Work of any kind requires an understanding of the appropriate tools for the job, and social media is no different. You can't pitch hay with a shovel, and you can't dig a ditch with a pitchfork.
Here are some serving suggestions for a set of social media tools. The actual applications will change, over time, because technology tends to do that. But the basic functions should evolve a little more slowly.
In social media, as in life, listening is twice as important as speaking. Online, the tool for listening is a news reader. This type of software allows you to understand the conversation going on out there, and the best of them permits you to do a little more understanding of what you're "hearing."
I recommend Google Reader. It's easy to use, has ways to roll through information quickly, supports the import and export of OPML (simply, the bundle of all the feeds you've selected to follow), and has some powerful sharing features that make it more compelling to me than other readers.
What should you listen to? It depends on how you're intending to use the tool; but, if you're part of a company in a certain space, here's a way to think of it:
- Build an ego search. Use tools like Technorati and Google Blog Search to build a search on your company's name, your products' names, key employees' names, etc.
- Build the same for your competitors.
- Find blogs about your specific space or industry and subscribe to a handful of them. (Easier to add tons and subtract a few than think you're getting the best and be missing something better).
- Find a few tangential categories. If you're in software, subscribe to an art or marketing blog. If you're in marketing and PR, subscribe to an economy blog.
- Add in a few hobbies. This should help you use this reader more frequently. (Don't overdo it, kids.)
Chris Brogan is president of New Marketing Labs, LLC, a new-media marketing agency and events company. He makes media of all kinds at chrisbrogan.com, a blog in the Top 10 of Advertising Age's Power150 and a top 100 blog according to Technorati. Connect directly by emailing blog at chrisbrogan dot com.