hit a 71% Klout Score

On Matter, Mentors, Mentions & Manners…

Upwards & Onwards
It’s about engaging more, not increasing Klout

With recent chatter about Klout revising their measurement algorithm, I’m going to share some thoughts on interacting more while adding value, versus hanging out on SM channels, trying to ‘build your personal brand’.

When I started being active online in twitter, I had a klout score of 1. I had no idea if that was 1st or last (we’re #1,) but after learning and settling into  my own comfort zone, a friend pointed out today that my klout was 17 gazillion! ;>
I’ve taken some justified teasing as a result from fun (and wise) folks because my score is now higher than some genuine Thought Leaders. I’ve had a good laugh along with them, as while it is flattering, it has had no direct impact (yet) on my ability to trade it in on a wondrous new gig in my field.

I’ve also taken some snark recently from long time friends in real-life. “Yeah, I noticed some have higher scores though they don’t ‘work’ to engage like you do.”  mmm-kay…

Some think that the algorithm (and new version) used is utterly skewed if a relative nobody can hit high, and others note the true value of influence ratings are still an unknown; neither of which concerns me much one way or the other right now, but has made me think about the things I’ve done differently since my early days on twitter when my score was -17 gazillion.

Let’s turn this into a learning experience for those who do think there is merit in a higher Klout score.  Or better yet, maybe it will simply help someone out there improve their own ability to influence ideas or learn more about their profession through Social Media efforts.

(I hope this doesn’t come across as a vanity post, as my goal here is to share lessons learned forward as a person, not a self-proclaimed pundit of any sort. I get so much out of Social Media, personally & professionally that I can’t help but share.)

It won’t work if you’re working it…

Every social media maven out there will tell you the key to success is being genuine and having a truly authentic voice.  And they’re absolutely right.  Some of the stuff I’ll share below probably sounds like I work at it, but the reality is that I’m simply sharing the content that matters to me in my own efforts to increase my knowledge about things I’m interested in. I’m studying anyway, so it is only a few clicks more to put it out for others’ benefit.

It also really helps if you find a channel you love. I often see people starting out in social media and spreading themselves too thin on too many channels. I think that dilutes your message, and eventually, it would feel like work.  Think about your normal communication style off-line.  Are you a writer, speaker, photographer, or an artist? That will help you figure out where to focus your efforts. This is a great example of a Personal Social Media policy that clearly outlines which channels a friend uses, how & why.

In my case, that Klout score is almost entirely from twitter.  I never use FaceBook, only seldom comment on blog posts, and my addition to group discussions is also less frequent than it should be.  Hell, I don’t even blog (which is another blog in itself for another day). For me, Twitter suits my real world style best – I’m a talker, so engaging in real-time, fast-paced conversations and idea exchanges is not only comfortable, it’s natural and fun.

Regardless of the inaccuracies or flaws in Klout’s system, I’ll admit I am interested in this part of my score, because at the end of the day, I’m just being me. My goal is to meet and interact with new people, as well as those I already know and respect.

“Kelly Craft generates actions and discussions with nearly every message.”

I hope that is right, because it means I’ve done what I set out to do in the first place: I’m learning, sharing my knowledge, and part of discussions, not just spamming a bunch of one-way push crap. It implies that I am getting the true value of twitter.

If I have attained any degree of success, it’s because of …

Matter, Mentors, Mentions & Manners…

As I said, I use twitter more for my own selfish desires, gaining a free education from brighter minds, rather than ‘gaming the system’ to build the ‘Irreverent @krcraft Brand’. 

In my pursuit of an ideal learning/sharing experience, I guess I do use a few ‘tricks’ to make it less work to find quality content. I’ve posted a bit about this before, but I’ll be more specific below.

  • iGoogle rocks! My iGoogle is my start page and command central of my learning hub. From here, I can feed my passion with access to the Best and Brightest Minds that are Mentors, whether they know so, or not. Links to ‘must read’ blogs and favourite discussion groups are only a click away with constantly fresh brain fodder. I check in often throughout the day for new posts, and if I find one that makes me think, I share it in a tweet.
Command Central
  • I also have specific Google news & blog alerts set up to advise me when there is breaking news about Enterprise 2.0. Even so, I also check manually for updates several times a day, always selecting news in the ‘last 24 hours’ to ensure that I’m not posting the same-old, same-old that a million others have posted that day.
  • I follow many of those same expert bloggers on twitter, too.  In fact, they have their own ‘must read’ column in Tweetdeck, which is the first one  I look to for information I want to learn and discussions I want to jump in on. They’re also on a separate ‘stimulators’ Twitter list, which makes it all the easier to share their value forward.
You can’t just randomly RT everything that Thought Leaders/Influencers/Fun Farts post. 
  • I never post any link – ever – that I haven’t first read. What’s the point? And how do you know if it is truly valuable, controversial, or has nuggets of knowledge gold? How do you know if you even have an opinion on the content, or not, if you don’t bother to care before you share?
  • I’ll admit I’m even more thirsty for new ideas than most, as I find many sources for new knowledge (and content) by clicking on the links within those blog posts. ‘Oh the places you’ll go… ‘ that you’d otherwise miss altogether if you tweet like a robot.
  • If you read something particularly clever, favourite it and recycle it now & then for new followers to appreciate and in hopes of renewed discussions.
  • Twitter Chats are also a lively way to learn, engage and discover new people you want to hang with & learn from on-line.  Check out this list of chats to see if there is one that piques your interest or a passion.
    • I don’t recommend participating in more than 2-3 chats per week, otherwise you may find your followers becoming unfollowers due to the flurry of tweets that aren’t their cup of tea, but carefully selecting one or two chats is a certain way to introduce yourself and be introduced, to others who care about whatever it is that tweaks your brain.
    • As with the Must Read group, I do the same thing when I am in a chat.  After watching for a few weeks, it is easy to see who the leaders are, the ones that are expert voices. They’re also in a column of their own, with the #whatever in another.  Sounds cliquish, but I simply don’t want to miss their opinions in the flurry.
    • That doesn’t mean that you only engage with ‘Board Leaders’, like a snotty mercenary. If you do it right, you monitor key notes and discussions around the topic and share/forward them to less experienced participants and your own followers who might not be part of the chat.
  • On Mentions and Manners… this is a really easy one to screw up, and I still struggle with it myself – and here is why:
    • Gratuitous mentions or RT’s of someone high-profile or influential for the sake of looking like one of the ‘cool kids’ bugs me enormously.
    • Which is not to say that I never mention someone who has those attributes, but I’d like to think I only do so when they’ve shared something I appreciate, or when making an actual comment to them, in discussion or as an aside.
    • I follow many influential folks, just like others, but I usually only directly @ them if we’ve already got some sort of existing relationship via previous conversations, events, chats, introductions, or discussion groups.
    • If you really want to raise someone’s profile, why not pick someone new to your twibe who seems bright &/or funny, then draw them out in a conversation about something interesting they said or shared? >Buildup as yet unknown influencers – don’t just follow the usual suspects and hope they’ll beam a little benevolent attention your way.
  • I panic every time I sit to send out my ‘thanks’ for mentions & RT’s.  I’m always worried I’ll forget someone who was particularly kind, and hurt feelings inadvertently. That said, I’ve also come to learn that it is almost impossible to thank every person, every day, for every bit of kindness or lively talk.
  • Some of the people who ‘influence’ me the most are the ones I thank least often.  We’re friends, or study-buddies in this big social world, and they already know I value them greatly, simply because we connect when & where ever for facts, fancy & fun.
    • I’ve tailored my thanks tweets to make certain to appreciate those who reached out or shared unexpectedly, encouraging further interaction.
  • I’ll also bust the ‘secret’ vault wide-open and admit I’m not a fan of #followfriday in many respects.
    • Truth be told, I really don’t want a bunch of random new followers who I might not share any common interest with.
    • Likewise, it is always very uncomfortable for me on Fridays when I know I’ll hurt some feelings by not reciprocating full #FF lists on which I might have been included.  I don’t necesssarily know all of these people, so be damned if I’ll ‘promote’ them just because someone else suggests it.
    • I like to think of #FF lists as I would think of hashtags I follow.  For example, there are #custserv folks I will consistently recommend be followed, because I know others can & will benefit from their insight and expertise. Likewise with #E20 & #scrm, which I’ll include at the end of the #FF tweet so that others know these folks have specific areas of interest & knowledge.
    • I’d like to see #FF go in an entirely new direction altogether. It’d be great if instead of pushing out random #FF’s each week, people made one or two direct introductions between other professionals in their field, people passionate about the same cause, or picked a favourite charity to promote on Fridays. We can all do that every day, but it’d be especially nice to see Friday’s stream full of some fresh changes with high value, and less guilt. ;> 

If you want to have more influence, be more influential. Have a clear, focused voice about what drives you. Increase your signal with fresh content. Share content only if you truly have an opinion on it or learned something from it. Pay attention to only the ‘cool kids’ who have something to say that actually resonates with you personally. And give the (allegedly) less cool kids a leg up in their own Social Media efforts.

Most of all, be your own self, whether it be driven, focused, funny or a snark monster.  You’ll find your footing, and others you want to meet will find you.

It’s only work if it isn’t genuine.

What am I missing?  What methods do you use to add value to your own Social Media efforts?

One Man’s ‘Stalking’ is another Man’s ‘Savvy’

No Stalkers - Savvy Only

I’m often amused by the over-the-top posts on Slashdot about online privacy. While I appreciate the intelligent discussions on security, I often think that some of the slashdot nerds have no front line experience with business, nor a clear understanding of how Social Media is changing customer engagement best practices.

Case in point:  When I clicked on this tweet: @slashdot: Cisco Social Software Lets You “Stalk” Customers via @jockr I wasn’t the slightest bit surprised to discover the post filed under ‘Your rights Online’, nor was I shocked to read the comments, most of which are nothing more than ‘Is Cisco crazy’ tirades about invasion of privacy and lawsuits looming.

One man’s stalking is another man’s new world business savvy.

In the first place, this isn’t new.  It isn’t like the Cisco roll out of SocialMiner is the first ever effort to enable enterprise listening solutions to monitor customers via various channels. Pick any company with marketing smarts and I guarantee that whether they’re using listening software or not, they have key resources assigned to ‘stalk’ their customers with both ears tuned to hear what is important to the customer.

“The software is designed to not only enable enterprises to monitor the conversations of their customers but to engage those that require service,” Cisco says.

I’m annoyed by the negative reaction and the less than lucid arguments being posted as comments against this roll-out. Is this Cisco angst, or merely a fundamental lack of business knowledge? Perhaps both, but here is what the detractors aren’t considering:

  • First clue of note, if your customers have a blog, then they want it to be read.  That’s a pretty basic, safe assumption. It’s in the public domain for a reason.
  • ‘Customer’ in this instance is not the end-user little guy jealously guarding their privacy — these are enterprises working B2B. ‘Customer’ means another company, not a specific person tweeting reviews about the movie they watched the night before.
  • Universal McCann reports that 77% of all active internet users regularly read blogs. That would include business blogs. Increasing efficiencies in doing so for business isn’t much different from improving RSS feeds, which most of the same nerds use daily to watch news on ‘privacy right invasion’.
  • Customer Collaboration is part of the entire Customer Experience

I’m sure we could add many more points to the list, but the bottom line is that the loudest voices that bemoan ‘stalking’ are entirely oblivious to the reality and benefits of social media listening for companies and their customers. I guess they don’t know what Enterprise 2.0 is about. ;>

Are you concerned about listening to your customers to offer better service and support?