Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Adjusting when your favorite social tools disappear

You fell in love with some wonderful tool in social media....and now it's gone, the victim of a change in corporate ownership or outdated technology or fierce competition or changed policies.

I've felt that way about Flip cameras, the most popular ultralight HD video cameras, and more recently, about Twitter's API changes that prevent third-party sites from using actions on Twitter to trigger their services. Twitter's policy change messed up a series of triggers I created on IFTT.com (If This, Then That) to automate saving my retweets and favorites so I could write the popular weekend read posts I do on this blog every Friday. Flip cameras were a great tool not just for me, but for trainees in my communications workshops, where I needed cameras anyone could learn to use in a few minutes. And then Cisco killed the Flip after acquiring it.

In both cases, however, my ability to adjust has benefited from a few strategies I've long had in place for my social media habits--and have been able to rebound quickly to keep my systems running well. Here's what stands me in good stead no matter what changes in social media:
  1. Redundant systems: In the case of Twitter, IFTTT let me know ahead of time that actions triggered by Twitter wouldn't work. But some time ago, I subscribed to the RSS feed for my own tweets, so I've re-routed that action using my Twitter RSS feed through IFTTT, putting my tweets into an Evernote notebook; unfortunately, it saves all my tweets, not just my RTs, but it works for now. That will last no longer than March 2013, when RSS support disappears from Twitter. (Honestly, I'm seeing it disappear now, so use that as an ultimate end date.) I'm also back to using Reader tags and IFTTT to share items in my feed to Twitter, after which they get put in an Evernote notebook, and using favorites on Twitter to collect what I want to save in one place.And I'm experimenting with Twilert, a relatively new service that will take my search terms and send me a once-a-day email with all the tweets containing those words; those emails get sent to my Evernote notebooks.
  2. An ear to the ground: As annoying as notification emails can be, I generally subscribe to them when I'm using a new service--a move that pays off when policy changes are announced. Most of the time, between my reading and staying on those mailing lists, I know about what's coming ahead of time, so I'm less surprised by it. You also could choose options like following your favorite services on Twitter, Facebook or other social sites.
  3. An eye on the options: I use surprisingly few social networks on a regular basis, but I try dozens of them to see options my clients might need. That helps me understand the competition and what else is available, a key to not feeling high and dry when the tide goes out on my favorite services. Keeping an eye on options also helped me learn that the folks behind the Flip camera's software have created a free social iPhone app called Givit that will make your iPhone much better at taking video--including 5GB of free storage, great editing tools and the ability to socially share or email your videos. Yes, I'd love an Android version, but at least there's an option out there. I've also thought through why I liked Flip cameras in the first place, and have come up with reasons to get two different types of replacements. You may need a different strategy, but check out my options in this post on camcorders to replace the Flip. The good news: You can come close to replacing it, or go way beyond it in capacity and function.
  4. The willingness to try new things: Along with that comes the willingness to keep my toe in the water with new services, at least long enough to test drive them. It's a good muscle to keep strong in social media. 
  5. A sense of when to say goodbye:  Flip had one of the longest goodbyes I've ever seen for a product. First the prices went rock-bottom and Cisco, the parent company that shut the brand down, was giving them away to nonprofits by the dozen. But the cameras still worked fine, and mine didn't need replacing immediately. When I noticed that support was disappearing for a feature I use--the ability for my trainees to receive and download the videos via email-- I was ready to put alternatives in place. That's when I sold my old Flip cameras, still in good shape, to Amazon's electronics trade-in program, which gives me a credit in the form of an Amazon gift card. By the way, go check prices on Amazon for Flip cameras. Now that they're no longer for sale from the manufacturer, I've seen prices as high as $300 for a new Flip camera (minus manufacturer support, of course) -- a far cry from their much lower prices once upon a time.
I'll get to test my own resilience soon, as it's being put about that Google is starting to neglect Feedburner, the source of my RSS feeds for this and other blogs I publish. I've got lots of feeds set up on Feedburner and haven't yet experienced a problem, which might suggest another rule: Don't panic too soon. Fortunately, my ear-to-the-ground approach means I'm already forewarned and am reviewing my options.

What's been your toughest loss in terms of social tools and sites? What do you miss most?

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