FriendFeed is becoming more and more popular, and if you’re not on it yet, you’re in the minority. While some people stop what they’re doing to complain about the ever-changing landscape of social networking – don’t get me wrong, a totally valid peeve – get a headstart on them by becoming an effective FriendFeed user.
First Stop: Managing the Signal-to-Noise Ratio
Services like FriendFeed are known for generating a lot of noise. It’s not FriendFeed’s fault, though. It’s part and parcel of the service they offer, since it’s designed to collect all known sources of your content in one place.
Think about it this way: the average blogger will post an article on their site, then go add it to Digg, StumbleUpon, and all the other bookmarking sites, declare its existence on Facebook, Twitter, Plurk and Tumblr, and then sit back and hope for some comments.
What I’ve just outlined is actually a pretty light promotional routine, and we’re still up to seven notifications for the one post. That’s a terrible signal-to-noise ratio!
To become a respected member of the community the onus is on you to keep your signal high and noise low. Not on your friends, not on FriendFeed – just you. It’s a process of pruning, in some cases. When I first signed up for my own account, I plugged in all the services that it offered compatibility with. Then, over the next few days, I found myself tweeting at an abnormally high volume – effectively creating a bunch of noise and blocking out all the content on my FriendFeed page that I wanted people to see.
In the end, the best thing for me to do was cut Twitter loose from FriendFeed to prune back the noise. Likewise, I use Tumblr to announce my work around the web in one place, because it can be so easily displayed in the sidebar of my own website. That makes my Tumblr account totally redundant as far as FriendFeed is concerned.
Managing your own signal-to-noise is essential, but what about everyone else? The key is in being discriminatory and not subscribing to those who flood you with rubbish. On services like Twitter, you’re likely to follow others for the good conversation. With FriendFeed, it’s best to subscribe to people you actually know, are involved with in some kind of online venture, or are providing real, practical value to you through their feed.
After you’ve followed a few high-signal friends, rooms are the best option for staying in touch with a community of people.
Make the Signal Count: Offer Value to the Community
It’s one thing to let FriendFeed collect your data from around the web and not pay much attention to how your feed looks. You might have trimmed it back by excluding Twitter and any other repetitive feeds, but your job is not yet done. If you want to make it worthwhile for others to subscribe to your feed, you have to provide them with value. They have to gain information they find either insanely useful or incredibly interesting from your feed.
The best way to do this is with the bookmarklet which allows you to post a link to any page you’re visiting with a description quickly and easily. Again, be discriminating. People do want gatekeepers, and despite the fact you’re not creating that content, just linking to it, that’s a valuable service to provide – so long as your subscribers like the way you filter information.
Also remember to send resources to the rooms you’re involved with, using the bookmarklet. Always choose to submit content relevant to that room’s topic. This is a great way to find subscribers who wouldn’t have found your feed any other way.
On a somewhat related aside, understanding and using the principles of gatekeeping theory can help you become a relevant content provider on the web.
FriendFeed Rooms: Building Your Community
A number of high-profile sites have started FriendFeed rooms that are encouraging the growth of active communities, such as our own Lifehack room and the ProBlogger room.
You need to have either the time and energy to build a community from scratch or the brand recognition to create a room that is self-sustaining off the bat, but FriendFeed rooms are not just a great way to gain more subscribers for your own FriendFeed. You can start your own rooms to build a community for your site, or for a topic of interest.
If you don’t have a successful website or blog that enables you to open the room, announce it and leave it to grow on its own, you need to put in even more work getting it off the ground. Scour the web for great resources and link to them, use pictures to make it attractive and eye-catching, and make insightful and thought-provoking comments that get people thinking and replying with their own ideas. Reply to them. Partake in the community experience, and with some hard work you’ll have a room that’s worth subscribing to.
Bloggers, and businesses, will recognize the value of having an active community.
Microblogging Productively – Oxymoron or What?
While this article is about FriendFeed, this next section can apply to Twitter, Pownce, Plurk, and all the rest of ’em too.
Asking how to use these services while having a productive work day is like asking your goldfish to bark. And if it can bark, it may be a candidate for a speedy flushing, or submission to a freakshow. It’s impossible to use these services and be productive, when it comes down to it. However, there are some measures you can take to regain some of your productivity and at least make it look like you have a work ethic.
1. Turn off notifications in any app – such as Growl – that have the ability to alert you to new feed items and tweets.
2. Don’t use the web while working – if you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know that already! Exceptions apply to bloggers and other ‘web-workers’ who can’t get their job done without having a browser open.
3. Use self-discipline. Self-discipline is like a muscle, and what better way to exercise it and make it stronger than by keeping the heck away from distractions like Twitter or FriendFeed when you’re doing work that involves high levels of concentration? I bet even the founders of those services abide by this rule.
Seriously, using self-discipline is the only way to remain productive at anything, anytime. All other productivity tips and systems depend on it; none of them can replace it. But with the motherly part of the article out of the way…
Get over to FriendFeed and start making it work for you!