AlanGlazier's blog

AlanGlazier's blog

SM & Your Eyecare Business: Social Media Aggregation and “LifeStreaming” – Lesson 9


The more social networking sites you sign up for, the harder it is to keep track of everything, and at a certain point it becomes impossible. How do you reconcile the fact that it benefits your online efforts to sign up for as many sites as possible, yet the more sites you participate on, the more confusing and difficult your online marketing efforts become? Time for you to “LifeStream.”

Social Network Aggregation, also known as “LifeStreaming” occurs when content from multiple social media streams (Facebook, Twitter, etc) is “steered” or “fed” onto one page for the purpose of organizing content to a single location for easier access. Social media sites called “aggregators” exist for this purpose. Different types of aggregators exist, that stream data across different types of networks, allowing users to aggregate news feeds, microblogging messages, friend updates, bookmark organization etc. This is referred to as “LifeStreaming” as people use it to manage their online life more effectively.

The concept for Social Network Aggregators originated out of a parallel challenge in the instant message space. Trillian, developed to connect multiple messaging networks such as Windows Live Messenger, Skype etc, launched in 2000. The latest free version is called “Trillian Astra” and they recently released the first mobile application to iPhone. Trillian was the model for Social Media aggregators.

Also known as the “Twitter” of video, Seesmic can integrate multiple twitter accounts and Facebook. It also offers web-based tools like URL shorteners and image-sharing services. Seesmic can be used by different mobile devices or as a desktop application and now is becoming more of a social media site itself, enabling you to build a community around it. Seesmic and Tweetdeck offer similar services (read about Tweetdeck below).

ADVANTAGES: Twitter user interface easy to use. Really geared towards video and Twitter.

Streamy is a social media site aggregator and also feeds instant messaging and blogs to one “dashboard.” With Streamy’s “Status Update Tool” you can post your updates directly to Facebook, Twitter and many other social media sites in the touch of the mouse. The updates for your services are housed within “tabs” and don’t all appear on one page. Streamy allows you to customize each tab, enabling you to promote your preferences within each tab and demote the information coming from the particular social media stream that is less interesting or important to you; for instance, think of the Facebook tab as your own personal Facebook page that you can modify any way you want.

As such, Streamy doesn’t merely act as a dashboard for all of your social media sites; it also allows you to create a custom dashboard for every site, offering a heads-up view of what’s going on at each individual site based on what’s important to you.

Streamy has a 'What are you doing?' status box visible on the right side of the page that allows you to write a post and simultaneously broadcast it to all the sites you follow in your Streamy feed.

ADVANTAGES: Interesting way to keep track of your social media efforts.

DISADVANTAGES: Not truly aggregating things in one easy-to-view page.

Most social media aggregators are web services that you sign up for. Flock is actually a web browser that sits on your desktop. Think of it as a Firefox, Bing or another browser. The difference between Flock and your typical web browser is that Flock is a “social web browser,” designed specifically to integrate the most popular social media sites.

Flock features a “People” sidebar. Every time you log into a social media site on a service supported by Flock, your site appears on the people sidebar, and you can click the icons to make them appear in the browser. It also gives you the option to click “All” and view everything in a chronological feed sequence. You can post simultaneously to multiple supported sites as well.

ADVANTAGES: Using a web browser to aggregate social media is easier because most social media usage takes place in a web browser. A huge advantage is that you don’t have to provide your login information to third party social media sites which helps preserve your online security.

DISADVANTAGES: To use effectively you really have to shift all your web browsing to the browser and discontinue using the browsers you currently are used to. You can also only use Flock on computers where you can download and install the application, meaning you might not be able to use it at work.

One of the first aggregators, and the most successful, FriendFeed can consolidate over 58 services and counting. FriendFeed allows you to pull all of your social output into one central location, which provides your friends a single place where they can keep track of you as well as for you to keep track of your social media feeds. Friends can subscribe to your FriendFeed to see all your updates wherever you’ve posted them. This makes it a great place to keep up with friends, but also a handy tool to spy or act voyeuristic.

ADVANTAGES: There is no need to refresh your browser with FriendFeed. Updates stream in automatically.

DISADVANTAGES: You can’t include friends or contacts unless they use FriendFeed also.

Another web-based (browser-like) tool, HootSuite is one of the most popular aggregators. It is very convenient to log in from any computer, or any mobile device. Currently, HootSuite supports the major players in social media such as Facebook, Twitter and numerous others. It also supports Foursquare, a geo-targeted mobile application which is greatly increasing in popularity. More on geo-targeted mobile applications in a future post.

In HootSuite you can:
• Choose between live updates or pre-schedule posts and shares in advance.
• Add custom link parameters for tracking clicks and gathering information on your audience.
• Upload images, video and files right into your messages.
• Connect to your RSS and send your blog to your social media streams.
• Use the HootSuite Hootlet from your browser toolbar to share pages and information quickly.
• Handheld integration lets you keep up with HootSuite from your iPhone.
• Create and customize columns that can be dragged and dropped in any order to your liking.
• Harness the clutter and organize your social streams into news, keywords, friends and more.
• Grab code from HootSuite to embed search columns directly into your website.

TweetDeck, similar in many respects to HootSuite, has the added advantage of being particularly customizable. The systems that support HootSuite are diverse and include Windows Apple and Linux based systems.

TweetDeck features include:
• Choose how you’d like your interface to appear and make it your own.
• Set-up your columns to show you only what you want to know.
• Get alerts for new tweets, mentions and direct messages. Excellent communication management feature.
• Decide who to follow or unfollow, as well as report spam and mark your favorites.
• The auto-shorten URL is incorporated for tweets and image uploads.
• Set-up TweetDeck to suit your personal tastes and keep it that way regardless of whether you access it through your laptop or your handheld.
• Track your favorites and organize them into Twitter lists right from your dashboard.
• See what’s hot with local trends and Twitscoop.
• Keyboard shortcuts speed up your actions so you can maximize your time with TweetDeck.

Particularly useful for Mac users, the Socialite homepage has a Mac-like design and makes it easy to manage your social media accounts from your Mac. This is the only aggregator mentioned that you have to pay for ($20 per license). It doesn’t sort things into windows or columns and the face is uncluttered and easy to navigate. You can use Google Reader or other RSS feeds and popular social networking sites.

The Aggregator “Aggregator”
There is an industry joke that makes fun of the fact that there are so many social network aggregators that they need their own aggregator. I know you are probably falling off your chairs laughing but Google is actually working on this with a project called “SocialStream.” Google is not alone in the race to deploy the first aggregated social network. Blue Swarm and Wink have some features to aggregate social aggregators. Other networks are competing for this internet “holy grail” including Mozilla but there are no stand-outs at the time of this writing. One thing is for certain; people using social media tools will jump ship to use social media tools that are friendlier, so should one of these “open source” social media aggregator “aggregators” get some traction, look for the entire face of social media to change virtually overnight. The company that figures this out will become an incredible powerhouse based on its ability to data-mine users personal information and likely would become an internet giant, but I digress…

Microsoft has recently launched a social media aggregation tool it calls “Spindex,” in a closed beta-version. I believe you can participate in the beta of this tool if you have a Windows Live ID, but I’m not sure. In addition to handling typical feeds from Facebook, Twitter, etc. like the feed dashboards discussed earlier, Spindex will handle RSS feeds, bookmarking and its own search engine, Bing and likely will add many more services.

Please share your comments on these social media tools or the tools you use or recommend.

- Alan N. Glazier, OD, FAAO
Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care
Rockville, MD

Twitter Handle: @EyeInfo

Copyright Dr. Alan Glazier 2010 – All Rights Reserved

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