Category Archives: Social Sustainability

The secret to following lots of people on Twitter

Tom Raftery Twitter profile Feb 14 2011

Twitter is a fantastic tool for disseminating information, and the obvious corollary of that is that Twitter is a superb app for consuming information as well – depending on how you use it.

What is the best way to make sure you get the most information out of Twitter? Follow lots of relevant, interesting people!

It sounds obvious (if you aren’t following people, you won’t see their posts) but I see lots of people on Twitter who are following 100 people or less. Many of those 100 will be friends and family, others will be infrequent posters so out of 100 accounts, you are lucky if 20 are regular sources of good information.

Now, what if you increase the number of people you follow to 200? Or 2,000 (I’m currently following 2778)? Well then, the number of friends/family type accounts you’re following is unlikely to increase proportionally, so as long as you chose the people to follow wisely, you will vastly increase the amount of interesting news you will be receiving from Twitter.

Now, I often hear people say they have difficulty keeping up with the number of people they are following and asking me how I follow over 2,000. The simple answer is I don’t try to keep up with all the people I follow! I dip in and out of Twitter and if the people I follow happen to post, I will likely see the post. If they post when I am not looking at Twitter, I probably won’t see their post.

And that’s fine.

The major limiting factor in trying to follow more people on Twitter is obsessively attempting to catch every tweet. Let go. Learn to live in the now and more than likely if you do miss an important tweet, it will be re-tweeted anyway.

Of course, a flipside to this is that you shouldn’t follow people simply to increase the number of people you are following. Only follow people who will bring you useful/interesting information – otherwise you are reducing the signal-to-noise ratio and similarly if you realise that someone you followed is not bringing you any value, don’t hesitate to unfollow them.

So, how do you find interesting people to follow on Twitter? That’s a topic for another blog post – stay tuned!

You should follow me on Twitter here

15 Twitter tips for beginners – updated

Twitter home page

I wrote a post a couple of years back called 15 Twitter tips for beginners which, though two years old, still has useful information for Twitter users – especially if you make sure to read all the comments as well.

Needless to say, things have moved on considerably in the intervening period – bear in mind that post was written over a year before the launch of the iPad and seven months before version 1.0 of Android was released!

So here’s a quick updated version of the tips:

  1. Start off easy by posting a few innocuous posts introducing yourself and your interests, “I’m Tom, a Social Media and Sustainability expert”, “I recently moved to Seville, anyone on here from Seville?”, – that kind of thing. Then be sure to mention why you’re using Twitter, e.g. “I hope to learn more about cleantech”, or whatever it is you are hoping to get from it.
  2. Then build up your network. Start with friends who you know to be on Twitter. Start following them. But also look at the list of people they are following. You may know some of them too, if so, follow them as well.
  3. If you precede someone’s username with the @ symbol in a post on Twitter (i.e. “@tomraftery how is it going?”) then your post appears in the @Mentions tab on their Twitter page. This works whether they are following you or not. When you @reply to someone, and they see you appear in their @Mentions tab, they are likely to check out your profile and posts and may decide to follow you. This is a very powerful way to build up your network with people who don’t necessarily know you but with whom you want to connect.
  4. Check out the TwitterGrader page for your area, for instance, if you are based in Andalucia, in the south of Spain, like me, check the TwitterGrader page for Andalucia and you’ll find some interesting people you may want to connect to, to get into the local scene.
  5. Follow some of the people there, check who they are following and talking to (@ replying to) and consider following them too.
  6. Sidenote: if you precede someone’s username with “d ” (i.e. “d tomraftery how is it going?”) this sends a private message only to them – called a direct message or DM. You can only send DMs to people who have chosen to follow you.
  7. Also, don’t be shy about asking your friends to pimp you to their followers!

  8. Then, using Twitter:

  9. On the computer use either Seesmic Desktop or TweetDeck for posting/reading posts. I prefer TweetDeck. Having said that, the Twitter web interface is still prob the best for checking people’s profiles and seeing who they follow.
  10. On the iPad /iPhone I use the Twitter iPhone client; On Android, I’m told Tweetdeck is best; and on Blackberry I hear Seesmic, Tweetcaster and Socialscope are good (though Socialscope is still in private beta) and
  11. On any phone the Twitter mobile interface and dabr – are great web-based mobile Twitter clients
  12. Always remember, if you @reply someone looking to get their attention or hoping they will follow you, they will likely click through to check out your Twitter page. There are many bots on Twitter so to weed out real/interesting users from bots I always look at a persons most recent posts to see what they are talking about (if their posts are all links to one site, forget it!), I look at the number of people they follow vs the number of people following them. If they are following 1,000 say and have very few followers, it is a sure sign that they are a bot who just auto-followed lots of people.
  13. I also check out what the person says about themselves in the bio (so, if you want people to follow you, be sure to fill in your own bio!) and click to view their website site, if they have one .
  14. If you want people to follow you, then ensure your updates are not protected. Someone coming to your Twitter page and seeing Protected Updates is very unlikely to see any reason to follow you.
  15. Purely a personal preference, but I think it is far better to use your own name on your Twitter account than a handle. It is a matter of personal branding but to my mind, a Twitter account called @JohnDoe tells me more about the user than @stargazr49!
  16. Finally, a photo is also very important on your account, be sure to add one to your profile
  17. BONUS EXTRA TIP!!! – Use your Twitter username everywhere – add it to your email sig, put it on your business cards, leave it in blog comments – don’t spam, just do it where appropriate.

FWIW I’ll be writing many more posts about Twitter best practices, with a special emphasis on Twitter for Sustainability obviously, in the coming weeks and months – stay tuned!

You should follow me on Twitter here

Video production basics for social sustainability

Recording equipment

Of course, blogging should be only one of the weapons in your Social Sustainability arsenal.

Other tools you should be using include, FaceBook, Twitter (obviously), LinkedIn (their Groups feature particularly), Flickr and YouTube. I will be dealing with all of these tools in future posts – for now I’m going to have a quick talk about my video setup.

I publish videos for GreenMonk reasonably regularly over on the RedMonk TV channel on YouTube.

I’m often asked about the equipment I use to create the videos and, to be honest it is quite basic.

For remote interview videos, where the interviewee and I are not together, I typically use Skype video calling and a plug-in for Skype called Call Recorder which allows me to record both sides of the call. I then edit the video using iMovie – all very cheap and simple to deploy and yet the results can be surprisingly good.

But for higher quality videos you really need to be there with a decent video camera.

My video camera up to recently was my Sony Handycam (seen above on the right). I used it with a bluetooth wireless microphone to capture the audio and the resulting audio and video was quite good to be honest.

However, when I recently upgraded my personal camera for photographs, I chose a Canon EOS 7D (above in middle – see also on Amazon). This camera, as well as taking stills, can take full HD video so I now use this for stills and video and have one less camera to carry with me. Also, the camera, when coupled with a good lens like the EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 (see also on Amazon) on it in this picture, takes excellent quality video.

The biggest drawback of using the 7D as a video camera is that its inbuilt audio recording is poor. There are a number of ways of getting over this, such as the use of shotgun microphones connected to the audio input of the camera but I heard mixed reports on the quality from that.

I decided instead to opt for an external audio recorder. After a bit of research, I went with the Zoom H4n (seen above on left).

Now I record the audio on the H4n and the video on the 7D. I then import both the audio and video tracks into iMovie and splice them together. It’s a little bit extra work but the results are great.

Recently Adobe were good enough to comp me a copy of their video editing software Premiere Pro – I’m currently learning my way around that and looking forward to trying to use it for some real video work.

If you have any questions on video production, feel free to leave them in the comments – I can’t promise to be able to answer them but, if I can’t, perhaps someone else reading the question will!!!

You should follow me on Twitter here

Blogging for social sustainability – the why’s and how’s

WordPress.com blog's Add New Post Screen

In my first post on Social Sustainability, where I talked about the importance of sharing, I mentioned that I had been thinking of writing a post about blogging – well, here it is!

I know this will be the proverbial “teaching granny to suck eggs” posting but seeing as blogs are such a fundamental tool in your social media armoury, I couldn’t leave them unaddressed. In fact, there are so many things to write about blogs and blogging that I can see many more posts on the topic in my future. This brings me to a question – what aspect of blogging would you like me to write about next?

I’m going to start off though with a quick ‘why blog’ and then a discussion of whether to go for a hosted or a self-hosted blog (and the differences between the two).

I won’t spend too much time on the ‘why blog’ question – I’m assuming if you are reading this it is because you are interested in Social Sustainability – if that is the case, then you probably already know that the primary tool of social media is a blog. I wrote a bunch of posts a few years ago on the advantages of blogging for a business – here’s one to have a firkle through if you are still not convinced (read down through the comments as well to get full value).

On the question of whether to go for a hosted or self-hosted blog, I’m not going to make a recommendation either way – rather, I’ll list their relative advantages and let you decide which is more appropriate for you:

Hosted blogs (like WordPress.com which this blog runs on, and Blogger.com) advantages:

  • Speed – a hosted blog can be setup in a matter of seconds
  • Reliability – hosted blogs are very rarely offline (the last time WordPress.com had an outage was in June 2010)
  • Simplicity – hosted blog providers generally look after hosting, updating, security, spam and malware protection
  • Branding – hosted blogs now allow you to brand your blog with your own domain name (e.g. no longer tomraftery.wordpress.com, now simply tomraftery.com) and
  • Price – most hosted blog platforms are free

On the other hand Self-hosted blogs (such as GreenMonk.net)have these advantages:

  • Flexibility – With your self-hosted blog you can extend the functionality of the blog with themes and plug-ins
  • Ad free – most hosted blogs will display ads in your blog – with self-hosted, you can go Ad-free, or roll out Ads and benefit from the revenue yourself!
  • Cheap – although you have to pay for the hosting – there are free blog platforms (such as WordPress.org) you can download to run your blog and
  • Security – if you can control the country and hoster your blog is hosted with, you run far less risk of falling foul of spurious (or otherwise) take-down notices

One possible suggestion, if you are still undecided, is to start off with a hosted blog. If, after a while, you find the limitations of your hosted blog too frustrating, you can always export all your blog posts and comments and import them into a self-hosted one and go from there.

Either way, happy blogging.

You should follow me on Twitter here
Photo credit Tom Raftery

Social Sustainability and the importance of sharing

Flickr Advanced Search with Creative Commons

I wondered for a while what to post on first here after the re-branding of the site and the new focus on Social Sustainability.

First I thought about doing a post about blogging seeing as it is one of the most basic building blocks of social media but then I took a step further back and decided to talk about Social Media and Sharing!

Why? Well, sharing of content is essentially the raison d’être of Social Media, whether it is sharing it privately behind your corporate firewall, or sharing it with as many people as possible on the public Internet. And that’s really the key thing, isn’t it – you generally want your social media generated content to reach as large an audience, as possible.

So, how do you do this?

There are many strategies you can rollout to try to maximise the reach of your sustainability message – everything from ad campaigns to search engine optimisation – however, one of the less discussed ones that I wanted to mention is the use of Creative Commons licensing.

Flickr All Rights Reserved notice

Flickr All Rights Reserved notice

What is a Creative Commons license?

These are like the opposite of the “All Rights Reserved” notice you often see associated with works online – it is the default copyright on a lot of online content and it means that the owner of the copyright reserves all rights around distribution of the content. Obviously, if you want to get your message to the widest possible audience, you want to be sure it is not licensed as All Rights Reserved.

There are different forms of Creative Commons license – from the Creative Commons 0 – which is the least restrictive and is basically a legal tool for giving content into the public domain, through to the most restrictive Creative Commons license which says people are free to re-distribute your works as long as they 1) give you attribution, 2) share the content under a similar license and 3) do not use it for commercial purposes, and various shades of licenses in between.

So, any sites you are creating content on, be sure that you have made it clear to people that they are free to re-distribute your content for you on other sites by displaying the Creative Commons logo along with your content.

So, why the Flickr Advanced Search screenshot above?

Well, when I’m writing blog posts I like to include images to make them look more presentable, however, I don’t want to potentially fall foul of copyright restrictions. Luckily the Flickr Advance Search page allows you to restrict your search to only Creative Commons licensed images. The obvious corollary of this is that if you want to increase the viewership of your images (or any other content, including blog posts, videos, audio, etc.), apply a Creative Commons license to it.

By the way, if you are wondering how to go about getting a Creative Commons License for your content – head on over to the License Your Work page on the Creative Commons site and follow the instructions there.

And if you are looking for the Creative Commons license associated with this article, see the bottom of the right-hand side sidebar.

You should follow me on Twitter here

Photo credit Tom Raftery

Tom Raftery’s Social Sustainability – site re-brand

Beauty of nature

I started this blog back in July 2004 – back then a lot of my posts were centered around Open Source and web technologies in general. Back then the blog was branded Tom Raftery’s IT views.

Then in April 2007 I (belatedly) re-branded the blog Tom Raftery’s Social Media because I had been blogging almost exclusively about Social media since 2005!

In May 2008 I joined RedMonk as an industry Analyst, leading our research into Energy and Sustainability and blogging at GreenMonk.net. After that this site languished a bit I’m sorry to say.

Now though, I’m hoping to start blogging here a little more regularly on the intersection of the two topics I have been blogging about most for the last six/seven years, and am most passionate about, Social Media and Sustainability.

With that in mind, I have once more re-branded the site Tom Raftery’s Social Sustainability – I hope you like it.