Fast Company

Updating Your Way to Higher Status

Do you ever get the feeling that you're writing graffiti in cyberspace?

I get this disconnected feeling when I post a status update on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. There's certainly an art to writing a one sentence blurb that expresses something about your life, perspective or the world around you. But is there a point to status updates? Is it merely a social convenience or could it advance your career?

The basic idea of a status update is to say something of interest about your life, or about the world around you to your social network contacts. Sure, it's easy to write, "Headed to lunch in the city." But that's not going to interest your "followers," who prefer to read witty or insightful comments, links to compelling articles or hot new websites.

Is anyone getting ahead in the social media world by offering status updates? I asked several savvy social networkers why they update their contacts more than once or twice a day. What's the ROI on status updates?

Fast Company TV's star vlogger, Robert Scoble, the ultimate one-man new media band, has amassed a whopping 13,650 followers on Twitter - an impressive posse. But what's even more intriguing is his 'best practice' of following nearly everyone who follows him - he's following 13,667 Twitter-ers.

Clearly if you want to engage in a conversation with your audience it helps to make it a two-way street. Of course, it's symbolic; Scoble is adept but can't possibly keep up with 300 people, much less 13,650.

My former colleague Steve Rubel is renowned as a social media expert. Rubel has a terrific blog called Micro Persuasion and 4,209 followers on Twitter. I asked him his philosophy regarding status updates. Rubel updates: "When I want to share a link or an idea or I am simply enthusiastic about something - usually business or sports related," he says. "Sometimes this is once a day. Other times it's dozens. It's also when I want to ask questions and get back answers."

What does he achieve from these frequent updates? "I look to Twitter for more general goals - community, ideas, problem-solving and knowledge sharing, all related to helping me in my job as Director of Insights for Edelman Digital," says Rubel. "I never set out to build followers or to use it as a traffic driver for my blog. However, that has happened."

Sean Ammirati started updating Twitter at the 2007 South by Southwest (SxSW) festival in Austin. Ammirati, a blogger and VP, Business Development at mSpoke, says the updates provide "an interesting way to stay up to date with friends & business contacts."

Ammirati believes that the "conversation" taking place on Twitter, mostly through updates, has "exposed me to a lot of thinking that I otherwise would not have been exposed to. I actually call this my MBA 2.0."

Ammirati, like Rubel, is in communications. "Part of that communication is internally to motivate partners and employees and part of that is to sell a vision externally," he adds.

Although status updates can be sort of compulsive, Rubel believes you should use them wisely. "Key to all is making sure you add value," he says. "This is why, for the most part, I use it to talk about topics that I believe the community (and I) care about and not what I had for lunch."

For many people status updates are perhaps more of a challenge than an opportunity. Those of us who are status impaired should feel free to borrow this line: "Fretting about my next status update."

Rusty Weston, My Global Career • San Francisco, Ca • http://www.myglobalcareer.com/rusty@myglobalcareer.com

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