Brian Shaler

Occasionally Interesting

Gravity is for chumps

Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

Ford Fiesta Movement

Ford is doing a little campaign involving their 2011 Fiesta. They’re giving away 100 cars to 100 bloggers / social medians for six months. During that time, the “agents” are supposed to create content around the car with monthly “missions.”

I decided to participate, and this is my video application:

My submission went through right at the buzzer, so I’m far behind many of the other applicants with video views. I figured posting it around a little bit would help me catch up!

Don’t Self-Promote. Intrigue.

I talk and think about marketing a lot. I think about marketing on a business level and on a personal level. My own success has likely been a result of effectively marketing myself.

When you are marketing someone or something, you are trying to convey a message to as many people as possible. There are many ways of getting that message across. My method of choice is intrigue.

Instead of pushing my message onto other people, I try to get people to come to me. Instead of talking about myself, I say less and let others around me fill in the gaps. This is risky, because you can’t control what others say about you. However, when someone hears something about you from someone else, they’re much more receptive than they would be if it was you saying it.

If you can get people to come to you instead of pushing a message to them, you can potentially convey much more information. Essentially, you can lead someone down a “rabbit hole” and let them discover things about you, piece by piece.

I have a very scattered presence online, but I’m very easy to find. I don’t count on people finding every single page or site I’ve created. Over time, I’ve created so much content online that someone can spend hours online and still have more to discover.

A few people have told me I have the “world’s best business card” (My name ranks well on Google for that, too!). I can’t say I completely agree about the “world’s best” part, but there is something to it. While some people write it off as pretentious, the card has an overwhelmingly positive response. It intrigues people. When sorting through 100+ business cards after a conference, seeing that one will often lead people to search online. Once I have lured them to the rabbit hole, I must do my best to captivate them with as many interesting things as possible. For the purpose it was intended, my business card very well may be the best. Other people have other needs for business cards, so it isn’t the “world’s best” for everyone.

Don’t talk about yourself. Don’t self-promote. Try to leave an impression on those around you. Get people talking about you, especially those you know you well. Intrigue those you meet and let them discover you on their own.

What I Miss About Twitter

I was one of the first people to follow more than a thousand users on Twitter. A little less than 2 years ago, I think there were about 10 of us, following anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 each.

As a hobbyist statistician, I have a mantra: You can never have too much data, as long as you have tools to filter and extrapolate the data to make it useful. At the time, there weren’t such tools for Twitter. This was even before Twitter provided a “replies” feed. I was following a lot of people as an experiment. I wanted to see if I could keep up. I wanted to see if I could make sense of the noise.

In the end, it destroyed my user experience. It became very narcissistic. It was hard for me to keep a really close eye on what people I’m interested in were doing, and I found myself using the various pre-Summize search tools to see what people were saying to me or about me. When my personal Twitter experience became all about me, it began to suck. Twitter’s value is in learning from others and seeing what they are doing.

As time went on, I used other methods of staying plugged in to the Twitter community. It was and is a lot of work. I created a second Twitter account to keep track of primarily local people (which helps me hear about local events to promote on my main Twitter account). I’m always looking at what is trending on Twitter (keywords or links that are showing up rapidly among the entire community) and I even spend a lot of time on my (noisy) “/home” feed.

I used to follow everyone back who followed me. I no longer do that. I’ve spent many hours over the last year, trimming the people I follow from about 11,000 down to under 6,000. Almost all of them were individually reviewed to see if they’re businesses, inactive, only using Twitterfeed/FriendFeed/Ping to post tweets without actually using Twitter, spammers, non-English, and so on.

The point here is that I’ve spent many hours fine-tuning my following and I am constantly spending time checking to see what people are doing. I try to spend as little time as possible watching what people are saying to and about me. It’s not easy, but I make it work.

What I’m noticing now, though, is that many people are falling into the trap I fell into almost two years ago: following a lot of people and turning Twitter into a narcissistic experience. has a list of the 1,000 people who follow more users than everyone else. While it is likely missing many people, it lists 1,000 people who are each following more than 3,400 other users.

Are they working as hard as me to keep track of what’s going on? Not likely.

People are being encouraged to follow many people and use tools like TweetDeck, which allows you to see Groups and Search Results, along with “All Tweets.” If you have a column for Replies, Direct Messages, and a search for your name(s), you’re already spending over half of your monitor’s real estate (for most monitors) on content about and to you. The Groups functionality allows you to filter out the people who you “really want to follow,” but what’s the point in “fake following” all the people you don’t put in those groups? If you don’t want to follow them, don’t follow them!

Tools like TweetDeck — which are great for watching yourself — are encouraging this narcissistic approach to Twitter. When the experience is about you and not about others, it destroys what made Twitter great to begin with.

It used to be that if you were traveling and tweeted your location, anyone you’re connected to in that city would likely see it and say “Hey! Let’s hang out while you’re here!” Now, you get back home and a month later, they’ll say “I wish I knew you were in town!”

As people begin following higher quantities of people and relying on narcissistic tools, the only way they will see your message (unless you are in one of their groups, and you have no way of knowing if you are) is if you address them directly. You might as well just use email at that point.

So what I miss most about Twitter is being able to Tweet openly so a group of people see it, instead of having to address people directly for them to get the message. This happens some, but it’s happening less and less as people follow more and more.

If I explain it to one person, I might as well…

If I explain it to one person, I might as well explain it to everyone. I received an email recently asking some questions and/or seeking clarification. Topics include ShalerJump photos, personal branding, and Twitter.

The sender’s name, pieces of the original email, and pieces of my response have been removed.

> My first impression of you from a year or two ago was, “Who is this clown
> who’s trying to be famous for jumping?” No offense.

I wouldn’t say I’m trying to be famous for jumping. I was part of a photography group and jump photos were a fun activity. The first photo of me jumping was taken in October of 2006.

After putting them online, they started getting tagged “ShalerJump” (by the photographers of each photo, not by me) so people could view all of them in a search result. A year later (November, 2007), I was at a conference and someone I had never met introduced me to someone else I had never met as “the guy that jumps.” It sounded fun and interesting, so I decided to roll with it. In May of 2008, I finally bought the domain name

> I read something you
> and/or Adam Nollmeyer wrote, like an interview, about what the Shaler Jump
> was and what it was intended to be… some sort of exercise in personal
> branding I seem to recall. I thought, “this guy is full of himself” and
> “what is he even supposed to be famous _for_?”

The jump photos started to become part of my personal brand when people saw them online and thought of me as “the guy that jumps.” That happened on its own. When I noticed this happening, I adopted it to help in grow, which is the point where it can actually be considered a personal branding effort.

Fame has nothing to do with it. The jump photos serve as both branding and marketing. The marketing side is what draws people in, looking at the photos for what they are and sharing them with friends. The brand side of it is when people actually associate the photos with a person. I brand myself as someone who has fun and does interesting things. (“fun” and “interesting” are both vague words, though I use them quite a bit)

I participated in the interview. Adam thought it would be a good idea to give people more back story on why there are all these photos of me online. To some extent, though, whenever we write publicly about it, we usually take a tongue in cheek approach of making it sound like there’s more to it than there really is. It’s to intrigue people and to mess with them a little bit. (“mess with” as in “confuse” or “to make stop and think”)

> Recently, my curiosity led me to read more about you.

This is something I try to accomplish. I don’t want to try to push who I am onto people. I want to draw people in by being interesting and triggering some level of intrigue.

> Call me old school,
> call me a skeptic, call me cynical, but I look for concrete reasons to
> respect someone, such as skills, talents (other than jumping ha ha),
> concrete accomplishments, etc. Once I did some digging through your
> websites, I realized that you do have some of these things. Maybe not so
> much that I understand why you have 10,617 followers on Twitter at the
> moment, but enough to see that you deserve credit for something other than
> having friends take photos of you while you jump like a lead guitarist in a
> rock band. :-)
> (I hope you’re catching onto my dry humor here. At least a little.)

[Brace yourself. Name-drop alert. Will probably sound uncharacteristically egotistical.]
I started working on personal branding after I realized that being an award-winning web developer didn’t make people respect you. There is one little place on one of my sites where you can find a brief mention of the fact I have worked with: Mazda, Nike, Boeing, Ford SVT, Lincoln (automotive), Mars Inc (Twix), Nivea For Men, Chrysler Financial, Shamrock Farms, blah blah blah.
[Done name-dropping]

You wouldn’t have found me or had an opportunity to judge me (whether or not you should respect me) if it hadn’t been for my for-fun stuff like ShalerJump photos,, various crap/tools/eye-candy I made for the Digg community, photography (+photography tutorials), various micro-sites (,,,, etc), and various things I did on Twitter during the last 1.5 years (TwitLibs, TAG: Twitter Acronym Game, etc).

This illustrates why personal branding and marketing was so crucial. I’m not trying to be “famous for jumping.” It’s simply one of those things I do because it’s fun, and it opens another avenue for people to find me.

> I still don’t understand why anyone would follow 5,741 people, much less be
> followed by twice that number. I’m not saying that in a mean way, just in an
> honest, baffled way. I currently follow 20 people. 5 of them bore me to
> death, 5 of them are tolerably interesting, and the other half don’t even
> update. And I’m getting ready to unfollow some more. ;-) How do you stand
> following 5,741? I would truly appreciate some insight into this.

I follow back everyone who follows me. It’s something Twitter set up for my account over a year ago. Last year, I was following more people than were following me. When I joined Twitter, I started by following a lot of people. Nowadays, I rarely follow people on my own. When/If they follow me, I automatically follow them back.

After Twitter set up the auto-follow-back functionality, my “following” count went up along with my “followers” count. A year ago, I was following over 11,000 people and was followed back by around 7,000. (@garyvee actually gave me crap about this at SXSW, on video. “Who follows 4,000 more people than are following?”) Since then, I have continued with the auto-follow-back, but I have been steadily unfollowing people who are spammers, don’t tweet in English, don’t actually USE twitter (e.g. all their tweets are from twitterfeed), etc. I have gotten it down to 5,741 (as of this writing: 5,712) and out of those, I can probably eventually get down to about 4,000 (but may never hit that specific number, because people will continue to follow me).

I don’t attempt to read every single post from everyone. There isn’t a single person on Twitter whose every update is completely relevant and useful to me. Some people have a high percentage of meaningful tweets, while others have a low percentage. By following a lot of people, I have the ability to “tune in” (like TV) to Twitter whenever I can and skim many tweets to see what’s going on.

There is no right or wrong way to use Twitter. I’m VERY interested in what is going on and what people are doing. I follow people who try to be funny/entertaining (140 characters is a great constraint for witty one-liners), I follow people who link to tech news, and I follow people in my industry (software development, web development, Flash, etc). I follow people who don’t exactly fit those criteria, but a little noise doesn’t hurt, as long as they’re human and tweeting about something. There’s nothing wrong with following only a few people and making sure never to miss a single update — the majority of Twitter users do exactly that.

Social Media Best Practices

One long-lasting meme in the blogosphere (and with SEO being such a hot topic, it’s here for a while) is “tagging” — and I’m not talking about descriptive keywords to facilitate content browsing and organization. This is tag-you’re-it tagging. I was recently tagged by Francine Hardaway, who was tagged by Sally Boldt-Strebel, to post about a best practice of social media.

Instead of saying my best practice first, and then tag people, I’m going to do it backwards.

I am going to ‘tag’ EVERYONE in the Phoenix area. This Thursday at Social Media Club Phoenix, the topic will be social media best practices and everyone who wants to participate can share theirs.

My social media best practice:
Come to the Social Media Club meeting on September 11th and I’ll tell you!

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