How to use social media to search for your tribe

I’ve recently took on an engagement to be the founding editor of a monthly technology supplement for the Sunday Times of Malta, the leading newspaper in my country.  The first edition of Technology Sunday is out tomorrow.  I’m passionate about content and all things digital and the Times is a good brand to be associated with.

My immediate challenge was to quickly find people who could a) write well  b) quickly c) with authority d) with insider local knowledge on e) a range of issues – from telecoms to gadgets to social media to the intersection of life and anything deemed digital and f) for no money!

I decided to rely exclusively on social media to search for like-minded people.  I also wanted to find people who were not professional media journalists.  Unconsciously, I was starting to look for members of a new tribe, who wanted to engage and collaborate on a project on the basis of trust and a common objective.

These are some observations I made as I assembled my writing team:

  1. Start with Facebook.  If like me you do not have thousands of ‘friends’, it is fairly easy to filter down on the handful of potential writers.  Look at the way they engage online.  It’s fairly easy to sort out who can write and who can’t.
  2. Continue with LinkedIn.  You can now home in on specific skills sets.  Look at how active people are in groups; see if they answer questions and help others.  LinkedIn is adding plenty of new features and groups are really getting a lot of traction.
  3. Use Twitter’s own advanced features.  This post is very useful if you want a web-based application.  In my case, I used TweetDeck to monitor who was active in my space, and spent some time looking at blogs.  I also tweeted a question, asking if people were interested in joining the quest.  I started to get followers.
  4. You could also use some customised applications.  This tool, called the UGC finder, for instance, is targeted at journalists.
  5. I leave the obvious till last – use Google.  I guess the fact that this is last is indicative of how search is becoming more specialised, perhaps more human – where word of mouth is as important as an algorithm.   Or a reflection of how we are constantly looking for short-cuts in our time-poor lives.

I met people in my office or in cafe’s,  and held many an online conversation with writers I had never heard of.   I guess the acid test is tomorrow.  But the process has already paid off, as far as I’m concerned.  I have met some great people, learned how to generate specialist content quickly and cost-effectively and applied social media tools for a specific task.

And perhaps that is where the lesson lies – that if you are very focused on your objectives before you start to apply social media, you can get relatively quick results.  Like most things in life, it helps having a clear strategy before you dive into trying to get something done.  And that applies as much to a business, as to a 24-page technology supplement.

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