Great news! There’s a new social network, and the word is, it’s awesome!
Oh. But it’s fundamentally different than anything you’re using right now, and the first reports are that just about everyone is, as usual, doing it wrong.
Pop quiz, tough guy. Do you join the new network?
One of the biggest challenges when approaching a given platform is feeling like you’re actually getting your head around it. Are you publishing the right material? Are you making the right friends? Are you ticking anyone off?
Getting over the fear of diving in is difficult – but it doesn’t have to be.
Whenever I start making use of a new platform – whether it’s digging into Twitter, or changing my approach to Facebook or LinkedIn – there are three simple things I do before solidifying my strategy: Listen, Observe, Catalog. You might think these are similar activities, but they’re really quite different – and essential to do before actually taking any action on a new plan.
How does it work? Simple:
1) Listen to what other people are saying about locales, individuals, or artifacts on the new platform.
Granted, this is easier with open networks than closed ones – it’s easier to do sentiment research on what’s going on within Twitter, for example, than it is on LinkedIn. However, if you have any kind of network to start with, you probably have a buffer – a back channel – to help you navigate the initial onslaught of information.
Chances are there are some movers and shakers, no matter how early the days of the new network are. Who are they? Are they making splashes? Are people you follow mentioning the same things consistently? Listening, especially on purpose, can be a powerful first indication of what people are doing, why they’re doing it, and how they’re managing to get results. Listening will also let you in on what kinds of results people are actually looking for.
Now, I’m not saying this should be done before filling out that tempting, well-designed sign up form. Not a bit. But it is easy enough, with some tools like Google Blog Search, Google Alerts and (gasp) asking your friends, to get a sense of where to go next, where the movers are actually doing their shaking.
Listening should give you your first indication of whether or not a space is worth further investment of time and energy.
2) Observe what others are actually doing with their networks in the new space.
I know, radical isn’t it? Once you’ve found out what you should be looking for by listening to the noise surrounding a new space – and, bonus points, this is actually easier as the space ages; anyone listening for Facebook news would find a wealth of information these days – you’ll know what kinds of people to actually spend time watching.
Pay attention to what’s getting done. Take note of how it’s being done as well. Is auto-publishing of blog posts or Twitter feeds welcomed? Are there opportunities for leadership? Are the leaders in the space actively investing in others, or promoting themselves?
Where listening is generally outside-the-wall activity, observation is being a fly on the wall in the same room where the party is.
3) Catalog what you’ve learned and start breaking out your plan of action.
What did you learn during your listening and observation? By now, you should have an accurate sense of:
- What gets done in this new space
- How people are doing this work effectively
- What kinds of behaviors are encouraged or accepted
- What kinds of behaviors are expected, whether encouraged or invisible
- How to get ahead easily
- What tools are available to reduce emotional overhead and administration effort
This preemptive insider knowledge will help remove a lot of the thrash from starting out on a new network, and make even your first days there easier. When you have a sense of what’s accepted, expected and anticipated, you can live up to expectations – and manage them – far better than going in blind.
Don’t have that sense yet? Repeat steps one and two until you can hammer out at least a 14 day revolving plan.
It’s really that simple. Everything else is over-complication.
Yes, there’s detail involved. there always is. And sometimes, the new network may not be for you – or you may go for years using it in a certain way, based on your initial perception of where the value is. Above all; don’t be afraid to course-correct and make a new plan of action. But, if you’re making changes in your network navigation intentionally, I’d strongly suggest spending at least a day on each of the above activities.
Going in to any network with more information, and using aware observer skills in building your knowledge, is always a good idea.
Have you been in any situations where more information could have been helpful? Where later observation put a new spin on your initial perception? I’d love to hear about it – please do share in the comments.