The value of limits coupled with the value of diversity
This morning, I ran across this blog post: “I only follow 88 people on Twitter.”
In it, the author explains why he only follows 88 people, how he came to the number, and the benefits of doing so.
Essentially: the more people you follow, the fewer of any of them you’ll see.
Limits enable value choices and the power of curation. If you could pick up everything in the grocery store, there would be a lot of junk in the midst of the good stuff. Imposing limits on yourself is an exercise in self-discipline that lets you express your values (what’s important) and keep the junk out of your life.
However, at the same time, it’s important within the scope of the limits to have some diversity. If everyone you listen to is just like you, you’ll never be challenged and grow.
I’ve been consistently trying different approaches to Twitter. I’ve followed lots of people, and I’ve followed very few. I can say that the fewer I follow, the better the return for my time. I use lists to keep track of people I don’t follow on a daily basis, around certain topics.
I’m not into social media for the sporadic dopamine hit of mining through a lot of dirt to find diamonds; I want my social media to be more valuable than that. By reducing the number of people I follow, I actually increase my chances of finding items that I’m going to star/like, and that might eventually flow into my research or into the Weekly Roundup.
Try it: cut 10 people from your follow list. Or, go for the gusto, and try reducing your follow list by 10%. Or, a big milestone: cut it to 150 (I’m not there yet, but that’s Dunbar’s Number).
How would you make those choices, and would the value you get from social media increase?
Making a difference through social media
Can social media actually be used to change the world? Simply “liking” something isn’t always enough, obviously. However, social media can be used intentionally and strategically to inspire the actions that do bring about change. Here are some categories of activity on social media that anyone can do.
Raise awareness. Those of us involved in missions generally think everyone is aware of unreached peoples. But that’s not the case. Sharing prayer profiles, photos, and statistics helps to inform people, and to raise the visibility of the unreached. Many people talk about their short term missions trip when they return from the field; but few talk about the places that no one “comes home from” (the unevangelized & unreached). It’s up to us to be advocates and raise awareness.
Highlight effective action. People need to know what they can actually do–and particularly the small first steps. Point out prayer guides, giving opportunities, chances to reach out to neighboring diasporas, opportunities to hear from missionaries, times to talk to agencies about candidacy requirements & training, and so on.
Point to case studies, testimonies and biographies. Missionary biographies in particular can help people ‘see’ what the life is like, how they might started, some of the barriers they might encounter, and the difference they could make.
Point out resources. When an agency or other entity shares a new resource (like a prayer guide, or an infographic, or other tool), reshare it as appropriate with your community. Ask people what kinds of resources they are looking for, find them, and post them back for the whole ‘community’ to see.
Motivate people to take part in larger events. Prayer campaigns like 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World, the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, and other similar events can both get people praying for the unreached and introduce them to others at events. The relationships they build with other mission-passionate people can help encourage them and connect them to more opportunities.
Make connections. Introduce the mission passionate to each other via social media. Help people get more missions news into their timelines.
Authenticate & debunk. With some tact, be sure to pass on good, credible stories–but also gently debunk stories that aren’t true. Myths about Muslims (for example, the “European Demographic Winter” scare) and other religions abound. Passing on good, credible, verified information from authoritative sources can help people think about these things.
Challenge those on your timeline with Biblical thinking about current events. What does Scripture say we should do about the foreigner among us? How can we love our enemies? What does it mean to reach all nations? Stand up for a Scriptural approach to life.
Social media is an important part of peoples’ lives today. You can add value and a mission perspective to those around you simply by choosing a few things each day to highlight and post. Consider it a “tithe” of your posts and look for intentional things to share, to be a voice for those who have no voice.
The Time Sink of Social Media
Time and attention are things we only have so much of, and they turned up on our recent survey as something that really challenges many: how do I get the most out of my time? out of this season of life?
Social media (and email) are two areas identified as enormous time sink. People want to know how to get the best “return” for the time investment they make.
I am very active on social media myself, but having said that, I’m pretty guarded about my time there. I don’t spend hours. I access it on my phone in snatches, I have a dedicated period of time during the day for concentrated review of certain lists, I use tools to monitor what people are re-sharing, and I skim a lot. Here’s two lessons I’ve learned that have helped me to manage:
1. If you’re trying to build an enormous audience, social media will become an endless content monster. There are several sites dedicated to helping you hack your posts so they are the most viral they can be. But I’ve come to see people rarely tweet themselves to lasting fame. People that we really celebrate (=celebrities) are people who create enormously good content (art that we enjoy, books that entertain or make us think, movies, etc). Besides, more importantly, I’ve discovered building a huge audience, on any kind of media may be a path to celebrity – but it is not necessarily a path to influence. (Granted, some celebrities do use their fame for good, but most in my view do not.)
2. If all you’re doing is reading the entertaining content of others, social media will become an enormous time sink. Of the making of cat videos there is no end. Following everyone is a sure way of being blown by the wind, and making a difference in the lives of no one.
“Media” is a plural form of “medium.” The english word medium comes from the Latin term medium which meant ‘the middle, midst, center, or interval.’ Medium in the sense of communication has had the meaning of ‘an intermediate agency’ from the 1600s.
Any form of medium is essentially something that is “in the middle” of us, and enables communication. Paper is a medium for writing, painting, etc. Print is a medium for the presentation of thought: a book exchanged between an author and a reader is “in the middle” of the two of them.
“Social media” is our catchall phrase for a medium (form) of communication that enables mass sharing and resharing and commenting. The key to social media seems to me to be choosing who I communicate with, why I communicate with them, how my communications will go, what I am willing to receive, and how often I will communicate.
The “time sink” of this communication can be significantly reduced and qualitatively improved by reduction: by choosing a limited set of people to interact with, getting to know them as people, and being a blessing to them. I have found that by limiting my more personal and direct communications to people who are in my “tribe,” and acknowledging that tribe will be limited, I set a significant barriers against the time sink.
A positive form of influence to me is this: if I am a blessing to someone (through providing information, answers, encouragement, connections, etc), hopefully they will pass on that same blessing to others (by resharing a post, a document, a connection, an answer).
Audience size may be a marker of fame but not necessarily a factor in influence over audiences.
How I collect data and build community on social media
How do you get all the great links and items that you post on social media? Are your lists open, where I can see who you follow?
This was asked via Facebook, and I answered directly, then thought I’d post my social media strategy. It’s an evolving thing, and what I do a year from now may vary. For me, the key to social media has been to constantly test different approaches, as the media changes over time based on participation.
For data aggregation, I primarily use Twitter, so that’s what this post will be about. I use Facebook more for connecting with friends and patrons, and sharing news than for collecting it.
Social media can be a huge time sink. Used correctly, however, it can be a great tool for finding information, and for serendipitous discovery of things you didn’t know about.
I have several public lists on Twitter through which I aggregate news sources. For example, news-top5 are the news sources I use the most frequently. My news-intl list are the most highly rated or respected international news outlets in each country (this gives me a diversity of opinion). My news-breaking list is all of the major “breaking news” outlets (CNN, AP, Reuters, etc–each usually has its “Breaking News” specialist feed). My “agencies” list is all the mission agencies on Twitter. Anyone can subscribe to my public lists.
In addition, I have some private curated lists of people who are specialists in a particular area (“who-future”, “who-startup”, etc). I’ve built these by watching my main timeline and adding people to these lists who generally post about these topics, and removing them if they get too off-topic too frequently.
However, the key part of my social media strategy are my “a-” lists. These are private, but you can build your own using the exact same strategy I use.
“a-reshare” is a list of everyone on Twitter who regularly reshares the content I share – people who favorite, RT, Quote, etc. Resharing is a pretty strong signal they have common interests with me. (I don’t add accounts that are obviously spammers, who reshare “everything.”) Someone who reshares me also typically reshares others; and most of what they reshare from others is interesting to me. So, by following them, I discover content that I will be interested in as well, and I reshare it. You might call this a “reshare-fest” or more snidely an echo chamber, but in reality not everyone who follows me also follows these folks. Resharing amplifies content, builds community and spreads wisdom. You can build a similar list by watching Twitter Notifications for people who reshare your content, right click their names, and click to add them to your own internal list.
“A-patrons” is a list of everyone on Twitter who is a Patron of our work; this is another strong signal of shared interests. Not eveyone who gives to us is on Twitter, but those who are go on this list. I just cross-reference my donors with Twitter.
“A-charts” is my list of people I’ve discovered who share graphical charts. I’m always keen on charts of data. This is a pretty small list. When I see someone I follow consistently sharing charts, I add them to this list.
“A-longreads” is a list of people who regularly share longer analytical posts. I prefer “longreads” (e.g. articles of several thousand words that are deep dives on a subject); I don’t read them all, obviously, but with news items I’m far more likely to simply skim content.
“A-photos” is a list of people who regularly share photographs, especially of areas where the unreached are typically found. (This may be news photography feeds, or people who specialize in photos).
“A-convos” is my list of people who annotate, reply to, or talk with me on Twitter. This is an even stronger signal than resharing content, but people who are on a-reshare are also likely on a-convos. Again, this is a simple matter of watching notifications, replying to people, and then adding them to the list.
The point of these lists is to segment out “pools” of data that I can “fish in.” My “a-reshare” and “a-convos” lists are my two most frequently watched feeds, because these are kind of my “tribe” of people. They are far smaller: I follow 1,640 in my timeline, but just 85 in my reshare list. I can “dip my toe” into the firehose that is Twitter, while spending a far smaller amount of time with my tribe (because they don’t post as often). This allows me to manage my time and focus on people who are most passionate about the things I am passionate about. By creating these lists, you can follow a lot of people in your normal timeline (and analyze that with tools like Nuzzel or Flipboard) while still having a smaller list of people that you interact with.
How some other people do it
How Dave Verwer curates for iOS Dev Weekly
Robert Scoble’s excellent tips for using Facebook