Per yesterday's post, I am re-publishing some of the "greatest hits" from CrumpleItUp. This was my very first blog post on CrumpleItUp.com, the internet hub of Humana's Innovation Center, back in 2008. Seems pretty basic now, but back then it was pretty "big stuff" for a health insurance company to be publishing a health innovation blog! This post is recounting my first experience with Twitter ... fun to look back on now.
This is the first of several posts about my plunge into the deep end of the social media pool. In addition to being wonderfully self-indulgent, I hope that it'll be instructive (and soothing) to anyone who's as cautious as I was about social media.
By Greg Matthews. Originally published on CrumpleItUp.com on November 21, 2008
When I joined Twitter in late 2007, I did it out of obligation. Everyone in business – at least our business – had started talking about social media. But most of us had done nothing more than read about it in Fortune or Fast Company.
It was starting to look pretty hypocritical. But I can tell you that I was not the least bit interested in making "friends" on Facebook or MySpace with total strangers. I didn’t have the energy to be interesting enough - often enough - to be a blogger. And I certainly didn’t care to tell anyone – whether I knew them or not – what I was doing every minute of the day on Twitter.
Up 'til that point, I had guarded my online identity with great care. My Yahoo profile page (way, WAY before real social media) said my name was Herve Villechaize (bonus points to anyone who can tell me who THAT is). My identity on Facebook and MySpace was Elmer Fudd – a 72 year old polygamist from Arkansas (most of those identifiers are not accurate). I had to introduce myself to the 1 or 2 friends I had in each place by stating that I was really Greg Matthews.
By the end of 2007, I decided that it was time to come out of the social media closet and put myself "out there" if I was ever going to have any real hope of understanding the phenomenon I was reading about. I started a blog. You can still find it at http://chimoose.blogspot.com. It was about whatever I felt like writing about – and it still is. It is composed mostly of updates on my family (lots of pictures and videos of my daughters that I still don’t feel comfortable posting to YouTube) but was interspersed with my commentary on whatever issues are on my mind . . . usually around politics and religion (and the separation of the two), health and health care, cool technology and IU basketball. My only regular readers are my immediate family, and I rarely say anything interesting to any group of people beyond that. I may someday, but I've decided that it's just not worth forcing. My little blog has served two nice purposes. 1) It got me out there testing stuff out. I know how blogger works, I know how to use Google Analytics to track traffic on my site, and I can even write simple HTML code to program buttons and links on my site. I also learned the art of the link, which was the beginning of my education about the new currency of social media.
You see, while there are a few people who are making money blogging, there are millions and millions more who are blogging because they have something to say, and they can always, ALWAYS find someone to listen if they try a little bit. After I'd been blogging for a couple of months, I noticed that other blogs I liked had "blog rolls" on them – links to other blogs that were relevant (or not) to the author. I decided that I might as well start a blog roll of my own as another way of sharing a little bit of myself – in this case, things I was interested in. What I didn't realize is that I was giving "link-love." What most bloggers want is an audience. And having other sites that link into your own is a great way to accomplish that – particularly because Google searches take the number of relevant links into consideration as their algorithm orders search results.
I had discovered a site called "Inside the Hall" – a blog about Indiana University basketball written by a group of young amateurs (by which I mean that they're not professional journalists - yet). I loved this blog because it was insightful, funny, and updated almost daily with good new material. In fact, it became my primary source of information about my favorite team very quickly. Since my family (the main readers of my blog, if you'll recall) are also Indiana fans, it was only natural for me to provide a link to Inside the Hall on my blog roll.
After doing so, it took about 12 hours for me to get a thank you note from one of the ITH bloggers. He had tracked back to my blog, read it, and realized that I was an IU fan living in Louisville. We sent a few emails back and forth, and formed a relationship of sorts. I am still a regular reader of and commenter on his blog. And I'd learned a great lesson about how to grow a network in the web 2.0 world.
Coming up next, Part 2 in the series: How I overcame my fear of Facebook, and what I've learned as a result