Social networks: time for a repurposing spring clean?

Spring clean preparation
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Perry Timms
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Social networks, platforms, apps and programmes have given me a lot to be grateful for. Presence, insight and people. Mostly people.

No-one wrote the user manual for any of these as we made the protocols up as we found out about them. It has been the ultimate discovery journey.

What I’ve seen in and around June 2016 and beyond hasn’t been quite so fulfilling and useful though. Vitriol. Abuse. Anger. Hatred. To the point that these incidents occurred and I stepped back.

  • Question Time #BBCQT on Twitter. At times this is peppered with fun and useful take-downs of typical political guff. And the odd comment on there incensed me. I went to draft replies, taking issue with some awful comments. And then I thought again. I post on social networks as me. The last thing I want is a load of abuse online and even more so people sabotaging my life, work and people around me. So I backed off. It wasn’t something I had to do so I left it.
  • A Brexiteer in my timeline on Facebook. Raising SUCH awful comments and attacking another friend of mine who jumped into the discussion. Unfriended and blocked.
  • Noise on all social networks. Left untendered, social networks grow and blossom but can become out of control. That’s what’s happened to me. I had the general philosophy of “follow me on Twitter and I’ll follow you back”. Not everyone but many. And it was fine for a while but this past 12 months (despite use of lists and Tweetdeck on a laptop) it’s become noise. So I’ve taken a drastic and lengthy step and found a solution.

Other people have also found solutions to this repurposing question and maybe there’s one in there for you if your social network is getting out of control.

  • Unfollow all bar those who provide the most useful insight and sharing. This strategy has been adopted by a few of my contacts. It runs the risk of those “not chosen” to be followed feeling a bit of umbrage and taking your name out of their social networks in a tit-for-tat unfollow exchange. May not matter to you so that wouldn’t be an issue. Takes time to unfollow but would DEFINITELY clear your timeline.
  • Make better use/exclusively use lists will give you a chance to segment your followers into clusters that make sense to you. HR people, change people, IT companies, news accounts, education accounts and so on. Again, takes time but is a universally accepted good feature about making social networks work for you. Hootsuite, Tweetdeck - all made for lists with columnar User Interface. Even the Twitter app allows you to make good on lists on your mobile device so lists really are a good way of making more sense from the noise. Some people I know have unfollowed everyone AND made lists of good people to follow.
  • Create new accounts and almost start again. May appear to be a less drastic step to the unfollowing and easier to start again. But for many, the followership has taken years to get to this level and it’d be difficult to rev that impact or reach back up again. Many people revel in multiple accounts - some more anonymised than others to account for football tastes for example - and many (like me) just have the one account to cross-post whatever’s on my mind into my social networking feeds (as appropriate of course).

I’m sure there are many including bots and automated routines to capture the best posts and so on.

I have just gone through my 6000+ people I follow on twitter and been subtly brutal and muted a large number of accounts. Not unfollowed - so we’re still connected - but muted so that I won’t have so many posts (unless they specifically mentioned me) in my timeline.

It might seem like all I’m doing is reinforcing my own echo chamber but I’ve taken this onboard and used one rationale to whether accounts are muted or not:

Do their posts help me, improve my view on the world, enhance my professional and personal interests and keep me connected to what really matters to me?

Overall though the repurpose of your social network is perhaps based on what you want to get FROM your social feeds. Here’s a few of my tips additional to those others I’ve seen use like the above.

Blogs and features

Some of the highest quality blogging there is can be found on Medium. It has a useful follow, like, share feature and so you can follow people there as well as - or instead of - jumping on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.

Many of us bloggers use Wordpress (and also have a presence on Medium) which like Medium has the ability to follow people’s blogs.

This can mean more emails into an inbox but you can switch that off and simply follow the blogs from the app or the desktop. 

News feeds from social networks

There are a range of tools that will provide you with information without having to have a huge following or network.

So if you DO unfollow everyone or set up a new account these tools may help you get good content to share with others or just keep you tuned in.

Some are aggregator and publishing tools which can “scrape” the web and bring you news meaning you’re not totally reliant on your social media feeds.

Many of these tools have a form of intelligence in them to find more of what you regularly read, share and post.

Set up groups

When I get asked - as I inevitably do - what is the future of social media I say it’s selective. We make more of WhatsApp, Facebook groups and even Google+ communities.

This is a way to keep a sense of purpose and clarity to what gets posted, shared and discussed.

I’m in a couple of closed groups for Remainers, Next Stage Organisations and even an Anti-Trump group. 

Use pro-social working tools/platforms.

Slack and Asana are my chosen socialised working platforms.

Like having a social media group of people again these are brilliant for low friction updates, chat, even online meetings but also for focusing on tasks, activities, sharing great content and working on shared documents and the like.

Microsoft has entered this fray with Teams and Facebook have their Workplace tool so the much vaunted enterprise social network (Yammer and the like) is now morphing into open, socialised working platforms.

These will need to follow similar audit/repurposing rules as they could get out of hand as they scale.

So you CAN repurpose your social feed. You can make some sense out of the noise. And you can and should be purposeful what you gain from your social network.

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