I have a confession to make. I don’t usually share this sordid obsession, but I feel it’s long overdue. A cathartic moment is good for the soul, and it doesn’t hurt one’s Google page view rankings either. So please let me unburden myself, step into my tawdry, secret pixelated world.
I am a hoarder. I collect things. Lots of things. But please do not let your imagination run amok with claustrophobic images of a decrepit, insidious lifestyle. I’m not making a veiled cry for help, or a pitch to be the next celebrity profile on A&E’s voyeuristic Hoarders show. Let me explain myself. I am a digital collector. I packrat hundreds — if not thousands — of links, PDFs, images, ASCII text files, audio recordings and videos. I have been collecting what we now call “content” since the proto-Internet, when 300-baud dialup modem connections delivered the first consumer access to online periodical literature via Dialog’s Knowledge Index service. That’s when CompuServe and public BBS systems offered real-time chat, downloadable information resources and professional forum engagement long before LinkedIn codified the business discussion group.
Leveraging the Hoard
My “hoard” however is not reflective of some pathology or an odd penchant for accumulating digital wealth with selfish intent. For traditional and now social business applications, my stash has always been a strategic professional asset to promote and manage the perception of companies, brands and products. To take small, unknown companies and make them look bigger than they really are; as important as major players that generate inbound events virtually on autopilot by the sheer momentum of their already well-established brands. Each step of the way, leveraging a knowledge hoard has meant the difference between a public relations or marketing opportunity, or continued obscurity on the outskirts of the Department of the Also-Ran.
Your Social Net Worth
“Content is king” used to be a cool marketing mantra chanted by the purveyors of social media services to impress companies and client prospects with the new demands of the dynamic Web. It didn’t have a very long shelf-life, as these days the expression is largely derided by those same influencers as simplistic and highly ambiguous social media white noise. But content is still important, and now we can get beyond the superficial sloganeering. What we really mean is information is power. Not new, always has been, always will be. Call it trite, but it’s true. In every tweet, every blog post, Pinterest pinup, Facebook status or Google+ update, the power of your social business presence can be enhanced by the quality of the information you share and, perhaps more important, how quickly you can share it. There’s nothing like the potency of an on-target content reference in a blog comment thread, discussion group joust or fast-flowing tweetchat. Colleague Judy Gombita recently dropped a 5-year-old reference link in the middle of fast-paced exchange. It made a lasting impression for her personal as well as her professional brand. Your social net worth goes up a notch or two when you come armed with the immediacy and authority of your knowledge vault.
So, if you dare, come with me into my somewhat secret world as I share a few of my favorite tools and strategies for maximizing the content that you keep. Vicki Flaugher has groaned that she loathes Top 10 lists, but hoarders love lists — the bigger, the beefier…the better. It turns out that blog posts featuring lists have very high page views and are practically an institution with readers, which only suggests I am not alone in my passion for savoring, sharing and strategically leveraging my hoard of links and buckets of files.
Tools of the Storage Trade
Here are my Top 6 approaches to managing an online hoard, with some tools and techniques to support anyone’s digital excess:
- Virtually every pixel I hoard is tweeted, and BufferApp, hands down, is my favorite tool to fill my stash and dole it out over time. Most important, it supports my preferred Twitter habit of cherry picking sound bites from posts, rather than the standard routine of tweeting headlines. That’s ultimate transparency and a personal branding statement. To wit: I read what I tweet. I also religiously seek out and add bylines for authors. Yes, this is extra work, and BufferApp caters to my hyper-collecting passion. Suggestion to writers: include easy-to-locate Twitter handles with every post; don’t make me work so hard to credit you in addition to the person who shared your work. You may also like to try a similar but not as robust offering from Timely.
- For packing away all of my favorite links, the trusty social bookmarking veteran Delicious has served me well, though rumors of its demise had a lot of my fellow packrats scurrying for a replacement. Delicious appears to be safe for now with a new owner, but I am reminded that nothing beats the security and safety of your browser’s built-in bookmark storage system. I still load up on bookmarks in FireFox, Chrome, Safari and IE, using different browsers for specific business applications. Alternatives to Delicious include Diigo, with its cool highlighting and sticky note widgets, and Pinboard, though the service has a small one-time fee (around $10). Pinboard connects to my Twitter account, so every tweeted link is stored and, if I like, hashtags can be automatically converted into filter tags. Plus Pinboard delivers very powerful search capabilities for all the content (tweets and links) you have shared. Regardless of which solution you pick, the good news is your bookmarks are highly portable. You can import and export between these services and your browsers, so your “collection” is relatively safe as long as you are diligent about backups.
- Speaking of “pinning” stuff, unless you’ve been searching for ancient lakes beneath Antarctica, Pinterest has been trending wildly in recent months. Business took notice as the visual bookmarking site saw an infusion of major brands and industries. While some complained about “yet another social media tool to learn,” I was delighted to see more hoarding options and new ways to showcase a collection. Suggestion to anyone who wants their content to be friendly to Pinterest or competitors such as Gentlemint: make sure you include a good photo or graphic with your post, and preferably not your mug shot. If your site is only populated with affiliate advertising, you’ll be stuck on the pinup sidelines.
- When I was in the newspaper business, we had a room set aside with wall-to-wall file cabinets to store every article ever published — dutifully clipped (with scissors) and filed away in folders. The digital revolution put an end to that barbaric era. For literally “clipping” the full content of posts and news articles, or simply jotting down story and project ideas, nothing beats a little tool called Evernote. This is an app that exists everywhere: in the cloud, on your PC or Mac, your phone or tablet, and all in synchronous harmony. A benefit of Evernote is that it saves full content for off-line reading, especially handy for when a site goes down or a link disappears forever. It happens. And Evernote directly shares to Facebook or Twitter, or you can create unique Evernote links to your “clips” for email, IM or posting on any site. For a lighter weight clip-it-now-and-read-it-later alternative, try Instapaper.
- If you are already paying for a cloud-based file backup service such as Carbonite or Mozy you may not know that you also have instant remote access to every document, photo, music track and video on your PC or Mac. For me, that’s a 170-gigabyte hoard — and growing. Depending on the mobile device, you will have options to email, print or view virtually any file format, as well as play music tracks and watch videos.
- You can’t totally trust the Net. Links die, domain hosting companies have outages and sites go completely out of business. Plus I often need to share documents, news releases, whites papers, backgrounders and others files with friends, clients, news media and business associates that are too large for email. So I have created my own cloud-based knowledge base. If you host your own blog or website, you can use the free file transfer utility FileZilla to copy files to folders on the hosting server, and then provide URLs to your contacts. If you are not hosting a site, there are quite a few online storage services with free and paid options, such as Dropbox or iDrive. Concerned about security for your self-hosted shared archive? Password-protect private files, or compress and encrypt files with a utility such as WinZip.
Though I’ve had fun with the theme of digital hoarding, the fact is that the social business world continues to accumulate and share files and links at a mind-boggling rate. While you are consuming and sharing, you can also strategically organize this information so it can be selectively leveraged for tactical business objectives. There’s a lot of power in your hoard. Let’s just keep this our little secret.