Azzcat Blast

Design stories & tips, peppered with life's little tidbits

Social Network Support Groups

October 1st, 2011

Computer social networks

These days, the Internets are all buzzing with ways to build your business presence, connect with your customers, yada yada–all information about building your brand’s presence by harnessing the power of social media.

I’m not going to talk about that. I’m going to talk about how I use SM to help my business–not primarily the getting of clients, but rather by extending my expertise and improving services. In short, social media (besides being my virtual water cooler) provides me with a tech support department and more.

The Social Media Rules

#1) There are none*

That’s right. Lots of pundits will tell you how to use SM, but you know, everyone is different. I think the best advice is to just be yourself…with the caveat that everything–absolutely everything–you say will ALWAYS be floating around on the Internets, even well after you’re gone. So…think before you hit ‘SEND’.

#2) SM is not FedEx

Your SM benefits will not be delivered overnight. Or within the first week. Relationships take time. In fact, I remember reading somewhere that the average time for Twitter to ‘pay off’ is ~2 years.

#3) It’s a Two-Way Street

Actually, SM is more of a roundabout if we’re using traffic analogies–people entering and exiting topics from many points. Most will fly by, some will circle a few times, some will take a new route after circling. A few will stay and engage. It’s OK.

Azzcat’s SM Usage Guide

Twitter

I love Twitter. 140 characters or less is awesome. Keeps people pithy. But I’m no fan of Tweeting via Twitter. It’s one continual stream of tweets. Too much! My Twitter client of choice is TweetDeck. I’ve got it set up simply into columns: everyone, MyFavs, Gurus, Mentions, DMs. MyFavs allows me to follow my favorites in a more focused manner; Gurus are for people who are tops in their field–keeps me up to date on web & design stuff; Mentions are any tweets that have mentioned or are directed to @azzcatdesign–this is important b/c it allows me to stay on top of who’s talking about or to me. DMs are private messages and I also get an email when someone sends me a DM. This is good for me, b/c I do not keep any chat client open unless scheduled.

Who’s on Twitter?

Anyone and everyone related to web design. Want to know what’s going on at HappyCog? Follow @happycog. Interested in that conference you couldn’t afford to attend? Follow #conference-name. Want to engage with other designers? Join #DCTH for a weekly discussion via TweetChat. Bottom line, just about EVERY web designer or developer is on Twitter. Follow the good ones, follow the links they post, and you’re in a continuing education program.

LinkedIn

LI has its ups and downs that seem to come in waves. I’ve been on LI much longer than Twitter or FB. Being a business networking tool, the atmosphere is much more formal. I feel the value of LI improves greatly when you join and participate in groups. Groups are great places to give and get solutions to questions quickly. If you follow groups for any time, you quickly learn who the experts are (and aren’t).

One of LI’s poorer performing functions it the Q&A section. Questions get posted and answered. Question asker is supposed to rate answers. If you’ve been particularly helpful, you can get rated as an expert (in the Q area). Trouble is, most question askers never bother to rate answers. And the entire Q&A section is hidden under the ‘More’ tab. It’s all pretty obscure. I’ve stopped even going to the Q&A section.

Facebook

:P (yep, pithy!)
Honestly, I don’t like FB. Too sophomoric. ‘Like’ is the middle-school equivalent of being popular. Ugh! That said, there are plenty of things I do that I don’t like/enjoy/look forward to. Do I enjoy going to the dentist? getting mammograms? having the tires rotated? Nope. But I do them because they keep me running better. Necessary maintenance.

And here’s my little secret about FB…most of my FB content comes from tweets. Yep. TweetDeck allows me to post to FB (me) and/or FB page (azzcatdesign) right from TweetDeck. It’s like sending a surrogate to the dentist. ;-)

Basically, I have a presence on FB. That’s about it. I use it as little as possible–just enough to understand the mechanics.

Forrst

This is an invitation only community for developers and designers. Database stuff, jQuery, PHP, CSS, icons, web layouts, etc. Geekland. Got a tech question? Ask and it very likely will be answered. Did you solve some wacky CSS problem? Post it for the noobs. Take note, this is a late-night coffee-lovin’ crowd. I think many members have day jobs and post/answer the geekery at night.

Google+

Yeah, I’m in. Like the sorting of the Circles. Following/being followed by the same people on Twitter. So, what’s the point? Don’t know. Twitter is dead simple. Return to top.

The Payoff

This week alone, I’ve posted a couple questions on LI and received about 1 dozen helpful answers. Two Twitter peeps have been available to assist on another related question–one Skyping with me that very evening. These interactions were valuable time savers for a project of mine.

One of my fav developers was introduced to me by a colleague. That colleague introduced himself to me via LI. I’ve hired and will hire the developer again.

A Twitter peep who assisted me with jQuery last year hired me for a CSS project this year. I’ve been invited to give feedback on several new web dev/design tools in beta stages to help with their development–really cool, considering how much I use/will use some of these tools. :)

Many of my client recommendations are kept on LI. My LI profile, group interactions, recommendations–and links to other social networks work in conjunction to validate me, my business and areas of expertise. This transparency allows potential clients to feel comfortable about hiring me–even if we’re not likely to meet face-to-face. Bottom line, social media is a virtual breadcrumb trail back to its source.

But one of the best parts of social media is the world-wide tech department at my fingertips–I may not know the answer to the question–but I know how to find the answer. :)


*Technically, each social site has an agreement of terms, rules–you know, legal/spamming/etc. stuff!

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