Image: Cell phone
Orlin Wagner  /  AP file
Social media isn't about just consuming news or entertainment but sharing — and sharing early and often. The good news? You can do most of your updating from your mobile device.
updated 7/1/2008 7:46:12 PM ET 2008-07-01T23:46:12

It's 8 a.m. —and it's time to Tweet.

I reach across my bed for my cellphone — before coffee or even before sliding out of bed — and send my broadcast to the world. I type "Awake" or "Here I am!" and to an address: 40404. (This number is the equivalent of a phone number that everyone sends their messages to in order to submit to Twitter.)

Hundreds of people — who, in turn, know thousands of people —now know I'm here.

Five minutes later, I stumble to my computer and launch a flurry of postings to social networks and media sites: Facebook, Adium, FriendFeed, Digg, Delicious, my blog, Plurk, and iGoogle. I even take a quick peak into Second Life to check on the talk of the virtual town and make my presence known. The quiet ones get lost in the stream. I'm not one of those.

Twittering, a haiku-styled instant message that can go out to anyone on the planet, including your friends or followers, is the high-occupancy vehicle lane of the Internet. We started with Web sites and blogs; now we've evolved into micro-blogging tools (like Twitter and Facebook) and stand-alone applications like Adobe Air's social network applications that let you send streams of updates, giving you a few seconds of fame on the virtual podiums of your choice.

Social media isn't about just consuming news or entertainment but sharing — and sharing early and often. Every day holds so much to share: news articles, blog posts, parties, YouTube videos, Buddhist quotes, conference backchannel tirades, new tools, toys, tricks and just general electronic chitchat — from "I'm boiling water now" to the latest iPhone news, "American Idol"votes or baseball scores.

The best part is that you can do most of this from mobile devices. It is a game of sharing and following your smart friends. And with just a few tools, you can even preserve your sanity.

Having the right "friends" or contacts helps. In the past few years, a new elite of online social "evangelists" has emerged. There's no one as deft at opening up the digital pearly gates as the likes of Steve Rubel, Andrew Hyde or Jeremiah Owyang.

Equally important is having the tools to reach them, gaining a little clout yourself and then staying up to speed on the latest trends. It's a game of efficiency and authenticity. Everyone can tell when you're just stopping by for a visit and when you're there to stay.

It's up to you to filter what's relevant to your work or your personal interests. Some people keep separate social media accounts for this reason — trickles of professional information on one account, the mass of social or personal information on another. I mash it all together, building my personal "brand" (that is, my name) by sharing anywhere between five and 10 news stories a day on my Facebook feed, sending direct messages to Twitter comments, Facebook groups, "digging" other people's Diggs or blogs and just touching base throughout the day.

This is all well and good, you might say, but how do you get "work" done while you're doing all this?

Filter and simplify. There are tools that help you aggregate many of your social network platforms. My Adium account, for example, brings together most of my instant messaging clients: that way, I keep in contact with work contacts on different projects (including one going on in Egypt). No more waiting around for e-mails. MySocial brings together my Twitter and FriendFeed; FriendFeed brings together all my blogs. I have a friend who has all his status messages on all his social media changed by one program — now that's efficiency!

The tools I use are ones that can move with me in my day. Twitter and Facebook are my drugs of choice. I can send a text message from Twitter to all my friends. A widget (sort of a bumper sticker in the online world) logs me into my Facebook account from my Blackberry so I can change my status, check other people's status messages and read my messages.

Google application shortcuts on my phone take me straight to Google Reader for all my RSS feeds (the equivalent of headlines for all my favorite news sites), my inbox, my Google Documents (the key to the mobile desktop), Google maps and my calendar, which is synched to my husband's and all my friends' calendars.

A shortcut to my Flickr page lets me see all my friends' photos from my phone and send my photos straight to my blog. If you have an iPhone or a Nokia N95 you can do all kinds of sweet maneuvers using GPS triangulation and live video streaming — and send Twitters that will make others sigh with envy.

Abode Air's MySocial, which I downloaded from FreshAirApps, allows me to post to both Twitter and my FriendFeed — a social media service that collects the latest updates to all my friends' different blogs and social media into one account. I send my daily "hello world!" message there--which conveniently updates my Facebook status bar, and helps me scan what the journos (journalists), technoheads, gearheads, activists and surfer and skateboarder friends have shared and commented on.

You have to know your audience — just like you have to know the crowd at your local pub. The people who most typically Facebook are not usually the same people who use MySpace, Jaiku, Twitter or Utterz; Flickr or Photobucket; Qik or Ustream. In any of these spots you'll find locals (the ones logged in all day, know how to use the @ sign and can differentiate pokes from wall postings), stragglers ("So and so has just CHOMPED you with vampires,") the random poke-your-head-in ("Hey, did I just send that message out to everyone?") and the early-afternoon curmudgeon drunk ("I can't believe Twitter is down again, I am so tired of this!")

The early morning comments — both the ones I send and the scores that are read every day — are littered with exclamation points and grumpiness. Then a surge of caffeine-induced sharing kicks in, unleashing a Niagra Falls of information.

In some ways, it's better than scanning The New York Times.

© 2012


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