Tending Your Social Networking Garden

Trying to get your community or organization engaged in networking through social media, but running into roadblocks with colleagues who aren’t quite there yet? Instead of getting frustrated over what’s not working, what’s not growing, let’s refocus.

What’s already happening online? Where are seeds just taking root? Where are the fertile areas you can cultivate, and spread from there? Taking time to tend your social networking garden can be hugely rewarding for everyone, and will help spread the message of the power of online social networking to even the most skeptical colleagues when they see what fruit it can bear!

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Social Networking Gardening Tips:

Step 1: Seek out the gardeners. Find out who among the people you work with is blogging, tweeting, active on Facebook or LinkedIn, etc., by doing basic searches in those networks and asking around. See which friends you have in common – you may be surprised and delighted at the connections you find!

Step 2: Watch their seeds and shoots. Subscribe to posts and friend these folks in whatever way you feel most comfortable (adjust your privacy settings as needed). Put them in lists you can easily come back to (Twitter/Facebook), subscribe to blog posts via RSS, and bookmark whatever other sites might be relevant.

Step 3: Add sunshine, water, and fertilizer regularly. Schedule a regular time to focus just on networking with these groups. Try taking ten minutes, two days a week, to go through the friend lists and RSS feeds you created and comment, reply, and retweet. Share resources you think might add value to that person’s work and suggest people they may gain from being in touch with. For some cases, it may be best to send a personal email or make a phone call to deepen the connection.

Step 4: Bonus step! Find the other gardens where your gardeners’ seeds have taken root. Uncover the conversations where your colleagues and their work are being talked about that they might not even know of! Set up a Google Reader or Google Alerts. Go to Google Blog Search. Type in the names of the people and/or institutions you work with and see what comes up. If there are a few meaningful, relevant results in the search, subscribe to that search by scrolling to the bottom of the page and clicking the RSS link. Check in on that RSS feed every now and again and share with those people the (good) news you found about them.

Some additional tips: Be sure to subscribe to comment feeds on the blog posts you reply to so you can see where the conversation goes and easily follow up. Use a consistent username across platforms so that folks will begin to recognize your presence and personality. This will also make yourself more searchable in the future. Put a pause between your fingertips and the keyboard – think about your voice, tone, and the value you’re adding to the conversation. Be consistent. If your organization has one, make sure to adhere to the guidelines of the social media policy, and develop that document as needed based on your interactions. Don’t neglect IRL (in real life) and other media. Networks need to flow within and among different platforms to be truly effective. Mentioning a Facebook post in a phone call, or a blog comment in a coffee date, then tying those conversations back to their original host platform can be a great way to weave people and ideas. Serendipity happens! Being active in social media means you open up all kinds of potential for new connections – whether you plan on it or not. Have an open mind and welcome the unexpected!

How have you found and cultivated the fertile areas in your organization? What resulted from these interactions?

The Gift of Time and Organization. For Free! It’s Called RSS.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. With a name like that, you’d think it would be so simple. While RSS can seem confusing, it really is so simple, and so valuable. Imagine a single newspaper delivered to your door every morning with articles on your favorite topics by your favorite authors. And nothing else to slog through. Welcome to RSS!

Common Craft, a great little firm from Seattle has produced a fun, short video to help us understand RSS:

I use Google Reader. There are many good readers out there, but I’ll use this as an example. Down the left side are all the “feeds” I subscribe to. When I run across a blog that I like, and want to keep up with, I click the “subscribe” button — commonly shown as this orange icon. That blog is then added to my reader.

Each morning when I sit down at my computer, I open my Google Reader. It shows me all my feeds down the left. I’ve organized them into folders by topic. The bold titles are the feeds with new posts. I can then scan the posts in the main part of the window, and click on any headline to open a new window to go directly to the blog. This way, I don’t have to remember all my favorite blogs, and remember to go to my “favorites” and take the time to check on each one, or waste time if there is no new content. It all comes to me.

I scan my feeds — I don’t read every single post of every single feed. And if over the course of time I find I’m skipping more than I’m reading, I can unsubscribe in one click and remove that feed from my reader.

This is a very useful way of organizing your own reading to keep up with the most amount of high quality and useful information in the least amount of time. It is also useful to know that this is how an increasingly large percentage of your constituents are aggregating and consuming content online. By RSS enabling your content, your readers will be alerted every time you post something new.

I add new feeds to my reader regularly, as I’m turned on to a new blog, or a trusted friend makes a recommendation. By pulling all of the greatest content together, it makes catching up on my reading a real treat — sometimes even a reward after I’ve completed a big task. What’s on your RSS reader?