How I’m taming my social media monsters

I love social media. It’s true: I Love social media (with a capital L). I have a sneaky suspicion that I’m not alone; in fact, I know I’m not alone. Just two days ago (thanks, MediaBistro) I read that there are over 800 million and 100 million active Facebook and Twitter users, respectively.  Geesh.

With about 650 Twitter followers and 770 Facebook friends, I think it’s fair to qualify myself as an active user (heh). The average Facebook user has 130 fans and likes 80 pages (gracias, DigitalBuzzBlog). As I tweet, update my status and surf online more, I continue to add to my digital network of friends. Bigger is better, right? Well, sort of. Bear with me while I explain one of the big drawbacks I’ve identified with growing your social media networks and a pretty cool solution I’ve found to it…


At first I could manage
When I follow a fellow Twitterer (thanks Twitter glossary), add a friend or like a business page on Facebook, I instantly opt in to receive any and all content they publish. At first, I thought this was cool because I had a small, select group of my closest friends and favorite businesses on these networks that I could keep tabs on. Life was simple.


With friends comes confusion
Now, with hundreds of contacts and people sharing more often than ever before, I just can’t seem to make sense of all the information being thrown at me. For example, I checked my Twitter stream about five minutes earlier and then checked it again seconds ago. During that time lapse I missed 81 tweets (or a maximum of 11,340 characters)! I can barely finish reading one tweet before the next one comes down the pipe. There is just too much happening too fast for me to keep up anymore. Lady Gaga (the most followed Twitter user with 17,696,951 followers) must be a very fast reader.


Sifting through the cesspool
What makes the increasingly common problem of being slammed with updates worse is that, while some of the 81 tweets I would have missed were incredibly interesting to me, an overwhelming majority of them were complete garbage (e.g. Foursquare check-ins, hashtag conversations and tweets about nothing). In fact, I reviewed each of these 81 tweets and counted how many I found genuinely interesting. The final tally was a paltry 16 (or 19.75 percent of the 81 tweets reviewed). Yuck.


Finding the diamonds in the (deep) rough
On the bright side, the 16 updates that I found interesting were really cool, which is why I continuously fall back in love with Twitter and Facebook (did you know that you can ice fish under the ice?! Thanks, @guykawasaki).


So, here’s the challenge I identified: how can I catch all of the updates (Facebook or Twitter) that really interest me without having to waste my time fishing through the crap?


Filtered social sites are “Refyned”
What Twitter and Facebook really need is a way to allow users to filter their sea of updates based on their unique interests (and I don’t want some Facebook or Twitter bot to decide what my interests are for me – I want to have complete control over this myself).


About a month ago, I was introduced to Refynr, which is a web application that does exactly that. I’ve been using Refynr for a little less than a month and have found it surprisingly useful. In fact, I just went through the first page of an email that Refynr sends to me every day, which lists all of the tweets and status updates that relate to the interests I defined (all posts made by my best friend, Sam, and posts with keywords that peak my interest like Google, Apple, and healthcare) and exclude all of those that waste my time (tweets with #FF, Foursquare check-ins, etc.).Of the first 30 posts I read in my Refynr email, I found 21 of them to be genuinely interesting (or 70 percent) – now that’s what I’m talking about! As I continue to use Refynr and pay more attention to what makes certain social media updates more or less interesting to me, I will continue to improve how I am able to “refyn” what I am presented, so I expect this percentage to increase over time.


There are a number of ways that Refynr could be improved (e.g. allowing me to see multiple filtered streams, the ability to view all updates if I wanted to, the ability to connect with other social media networks, a more aesthetically-pleasing user interface); however, on the whole, it is a very welcomed tool – one that has finally allowed me to regain control of my continuously growing social media accounts… for now.


If you use Refynr or another cool web app to help you make sense of the social media noise, hit me up and let me know whatcha think (@mattklangan).



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