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Mar. 24 2010 - 9:09 am | 32 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Knowing Your Online Audience (AKA I Don’t Need Twitter Advice)

Yesterday, I got the following direct message from someone via Twitter:please please don’t use foursquare to update twitter with your location! so annoying to your followers

I’m not going to say who it’s from, because I like and respect the person who sent it to me. And clearly we follow each other on Twitter. But what they DM’d me above is 100% wrong.

Know your audience.

I have been experimenting with FourSquare, as I do with numerous technologies and websites, because to experiment with something is to know it. So I’ve been getting to know FourSquare lately – mining its database of information about people and places, checking in to locations in various ways, and so forth. And sometimes I blast my location out on Twitter.

Now, the person above doesn’t like this. That’s fine. But their mistake is assuming that all my followers feel the same way. I tweeted:

Just got DM telling me my FourSquare updates on Twitter are annoying. Also annoying? GETTING ADVICE ABOUT HOW TO USE TWITTER

Now, maybe that’s a little mean, but it makes the point (and it’s funny… never underestimate the funny). Shortly after, I got a DM from a different person:

for the record, I like the updates :)

Clearly, different people in my audience have different opinions about my content. That seems like a “no duh” kind of statement, but I think that many people, getting the first DM above, would change their behavior, thinking that they broke some social norm.

There are very few social norms, and even when there are, so what? Often, the most innovative people (like, say, Guy Kawasaki and his AllTop site and related social media accounts) are the wrongs who tweak or break such norms and do something against the conventional wisdom.

I am experimenting with FourSquare so that I understand it inside and out, just like I did with Posterous, Twitter, and other things. That’s how I know I can/cannot apply it to challenges I face in my personal or business life. I read Mashable.com and other blogs, and the content is good, but just because 99% of people are using FourSquare in a certain way doesn’t mean I have to.

Thus, when experimenting, your audience will see you do different things. As long as you’re happy with what you’re doing (and you are not outraging everyone who pays attention to you), you’ll be fine. It’ll blow over. Trust me.

So, know your audience and stay true to yourself. Sometimes when you’re being creative and trying something new, people don’t like what you’re doing, or they might not understand it. But other people will love it. And still others, new audience members, will be drawn in.

Your audience can change a little over time, because you change a little over time. If you aren’t changing, experimenting, probing the limits of behavior, you will never be innovative.

Posted via email from Mark’s Cheeky Posterous


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    About Me

    I'm a biological scientist by training with eclectic interests in politics, government, technology, and pop culture. My writing has appeared in diverse publications: PBS MediaShift, TechPresident, Mashable, Nature, Genetics, Genome Research, Defense and Technology Papers, Defense Horizons, The Washington Times, and The New York Times. Besides writing for True/Slant, conducting public policy research, and working on a book, I'm currently a regular columnist for O’Reilly Radar (social software and society), Federal Computer Week (emerging technology and government) and soon, DC Examiner. Because of all the above, I stare at books and computer screens too much, and at girls too little.

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    Contributor Since: January 2009
    Location:Washington, DC