This post will provide for you a “serving suggestion” of social media tools and technologies that I feel are a good package to consider using for improving your relationship with your communities through digital means.
I’m writing this out because I had the great fortune of spending time with most of the team at the Brazelton Touchpoints Center in Boston yesterday. My friend, Rob Hatch referred them to me, to talk about the value of technology in building community. The goal of the talk: to show a few new ingredients to the recipe of using websites and applications as extenders of the digital conversation.
From Chef Boyardee to the Pasta Aisle
Kim Alleyne, the spearhead of having me into the Touchpoints Center and an energetic young woman, had all kinds of great analogies throughout the visit. At one point, Kim told me that it was like she’d been eating Chef Boyardee all these years, and now someone was showing her the pasta aisle. But the trick of this, of course, is that there’s lots of types of pasta, sauce, and cheese, and you have to figure out which sauce is best for what, and so on.
So, without further delay, here’s my thoughts on a starter pack of technologies for a team looking to use some of these new tools to build out digital relationships. Let me explain the tool, the need it solves, and a note or two.
- WordPress.com– Blogging software useful for creating simple, multi-author websites for information exchange, conversations, and overall referencing of information. WordPress.com is free, and is simple to walk through for use. If you want to further control the look and the feel of the blog, host it yourself through a 3rd parting hosting source (like 1and1.com or others). To do so, instead of the .com software, download the server software for installation at WordPress.org.
Use a blog to keep people informed, and make sure you make it easy for people to find your contact information, and also how to subscribe.
- FeedBurner– RSS (really simple syndication) mentioned above, is tricky. FeedBurner takes a lot of the complexity out of it, and makes it easy to use more than the basic functions of RSS. For instance, you can help people subscribe to your blog via email.
- Technorati– This site helps you search blogs. I showed the Touchpoints team how to use it to “ego surf,” or basically, build searches on topics that mattered to them, and ensure that they are aware of how the overall blog world thinks of you and your services/ products. As an aside, I also use Google Blogsearch, because both find different information all the time.
But don’t read it directly, the way you might normally.
- Google Reader. I talked a bit about the value of following blogs by subscribing to blogs using their RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed. For any site offering a subscription (check for an orange symbol like this
Subscribe in a reader
), you can subscribe to the content provided by that site, and it will be delievered to you via the Google Reader experience.
Above, the ego surfing I came up with involved me needing to visit Technorati or Google Blogsearch to see who’s talking about my organization. By having them subscribed to in my Gooogle Reader, I can just click on a simple interface and find myself knowing when someone is talking about me or my organization. Or I can use it the way most people do and subscribe to blogs I like pertaining to my interests.
- Flickr– Photo sharing site, with all kinds of great features, like sharing, tagging, the ability to post off-site onto your blog, free storage and bandwidth (even more if you pay the less-than-$30 US a year). Flickr’s great for adding more and more photos of the people you’re communicating with, such that folks feel like they’re building an even better relationship with you from afar.
- Stickam – Stickam is a free video cam conferencing software. People use it for lots of reasons, including just showing how bored they are to each other, but because you can go into private chats, and because you can use it for all kinds of instructional purposes, I think it’s a great tool to add to the kit, for providing some visual presence.
- PBWiki or Wikia – Wikis are lightweight, flexible website softwares that allow multiple users to edit the content simply. Wiki is a silly name if you’re not already in the space of using them. Really, they make for good “knowledge management” systems for free or cheap. People can put their best practices on them.
- Google Calendar – For group calendaring for free and easy to use, Google Calendar works great. I also like 30Boxes, which has lots and lots of interesting features to enrich the experience.
- Twitter – Twitter answer the question, “What are you doing right now? You can enter that information via a website interface, on your mobile phone, or via your instant messaging software. The value to Twitter for a small business might come in another means of reaching out to non-local personalities on the team via the site’s announcement-like methods. “Clean up in aisle 4” or “If you read this, grab your co-worker for a quick meeting.” I’ll say I’m not yet sure this is a must-have application, but it’s provided a certain digital “pulse” on the friends who’ve chosen to follow me there.
What else have I missed? What would you add to your social media toolkit, were you giving someone advice on how to start using the interesting Internet applications you’ve come across? I’d love your thoughts.
Chris Brogan is Community Developer for Network2.tv, a guide to the best Internet TV. He is also co-founder of PodCamp, a free unconference on the benefits of using the internet to share audio, video, and rich media relationships with your audience of choice.