Do my new ‘followers’ realize what they’re getting?

By Steve Outing

I was tickled to find my name on Robert Scoble’s list of top tech blogger/FriendFeed/social media people. He’s got a huge following, so by appearing on his list, I’ll pick up some new followers on FriendFeed, Twitter and my blog, I’m sure. (I’ve noticed some already.)

Scoble is publishing the FriendFeed URLs for the folks on his list, so most likely that’s where people will start following them. The tech blogger and gadfly’s recommendations carry weight, so we’ll all get somewhat of a boost from this.

But this got me thinking about the people who start to follow me but don’t know me. With Facebook, my “friends” learn about both my professional and personal activities; but those are mostly people I know at least casually. It’s a closed social network, under my control. By contrast, with Twitter, I have “followers” who know me, as well as many who don’t but follow my tweets (probably) because they’re interested in my work or media-related opinions. Ditto for FriendFeed, but they’re getting not only my tweets but also my blog posts and photos posted to Flickr. Those systems are open, in that anyone can follow me; it doesn’t require my permission.

The thing is, I (and most of the other people I know who use Twitter) post professional as well as personal stuff. On Friday I posted to Twitter about media and political topics; today I posted a tweet about my daughter’s birthday party. While I primarily tweet on media topics, I also tweet when I go mountain biking (one of my passions); my Flickr photos are usually personal.

To my “friends,” the personal stuff is perhaps of interest; I know I enjoy reading personal tidbits not only from my real friends, but also professional colleagues who I consider to be casual friends. But for these new non-friend followers, I guess they’ll have to put up with my occasional personal ramblings interspersed with the professional-related stuff that I post.

It’s a bit odd, really. I mean, why would anyone who doesn’t know me give a hoot that I mountain biked on this really great trail? Or am currently hanging out at The Cup on Pearl Street in downtown Boulder? A FriendFeed that mixed personal and professional would be fascinating to follow for a movie star, football quarterback, politician or celebrity. It’s probably not so scintillating for all we non-celebrity types.

But perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps it is interesting to learn little personal bits from normal people we follow but don’t know and have never met. I see a lot of that from people who I follow on Twitter but don’t know well, or at all. The bits are short and easy to skip over. Yet I actually find it interesting and read them, when I’m in the mood. It’s a bit of modern-day voyeurism.

What’s your take on this? Do you enjoy seeing personal glimpses from people who you follow on Twitter and FriendFeed? Or do you find it annoying?

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!

4 Responses to "Do my new ‘followers’ realize what they’re getting?"

  1. Robert Scoble
    Robert Scoble 9 years ago .Reply

    I like seeing personal info. It lets me learn a lot more about you than if you just wrote cold tech news.

  2. Karen
    Karen 9 years ago .Reply

    >>>I mean, why would anyone who doesn’t know me give a hoot that I mountain biked on this really great trail?>>>

    This is the essence of what makes social media social. These personal connections, however small, that make online communication much than the simple exchange of information. If all we wanted was information, we could just read newspapers, eh?

    As an educator, I’ve seen that social connections enhance learning and retention, increase motivation and compliance, and raise self-confidence. There’s value in peer-to-peer interaction. This is why, even on the college level, we do group projects.

    As a writer and online community participant, I’ve learned that other writers are not just content-producers, but living, breathing human beings. This makes me more interested in what they have to say.

    Online, where interactivity is key, the social connections are even more important. Online conversation lacks nonverbal cues and as a result may be vulnerable to misunderstanding. We can all think of instances where something we posted has been “lost in translation,” so to speak. But getting to know a little bit about the person behind the post can help avoid conflicts and increase understanding: we find it easier to assume good will; we understand better the context of the words; we are more likely to temper our own words when we are aware of the human being(s) we are communicating with.

    (Gad, Kurt Vonnegut would laugh himself silly at all those semicolons.)

    Anyway. In short, yeah, your bike rides interest me. Why not?

  3. amanda
    amanda 9 years ago .Reply

    I periodically block my tweets because I find that total strangers are signing up to hear me yammer about software decisions, designing for mobile devices, where to get a great donut and how annoying it is when people misuse “quotes” and other “punctuation.” And yet, I kind of like it when people I know professionally let me have a glimpse of the rest of their life.

    There’s a limit, but I figure it is up to me to decide whether there are enough gems in your twitter stream to keep it coming.

    What I profoundly dislike is the twit-storm that flows forth from folks who decide to live-tweet conferences. The “so and so is pointing out deep thing” tweets. Ugh. I’d rather wait until you’ve thought about it a little and blogged it, complete with your take on whether “so and so’s” insights were spot on or missed the point.

    Honestly, though (and I don’t follow your tweets or know who you are so later you can ask me why I’m commenting at all …) what I get from hearing about your mountain bike rides is a nice segue into a conversation when we meet at a conference finally. I can say “hey, I’ve been wanting to meet you and I love The Cup in Boulder, too.” and then if you seem like an agreeable person I can launch into a question about twitter and journalism.

  4. Alistair
    Alistair 9 years ago .Reply

    Interesting post – I actually found this post by google search for “mountain biking on friendfeed”. But I also read Robert Scoble’s list back when it was published.

    I have wrestled with this myself. I guess it depends on whether you are primarily aiming to provide value for your subscribers vs. documenting your interests and real life online.

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