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The 4 Things I See when I Look at Your Twitter Profile

The 4 Things I See when I Look at Your Twitter Profile


Last week, I gave a group of artists a full introduction to Twitter along with some recommended best practices. At one point in the conversation, I pulled up my Twitter profile and explained why everything is the way it is. In that moment, I realized something: I take my profile so seriously because I judge the profiles of others.

So I’ve decided to make a list of the four things I see (or judge) when I look at your Twitter profile. (more…)

Wanting More from Technology, Myself, and Others

Game BoyI had a dream a few nights ago that I was trying to give an old Game Boy new parts that would allow it to be its own NES emulator and more. I kept trying to get more and more out of the technology.

That is something I do on a daily basis because I recognize the power of the hardware and software I use, and I want to stretch them to take full advantage of their capabilities.

Then something hit me: Am I stretching myself to the extent of what I can achieve?

The answer to that is a little difficult. Yes, I’m in a place right now where I’m creating writing content five nights a week. I’m not really challenging myself to learn technical stuff (like jQuery and JavaScirpt). And I’m not running as much as I want to right now. But I guess I’m okay with the last two not being stretched as long as I’m writing.

A little later, something else hit me: Am I stretching my friends and coworkers to the extent of what they can achieve?

I don’t mean that to seem like I want to use my friends to benefit myself. I mean that, as a good friend and coworker, I need to be helping others realize the potential in themselves, or I need to be helping them with stuff they’re working on.

This was a huge gut-check moment, because the answer is an embarrassing “no.” I can take an easy cop-out and say I’m just not wired that way. But I’m man enough to take this one on the chin. I’m not doing much to help or encourage my friends—and there’s no amount of writing I can do for myself that will make me feel better about this answer.

So I’m going to try to ease into turning my “no” into a “yes” by asking close friends and coworkers How can I help you? and taking things forward from their.

How I Emptied My Email Inbox (in 483 Steps)

At work, I only keep emails in my inbox when I have to take action on them. Right now, I have 18 emails in that inbox. The sad news is that I haven’t had that inbox empty for about two years, but I’m making a goal to have it at zero by July 1.

My personal inbox is a completely different story. I leave emails unread if I need to take action on them or if I don’t want to deal with them or if I don’t have time for them. I just didn’t have the time to get it under control.

Enter Mailbox

The Mailbox app has been getting a lot of hype since it had over 800,000 people on its wait list a month ago. It took me  three weeks before I finally made it to the front of that line, and boy was I immediately disappointed.

Why was I disappointed? Because I had 483 emails in my Gmail inbox that Mailbox wanted me to clear.


The App Changing My Day and Reading Schedule: Umano

It isn’t long in any conversation before I reference an article I’ve heard on NPR or read online. But recently those news sources have become slightly inconvenient.

Take NPR for example. I generally only listen to it while I’m driving, so the amount of time I’m listening is limited to my commute. Also, I have no control over the articles that I hear, and sometimes I’m driving when a show totally irrelevant to my life (i.e. The Morning Shift—a hyper-local show about living in Chicago city limits) is on.

Then there are online articles. Thousands of them posted daily, often on the same topic, and I have to pick and choose my news sources and filter through different categories and get infuriated with spending ten minutes to find two interesting articles.

Then I heard about Umano—an app that provides audio files of articles, recorded by professional readers, for users to listen to.

And the way I get news has been transformed.

The app has features for users to download stories for offline listening, share stories on social media, and everything else you would want from a podcast app.

But it gets better.


My Tech Resolution for 2013

In 2013, I resolve to use social media more.

While a lot of people are resolving to use social media less this year, I’m asking for more.

Let me explain myself.

I would guess that I’ve read about 10-15 articles about tech and current events nearly every day for the last two years. Those articles keep me well-informed about global and domestic issues and new technologies that are quickly changing the landscape of our world. They aid me in my job and keep me thoughtful in my writing.

Where do I find most of these articles? Through social media.

So, if social media aids in my cultural awareness and personal growth, why wouldn’t I want more?


Social Media Learnings from Obama’s 2012 Presidential Campaign

I’m passionate about social media. I love that I have a job that allows for me to participate in the social realm, and I recently gave an interview about using Facebook in my work.

This week at work, I started a social media campaign that will run straight through to Christmas. Every day I’m making a new update or pushing out new content or trying to get a message across.

And, on Monday morning, I decided to take a look back at what the Obama campaign had done to see if there were any last-minute pointers I could walk away with to help me out. Instead, my world was rocked.

So I did what anyone else would: I tracked down the last 3,200 tweets from @BarackObama, opened all of the links to images, and pinned 137 of them to a board on Pinterest.

Here are the things I’ve learned:

Pictures win every time

The Obama campaign capitalized on the traffic that pictures receive on social media. It’s very well known that pictures get more likes on Facebook and more retweets on Twitter, but a lot of content creators will focus on their text and add a picture every now and again. (Don’t feel bad about it, though. I did it too.)

Thomas Jefferson once said, “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.” In the same way, never use words when a picture will do. Pictures can capture a moment like words can’t. Here’s a good example:

(Here’s a better example, even though it’s a little unfair to call it a campaign tweet since the campaign was officially over moments before it was sent.)

Infographics are like crack

The ability to take in information in graphical form has taken off over the last two years, and the Obama campaign capitalized on it. And they weren’t just good at it. They changed the infographic game.

Example 1

The above image may seem brief for an infographic, but it was created with a lot in mind.

  1. Notice the text in the graphic. Almost all of it is in caps. In the internet world, that’s known as the equivalent to yelling, but caps can also do a great job of grabbing your attention. In this context, it works.
  2. Notice the logo on the top left. It’s the same one Obama campaigned with in 2008. It’s not on every graphic the campaign put out, but it shows up where it needs to. It’s really something to keep in mind for when you’re working on your personal brand. Do you overuse or underuse your logo? Too much one way or the other can cause problems.
  3. Notice the colors, specifically the blues. With Obama being a democrat, blue is an inherent color, and the campaign used it in everything. But they didn’t use just any blue. They used two or three specific shades in everything. You can see some of the blues in the above image match the blue in the image below.

Example 2

Another brief infographic, but there’s a lot being carried with it.

  1. Notice the picture. It’s very detailed and warm. Does it remind you of anything? Instagram’s retro look for pictures has become extremely popular recently, and the Obama campaign uses similar tones in a lot of their images. (Barack also has an Instagram account.)
  2. Again, notice the text. Mostly caps. The font is used in the picture above. A simple URL has been added to the bottom to balance out the picture, plus it reminds the reader that there’s a source for the content provided and more information to be found.
  3. Again, notice the colors. The blue is the same as the blue above. The red is a color that the Obama campaign used consistently when referencing Romney in graphics. (Here’s an example.)

Between those two infographics, there’s a lot at learn from. Here’s a couple things that really stick out:

  • Keep is short. The messages are brief to match the attention span of their Twitter audience.
  • Keep it similar. The graphics follow a style guide to keep them consistent and familiar.
  • Keep it current. The styles follow trends that are popular and relevant.
  • Keep it connected. A link to more information can be found either in the tweet or on the graphic.

Stay quotable, my friends

Easily half of the tweets sent from @BarackObama were quotes from speeches he was giving. What’s truly remarkable is the number of quotes that could be tweeted from one speech. Sometimes it’s hard to get a whole concept into 140 characters, but it’s an even greater difficulty when you’re dealing with a direct quote because you need to keep the words intact.

I have no doubt in my mind that the president writes his speeches with the tweetable quotes already picked out. But I’ve started to turn this one introspectively. When I’m in a conversation, how can I make a point that fits into 140 characters? It’s definitely a skill to be mastered.

Also, when you really want to make an impression, add a quote to a picture.

Make your message last

Social network updates are notorious for being relavent for a matter of hours. (*ahem* Twitter) But sometimes there are messages that need to stay out there longer. Don’t be afraid to freshen up a message that you sent out yesterday and throw it out again today.

Be social

@MittRomney wasn’t consistent in sending updates, and I believe that hurt his campaign. Part of the reason President Obama was so successful on social media was because he didn’t have a lot of competition from his rival.

Do you know who your rival is on social media? Not sure? I’ll tell you. Everyone.

Do you know what can make you stand out from your competition? Being on social media regularly. If you’re consistently sending out tweets every day, your followers will get used to your voice. Tweet once a week, and no one can get a grip on what you have to offer.

It comes down to: If you want to be social, be social

Unless you’ve got a campaign team, you’re going to have to get in the habit of sending regular updates yourself. And that’s hard, but it gets easier with time..


There’s plenty more to be learned from the Obama campaign, but I’ll end there. Happy socializing!

Productivity: Making More from Less

I’ve been reading the stories of young entrepreneurs recently to learn from what they’ve done. I was a little surprised when I noticed that increasing personal productivity was a common theme. (I guess it makes sense that those who are able to accomplish a lot in their lives are likely to cover the most territory.)

So I’ve come to a few conclusions.

I can’t do everything by myself. There just aren’t enough hours in the day for me to do everything I want. I need to rely on tools to get me through—whether that’s an app I use to track my tasks or a filter I put on my inbox to remove emails I don’t need. I can relax and let technology be smart for me at times, because I can’t do it all.

I need to master what I have. (In this case I’m talking about tasks, but the same can be said for my professional skills.) The more I’ve read about being productive, the more I’ve learned about tasks—whether relavant or irrelevant to my life—that I can accomplish quickly. But I wasn’t doing all of that stuff before I started. For example, I’ve written about using IFTTT. I love using it, but I’ve signed up for social networks just so I can use IFTTT recipes. Instead of using that system making my life easier, I made it more complex. D’oh. Lesson learned.

I don’t need to make up a new system. A lot of people have been working on being more productive over the years. There’s good stuff out there, I just need to read good sources to read the great practices of others. I need to save my creative side for my work and learn from those who have already figured it out, because, even though I want to, I’m not going to write a program from scratch that will do my work for me. (Mostly because I don’t have that kind of job.)

I shouldn’t use the same productivity methods in my relationships. I made an agreement with myself that my relationships are more important to me that ticking a box off of a list. It’s one thing to want to accomplish tasks quickly, but friends, family, and coworkers should not be made to feel like a task.

As I wrote above, I need to use tools and I need to find systems that already exist instead of creating my own, which means I need to keep reading articles about people and technology that have it figured out. Here are some of the resources that I’ve found to help me with my productivity:

  • LifeHacker — This blog is always full of resources for making life easier. I spend about an hour reading it every Saturday. So good!
  • r/productivity — This is probably the best place to look for stuff that actually works since everything is user submitted. Though only a few posts are added to this subreddit everyday, they’re almost always worth the time to read.
  • Lift — This is an iPhone app that puts habits into a slightly social space. It’s provides a great checklist for me to go through at the end of the day to see if I’m doing things in my person life to maintain balance.
  • Siri — You may know Siri from the iPhone commercials, but she is even more wonderful than that. I recently had the idea to really use her as a personal assistant, and the results were incredible. Now I make my daily tasks lists while I’m driving in the car to work. I don’t have to take my eyes off the road even. By the time I arrive at work, I have my day planned out.

Three Techie Things You Don’t Want to Miss

I’ve normally kept my tech findings to myself, save for a few conversations I have with people when they bring up the subject. Last month, I went out on a limb and wrote a techie post with some cool/free suggestions, and I got some great feedback. So I’m going to try to share three new websites/technologies every month and you can take them or leave them (but you’ll be cooler if you take them).

Hoarding cloud space

In my last tech post I wrote about the usefulness of storing files in the cloud. Since then, I’ve been added three more cloud accounts (CX, SkyDrive, and SugarSync). I feel like each one is a brand new closet that I get to store stuff in, which is great until I forget what’s in which closet.

Then I came across Otixo—a website that helps users manage their cloud accounts. The neat part is that I can move files from one cloud account to another without having to access them directly. Otixo also has a space for collaboration and group projects that I haven’t had time to explore that yet, but I will be making time for it soon.

Backing up your social account media

While my last post talked about how important it is to back up your social account data, I recently came across a website that streamlines your ability to back up your online pictures and videos— You can move photos from your flickr account to your Dropbox, move your Facebook videos to YouTube, and more. (The first thing I did was store all of my Instagram photos to my Box account.)

Now let me be clear, is not a replacement for IFTTT. While IFTTT is life-changing, your recipes only work going forward, so there’s no way to go back for data before you created your recipe. Thankfully, can go back for your photos and videos. The best news is that is still in beta, so there’s a good change that they are going to have a lot more available soon.

No really, the internet can work for you

Just in case you didn’t do it the first time I told you, sign up for IFTTT. No. Seriously. I can’t tell you how helpful it can be. Well, maybe I can.

Here’s a list of my most recent IFTTT recipes:

As an incentive, if you sign up for IFTTT and share a recipe in the comments, then…I’ll tweet about it. How’s that for a prize?