Social Media 111: Customizing Your iGoogle Page

In Social Media 102 we introduced you to RSS, which is a powerful way for you to keep tabs on what’s new in dozens (if not 100 or more) of Web sites and blogs that provide RSS feeds. Instead of having to go to the sites, you can use Newsgator or NetNewswire or Google Reader, and have the updates sent to you.

iGoogle is an alternative that enables you to embed what Google calls “gadgets” featuring the latest content from your favorite sites, all on a single page. It lets you, in effect, create a simple, free blog monitoring dashboard.

I recently heard that Yahoo! said as many as half of all MyYahoo! users never customize it from the default settings. I expect that may also be true of iGoogle. That’s why I made this video screencast, to show just how easy it is to customize iGoogle, to have the latest posts from the key blogs you’re monitoring available to you with a single click.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9B7u49Ky_oo]

Homework Assignment:

  1. Sign into your gmail account (or get one if you haven’t yet)
  2. Go to iGoogle.
  3. Click the “Add Stuff” link (on the right side), and then the “Add feed or gadget” link in the left column.
  4. When the box pops up, paste in a URL from any blog post. If you like, for example, you could use this one: http://social-media-university-global.org/2008/10/27/smug-reading-list-102708/ then hit the “Add” button.
  5. When you get the confirmation that the feed has been added, click the “Back to iGoogle Home” link, and you will see that the gadget containing this RSS feed has been placed in the upper left corner of your page.
  6. Repeat the steps for each blog you want added to your monitoring dashboard.

Please note that while iGoogle lets you just enter the URL from a single blog post, and figures out the related RSS feed you want to monitor, you also can paste in the URL from an RSS feed in step 4. So, for example, I did a Blogpulse search for posts mentioning “Mayo Clinic” and got this URL:

http://blogpulse.com/rss?query=%22Mayo+Clinic%22&sort=date&operator=

Which I pasted into a gadget and now it sits on the front page of my iGoogle.

Please note also that you can edit the number of feeds that go into your gadget, increasing to up to 9:

This will be most helpful for those feeds (like Blogpulse or Technorati searches on keywords) for which you expect more frequent updates.

Alltop has several pre-configured pages like this, as described in this post. But you can’t tailor those. You can configure iGoogle to exactly meet your needs, though, and as our SMUG motto says:

It’s Not That Hard!

Blogging 305: Domain Mapping

Domain mapping enables you to choose any available URL for your blog, regardless of the physical server you use to host your blog.

So, for instance, I started this blog at leeaase.wordpress.com, but when I decided to convert from a blog to a virtual university I mapped it to http://social-media-university-global.org/ (because getting the .edu domain would have been too much of a hassle.)

You’ll note that if you click either of the links above, it will take you to the front page of this blog. The purpose of this course is to show you how you can do something similar for your blog that is hosted on wordpress.com, and how that gives you and your blog room to grow for the future.

Here’s the slideshow that takes you through the process, step by step:


The example I used for the demonstration is a blog I helped my septuagenarian parents and their friends start for their local Republican party volunteers to have a means of expression. It was originally at sixissues.wordpress.com and now is mapped to sixbigissues.com.

If you have started a blog on wordpress.com and would like to get wordpress.com out of your blog’s URL, this is how you do it. For businesses and organizations, it’s an important way to have your URL reflect your brand. Either way, if you think you might just get serious about blogging and want to protect your ability to move your blog to a different server where you would have more flexibility and control, spending the $19.19 for a domain and mapping is a good investment.

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Yammer 105: Making Yammering Effortless

I have found that when we introduce new electronic tools to the workplace, the adoption and usage varies inversely with the amount of effort required. There also is a significant direct relationship to the perceived benefit, but the basic questions are:

  1. How difficult is this going to be?
  2. How much do I need to change what I’m already doing?
  3. What’s in it for me?
  4. What’s in it for us as a group?

The first two questions can trump the others. No matter the payoff, if it’s too much of a change or is perceived as too difficult, you won’t reach the critical mass of users that will make the answer to #4 compelling.

When it comes to politics, it seems we all want change. But in the workplace we like our routine.

If individuals can see a personal benefit that doesn’t depend on everyone else also adopting the technology, that can help the adoption get started. And if that adoption can draw others along, so that they contribute to the greater good with very little modification of their current routine, well…

That’s change we can believe in.

😉

Everyone uses email at work. Everyone complains about getting too much of it. If a tool can reduce unwanted and irrelevant email messages while still giving you access to the information if you later need it, that would be a great value, wouldn’t it? And if you could mostly use it right from your email client (i.e. Microsoft Outlook, Entourage or Apple Mail), wouldn’t that make the burden of questions 1 and 2 almost nonexistent?

This post is mainly intended for my work colleagues, who are part of my Yammer network. But SMUGgles can learn from the basic concepts and apply them to your networks (although the links I provide to make it easy for my work colleagues to join and follow tags will not work for you.)

Five Steps to Making Yammer Effortless

1. Sign up for Yammer using your work e-mail address. This is covered in more detail in Yammer 101.

2. Make your E-Mail Settings tab look like this:

This will ensure that you get e-mail notices of new posts from any people you are following and for any tags (or topics) you follow. To cut down on unnecessary email, I suggest that you de-select requiring confirmation of posts via email and notification of new messages you post via email.

3. Follow tags that interest you or that are relevant to your work

For our Medical Edge team, follow #medical-edge

For our media relations staff, follow #media-relations, #press-call-alert and #story-idea

For our Social Media team, follow #social-media-team

How do you follow tags? Click the relevant link and once there, click the blue “Follow” button as you see in the example below:

4. When you want to send a message to other staff who are interested in these topics, instead of deciding what email distribution list to use, Yammer instead using the relevant tags.

In this way, everyone who has followed the tag will get an email. You don’t have to pick a distribution list. The users have self-selected.

In addition to the main tags that refer to the interest group that should receive the message, feel free to add any other tags that would help you find the message later. Creating a tag is as simple as putting a # in front of a #word or #phrase-joined-by-hyphens.

Once you have done the set-up in Yammer, which takes about five minutes, this is the only step that involves any change from the way you currently exchange information by email. You’re just using Yammer instead of a distribution list. And I would suggest that this is even easier than email, because you can just get to the point and the format doesn’t encourage rambling messages.

5. When you get an e-mail message from Yammer relating to one of your tags, if you have something to say, just reply via e-mail as you normally would.

Yammer will log your response and will send it to everyone else. You don’t need to log into Yammer and post your response there. Just send a plain old-fashioned e-mail reply, and Yammer will take care of the rest. Your message will become part of the thread…as the recorded customer service messages say, “in the order it was received.” The entire conversation and its resolution is archived for reference.

6. Read messages you get from Yammer, and then delete them. You don’t need to save messages, because if you later need them you can search for them within Yammer.

For more background on Yammer check out the full Yammer curriculum.

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Yammer 103: Coordinating Media Relations Idea Gathering

Among the benefits of Yammer is the ability to subscribe to, or “follow,” conversations or “tags” that you find interesting.

So instead of a mass e-mail going to 100 people in your department, you can Yammer with a tag, and only those people who are following that tag will get the e-mail.

Then they can respond by e-mail, and it all gets gathered, archived and redistributed through Yammer.

Here’s a practical example.

Suppose you have a geographically dispersed media relations team. You want to gather recommendations for potential subject experts for a story in an article you are writing for a publication.

Old Way #1: Send a mass e-mail to your whole department. Annoy most of the recipients with what they consider spam.

Old Way #2: Send an e-mail to a distribution list you have created, those who work in media relations. But no one who isn’t on your list gets the message, even if they might have something to contribute. The message is locked up in your recipients’ e-mail inboxes.

The Yammer Way: Go to Yammer and post your question with appropriate tags. It will look something like this as you enter it:

And in the Yammer timeline, it will look like this:

So, for colleagues who have followed the #press-call-alert or #media-relations tags, and who have their e-mail settings set appropriately, like this…

…will get e-mails sent directly to them. If they reply to the message, their responses also will be posted to Yammer.

The other benefit is that by being in the Yammer timeline, your message is available to others in your workplace, who may not have originally subscribed, but who might see that a conversation is occurring and decide to chime in.

And through Yammer tags, people subscribe to messages of interest to them. You don’t need to have someone maintain a master distribution list or, what’s worse, have each individual on the team maintaining his or her own distribution list. The lists maintain themselves in Yammer as people “follow” given tags.

The other benefit is that instead of having the info locked in e-mail inboxes, the Yammer site is searchable, creating a knowledge base for the workplace. But we’ll discuss that more in Yammer 104.

Assignments:

  1. If you are a Mayo employee in Public Affairs, click this #public-affairs link and see if you can get signed up for and have access to this Yammer tag. You also could try following #social-media-team, #medical-edge, #media-relations and #press-call-alert.
  2. If you are NOT a Mayo employee, I would be interested to find out what happens when you click those links in #1 above, or specifically whether you can see this particular Yammer. Part of the benefit of Yammer is that you can limit your updates to be only visible by your co-workers. If you can see mine (or if you can’t), I’d appreciate knowing that.

So let me know how this works for you in the comments below!

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Yammer 102: Your Yammer Profile

This course is part of the Yammer curriculum for Social Media University, Global. It shows you how you can adjust your personal settings to tailor Yammer to meet your communication needs.


After you’ve experimented with Yammer, please share your impressions in the comments.

And if you find this course helpful, you can use one of the buttons below to share it with your friends or the broader community.

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