Facebook Promotion: It’s all about the status updates!

Facebook is rolling out all kinds of changes to Fan pages today… but it wouldn’t surprise me if the MOST interesting change flies under the radar for just a bit.   What is the most interesting change?  The one I’m seeing is that you can now buy an ad for an individual status update!

Here’s the screenshot I get when I click on the “promote” button:

For those of us following changes to Fan Pages, this really shouldn’t be a surprise (I actually mentioned this change when talking about the future of Facebook at a recent Leading RE conference in Vegas)… But here’s why it’s interesting.

When thinking about how to approach Facebook marketing, it’s all about Status Updates!   I got some polite ribbing from the Roost guys at the same conference when I mentioned that agents should just roll their eyes at SEO and/or Tab “solutions” when on Facebook, but I’ll stick by my guns on this one.   Don’t bother with any Facebook unless you’re planning on doing the hard work of generating status updates that will get people to interact.   Anything else on Facebook is just work avoidance.

Why are status updates so important? This has to everything to do with Facebook’s recommendation engine, or as I like to call it, NEO.   Again, I’m gonna stick by my guns on this one as as well and say that going forward networking engine optimization, or optimizing content for the social networking algorithms, is going to become a huge industry similar to SEO today.  So, if you want to get an idea of why these “promoted posts” are such a big deal, it has everything to do with the ability to get more activity on your status updates… even if you have to pay for it!

UPDATE

I went ahead and bought an ad to point to a FB status update and was thrilled to see that by default, FB point ads at the “friends of fans.”

In my early exploration of NEO, I was calling the concept FOF Marketing because the social networks do such a great job helping people reach the “friend of friends, friends of fans and/or friends of followers”, so thought it was a bit catchy… However, I don’t think FOF tells the story behind the concept as well as NEO.

WordPress at Real Estate Connect SF?

Are you breaking the rules with WordPress in real estate? I wanna know!

wordpress sticker on laptopThe good folks at Inman News have asked me to moderate the WordPress Summit at Real Estate Connect this summer and I couldn’t be more excited!

While we haven’t tried to confirm any speakers yet (that’s where I want your help), I’m positive the lineup is going to be awesome. We’re going to be covering themes, plugins, strategy, advanced installs, listings, and the future of WordPress!

The idea of a half-day at Real Estate Connect dedicated to WordPress is simply awesome.   I love WordPress and have been using it since the very birth of Rain City Guide (over 5 years ago!).  Over the years I’ve been a part of too many WordPress blogs than I could count… And unlike a lot of software I was using in 2005, WordPress has continued to improve with each iteration!    Especially now that website vendors are building in advanced IDX and CRM tools into the platform, it’s become a no-brainer option for real estate professionals!

By the way, did you know the new conference website for Real Estate Connect was built on WordPress?

I think it’s a pretty slick design and implementation, although I’m probably a bit biased since we designed and built the site!  🙂

Coming full circle… If you know someone in the real estate space doing interesting things with WordPress, send ’em my way!   I want to make this the best half-day on WordPress educational event around!

And finally, a huge hat-tip to Dan Woolley for the idea behind this post when he wrote about his ConnectTech Workshop!

BuzzRE: Internet Marketing Education for Realtors

About two months ago, the HomeQuest team put on a real estate educational event in Portland that I thought rock’d…  With four great speakers (Gahlord Dewald, Garron SellikenDavid Gibbons and myself) and some help from some local title reps, we brought together a few hundred agents to teach them about how they could improve their online marketing.

It was so much fun that I started pushing the team to create a similar event in Southern California…  and the team not only supported the idea, but everyone seems genuinely excited.  Assuming you’re a SoCal agent, then the only details you need to know are that we’re going to have the event on April 29th (9am to noon), it will cost only $20 and you can reserve your spot here: http://buzzreoc.eventbrite.com/

But for those that need more, here’s the catch… I want to improve upon the Portland event! And here’s my four ideas for how we can do that:

  1. Make sure we have even more great speakers!
    • We’re gonna have 8 formal presentations instead of 4… and a panel of 3 local agents who have successfully incorporated internet marketing in their business
  2. Make sure the presentation part of the day is extremely focused
    • We’re going to follow an overall structure that generally follows an Agent’s Work Cycle
    • We’re going to do it all in 2 hours, meaning each speaker will be giving approximately 15 minutes forcing them to focus on the stuff they find most important
    • We’re going to create one “overall” presentation so that we don’t spend time flipping between laptops/presentations and someone (in this case: me) is in charge of making sure the presentations will have a logical flow
  3. Make sure to include local agents who are actively generating substantial business from their internet marketing activities
    • So far, one local agent who has been rocking Facebook has agreed to be on the panel and I hope to announce the other two panelists in the next few days!
  4. Make sure the event is memorable!
    • For this, we’re giving it a fun name: BuzzRE OC  and…
    • We’re going to make sure it’s the most cost-effective educational event for every agent who attends.

So who’s involved?

Here’s the list of speakers as well as the tentative name of their presentations:

I’m convinced we can cover all of these super interesting topics in only 2 hours!   This means that we can plan for a solid 45 minute panel conversation with local agnets are doing interesting internet marketing and be able to wrap the whole event up in less than 3 hours!  As of right now, I have one panelist confirmed, one who has tentatively agreed and on the hunt for one more. The panelist situation:

  • Robin Milonakis:  who’s been rocking the Facebook world.
  • “Blogging” agent: I have a tentative agreement from an awesome blogger agent, but I don’t want to give her name until she’s confirmed
  • “AdSense” agent: I want one local agent who’s generates serious business from online ad buying to round the group out… If you have a recommendation for an appropriate agent, I’m all ears!

And please, please, please… If you have ideas for what we should cover in each section (or you have a better name for any of the presentations!), let us know!   In an ideal world, we’d be able to take the general presentation (from sphere marketing to lead generation to client management and back to sphere marketing) and bring it to many other parts of the country!   (Bringing in local experts where appropriate!)

I’m really hoping to create a can’t miss educational event for real estate agents and would love any and all help you can give in spreading the word. One more time, here’s the details:

Can’t wait to see you in the OC!

Fitting Internet Marketing into an Agent’s Biz Flow

Over the past 6 months, I’ve had numerous (too many to count) conversations with Garron Selliken about tools we could build for HomeQuest clients and/or M Agents…  Rather than just building cool stuff because we *could*, Garron consistently brings almost every conversation about new tools back to an understanding of how the tool is going to fit into the Agent’s business flow.   So much so, that I’ve completely reoriented my thinking and developed a mental model of the agent’s biz cycle in order to track where various tools and ideas fit into the work flow of an agent.

After presenting this “mental” model to a few different audiences, I’ve realized that this model is not only providing the backbone for my presentations, but also for how we think of our product development cycle at HomeQuest…  And because I’m using this concept as the backbone of the BuzzRE OC event we’re currently organizing for later this month, I thought I’d share this slide and my reasoning behind it’s importance.

The idea behind the slide is that there’s a core cycle common to all agent biz cycles:

  • Using some type of lead generation technique/tool, agents identify prospects out of their sphere or by directly reaching out to consumers
  • Using client management techniques/tools, agents provide the information and tools so that they can turn help prospects become clients
  • Using sphere building techniques/tools, agents bring past clients and other people from their community into their sphere

For many highly successful agents, the core cycle (sphere to prospects to clients to sphere ) is the basis for their “referral” business… which, even among “internet-savvy” realtors, is the main source of business for most realtors.

The main reason I like this tool is that it helps shape how I think about various tools.   In other words, an agent’s “hub” (i.e. website/blog/home search tool) can be an awesome lead generation tool, but only part of the story if good client management tools are missing.   Other tools, like DocuSign, don’t add much to lead generation, but can be valuable in the client management stage of the cycle.   And finally, some tools, like Facebook, Twitter, and even largely blogs, are awesome at sphere building, but rarely make for effective lead generation or client management tools.

Tomorrow, I’m going to publish the outline for the BuzzRE OC Event and start to explore how the presentation from each of the speakers (we have 8 great speakers lined up!) can fit into the agent’s business flow.  However, for today, I thought I would end by asking a few questions that this chart raises for me:

  • Are there any agent work-flows that wouldn’t fit into this cycle?
  • Where does “your” product fit into this cycle?
  • What parts of the cycle are most in need of useful tools?

Most Influential Twitter People In Real Estate

Earlier today I saw Irina Netchaev tweet about how Mike Mueller, Jeff Turner,  Jay Thompson and I were some of her “favs”, so I couldn’t help but be curious what she was referring to… Her link sent me to the type of poll that everyone loves to hate:  A popularity contest where the “community” is able to vote on who are the most important in the real estate industry.

Considering that after at least one day of the poll being live, none of the people have over 16 votes, I think it’s pretty safe to say the results are statistically meaningless and likely to remain that way.

However, it did get me thinking about an update to the 50 most influential real estate people on twitter that caused quite the stir last fall…  After publishing the list, I got to talking with Garron Selliken and Chris Lynch about how M Agents might be able to use such a tool, and so we build a web version of the process and started testing it out with some of the agents.

A couple of agents found some great uses for it including one woman who focuses on Modern Homes in Portland.  She used the tool to quickly identify and begin connecting with people relevant to her niche (i.e. modern homes) by simply identifying a few relevant people interested in the subject and then plugging them into the tool.  And in only a few months of being active on twitter, Marisa has added hundreds of relevant people to her sphere on both a national and local level.

Update to the list!

Now for the real fun… Because it’s so easy, I decided to update the list of most influential real estate people on Twitter.  There’s more discussion on updates to the list below, but without further ado, here’s the update list of the top 100 most influential real estate people on twitter:

Name Twitter Peer Rating
Robert Hahn robhahn 89%
mike simonsen mikesimonsen 88%
Todd Carpenter tcar 88%
Dustin Luther tyr 87%
Jeff Turner respres 87%
Andy Kaufman AndyKaufman 86%
Jay Thompson PhxREguy 86%
Sherry Chris BHGRE_Sherry 86%
Marc Davison 1000wattmarc 85%
Nicole Nicolay nik_nik 84%
Reggie Nicolay ReggieRPR 84%
Stefan Swanepoel Swanepoel 84%
Daniel Rothamel RealEstateZebra 83%
Derek Overbey doverbEy 83%
Drew Meyers drewmeyers 83%
Ginger Wilcox gingerw 83%
Kelley Koehler housechick 83%
David Gibbons DavidGibbons 82%
Mike Mueller MikeMueller 82%
Rudy Bachraty trulia 82%
Brad Nix bnix 81%
Teresa Boardman TBoard 81%
Joseph Ferrara jfsellsius 80%
Stacey Harmon staceyharmon 80%
Wendy Forsythe BHGRE_Wendy 80%
Eric Stegemann EricStegemann 79%
Kris Berg KrisBerg 79%
Pat Kitano pkitano 79%
Ines Hegedus-Garcia ines 78%
jeff corbett JeffX 78%
Jim Duncan JimDuncan 78%
Joel Burslem jburslem 78%
billlublin billlublin 77%
Jeff Bernheisel JBern 77%
Heather Elias LoCoHeather 76%
InmanNews InmanNews 76%
Ken Brand kenbrand 76%
Lani Rosales laniar 76%
Ardell DellaLoggia ARDELLd 75%
Brad Coy bradcoy 75%
Dale Chumbley DaleChumbley 75%
Jim Marks jimmarks 75%
Jason Sandquist JasonSandquist 74%
mlbroadcast mlbroadcast 74%
Benn Rosales BennRosales 73%
Brad C. – Dakno dakno 73%
Mariana Wagner mizzle 72%
Judy Moriarty realestatechick 72%
Maureen Francis MaureenFrancis 72%
Joel McDonald joelrunner 71%
Jonathan Washburn JonWashburn 71%
Kim Wood KimWood 71%
BHG Real Estate BHGRealEstate 70%
Chris Brogan chrisbrogan 70%
Missy Caulk missycaulk 70%
Morgan Brown morganb 70%
Paul Chaney pchaney 70%
Ricardo Bueno Ribeezie 70%
Sara Bonert sbonert 70%
BradAndersohn BradAndersohn 69%
Kristal Kraft KrisTalk 69%
Hilary Marsh hilarymarsh 68%
Kevin Tomlinson miamibeach 68%
Roost Roost 68%
Tom Ferry CoachTomFerry 68%
Kevin Boer kevinboer 67%
Sarah Cooper SarahWV 67%
Zappos.com CEO -Tony zappos 67%
Lori Bee BeeRealty 66%
Susie Blackmon SusieBlackmon 66%
Tony Longo tonylongo 66%
Bobby Carroll Dakno rewebcoach 65%
Dan Green mortgagereports 65%
Loren Nason lorennason 65%
Brian Tercero briantercero 64%
Elaine Hanson ElaineHanson 64%
Maya Sabot Paveza mayaREguru 64%
Nick Bastian RailLife 64%
Rhonda Porter mortgageporter 64%
Ted Mackel RealtorTed 64%
Bob Stewart activebob 63%
Jeremy Blanton jb140 63%
Linsey Planeta linsey 63%
Robert Luna RLuna 63%
Gahlord Dewald gahlord 62%
Gary Vaynerchuk garyvee 62%
Hal Lublin hallublin 62%
Jonathan Miller jonathanmiller 62%
Toby E. Boyce TobyBoyce 62%
Spencer Rascoff spencerrascoff 61%
cindy lin 非誠勿擾 cindylinsf 60%
Monika McGillicuddy monikamcg 60%
Todd Waller toddwaller 60%
Calie Waterhouse cwaterhouse 59%
James Shiner JamesShiner 59%
Jason Farris FresYes 59%
LaurieManny LaurieManny 59%
Rich Jacobson KitsapAgent 59%
Robert (Bob) Watson TopBrokerOC 59%
sarahbandy sarahbandy 59%

The way to think about this list is to read it something like this…  Out of the top 100 people in real estate (as determined by the number of people in real estate following them), 89 are following Rob Hahn.    In other words, instead of using a random sampling of people as most polls do, this list is created by the most influential twitter people in the industry!

One of the more interesting things about the list is that when you get down past the top 50 people, non real estate people like Tony from Zappos, Chris Brogen and Gary Vaynerchuk start showing up… It doesn’t surprise me one bit that a decent percent of the influential people in real estate are following these folks, so it makes good sense.

The weeds

In terms of the web process I developed last fall, we made one improvement when we turned it into a web app…  Instead of using the top 50 people, we made that a variable and I tend to use 100 people as the basis for relevance since the results are much more granular.   And if you missed the discussion on the algorithms used to create this list, check out this post for background.

By the way, if you work in an interesting niche and you’d like to see the most influential people in that niche, I’d happily consider running the web app and sending you the results.  Just to show you how super-simple it is, here’s what the interface looks like:

And I wish I could add a link to the URL so you could run it yourself, but it was built to only handle one process at a time, so it could get ugly if multiple people wanted to play at once.

NEO, or the Study of How to Optimize Content for Social Networks

This past weekend while giving a presentation in Chicago, I was talking to the following slide:

… about the importance of understanding how Facebook’s algorithms work when creating your Facebook marketing strategy when someone from the audience asked, “is this similar to understanding how SEO helps explain how Google ranks websites?”

And it hit me like a ton of bricks… EXACTLY! I’ve been working towards this idea for the past year few years, but had never articulated it that clearly.

So after a bit of refinement, I think it’s time for us (internet marketers) to add a new word to our vocabulary: NEO or Networking Engine Optimization.

In a nutshell, the idea of NEO is that by studying how social networks determine relevance, we can better understand how to optimize our marketing strategies.

Having spoken about using social media for business to many different professional audiences, I feel extremely confident in saying that very few people have any understanding of the algorithms that Facebook users to determine it’s “top news” or “suggested” friends/pages… some people, Dale Chumbley comes to mind, intuitively understand how to use these algorithms, but I’m not sure even he has put a ton of thought into why…

Assuming the feedback on this idea keeps me going, I’m hoping to explore a couple different areas of NEO… but the most interesting will definitely have to do with understanding how the “hard” algorithms interact with the “soft” people (friends, followers, fans, etc.) that really determine success.

In other words, whether talking about Facebook’s “top news” or Twitter’s “trending” topics, there’s no way to get any traction without having others interact with your content. My take is that there’s been a ton of thought into understanding the importance of engaging others in your social network (Jeff Turner’s done a particularly impressive job of this with exploring YEO), but engaging with others is only a piece of a successful internet marketing strategy and just about everyone who’s actively marketing with social media would benefit from a better understanding of the algorithms that determine the relevance of their content/presence.

Anyway, this is obviously an idea that I’m still in the early stages of exploring… and I would love to hear your thoughts. But especially based on the recent news that Facebook passed Google in terms of total traffic, isn’t it time to seriously explore how the social networks are determining the relevance of our content?

You’re probably paying too much for Google Ads!

Realtors: Have you ever had a call from a random sales guy that goes something like this?

Sales guy: “Hello, you already know how important it is to be at the top of google search results for “[your city] real estate”. Unlike some services that are auction based, I can get you there with for a flat fee of $XYZ [usually $50, $75, or $100].”

I’m pretty sure I already know the answer because when I asked this same question to a group of REALTORS yesterday during a presentation at a WCR event, more than half the hands in the audience of around 200 agents went up.

So here’s the deal… The only way to buy Google Ads (i.e. the ads that show up above the google search results), is through a “pay per click” (or CPC) process where Google charges for each time someone clicks on an ad. At least for ads that show up in search results there is NO way to pay Google a “flat” fee.

In every case I’ve seen of a company charging real estate professionals a flat fee for google ads, it’s ONLY because they know that the ads they are buying are MUCH cheaper than the flat fee they are charging you.   For example, if they know that “[Your City] real estate” is likely to cost them $15/month because they are likely to get 15 clicks that cost them a $1/each, then they might charge a real estate professional a  $50 “flat fee” to buy the ads for you.

In practice, this would mean that you’re paying someone a $35/month “service” fee each month and all they have to do is configure a Google AdWords campaign to run on autopilot.

Even worse (at least in this situation), Google lets the people who manage Google AdWords campaigns set a daily and monthly limit as to what they’ll pay, so the people providing you the service can KNOW they will never exceed the flat fee they are charging you.  When you pay someone a flat fee for your Google Ads, the odds are completely stacked in their favor!

Now, I probably wouldn’t have written this post, except after I mentioned this situation in my presentation I was surprised at the number of agents who came up to me afterwords just to confirm their situation wasn’t the “exception”.  I found no exception, but lots of agents overpaying for their Google Ads…

So, what’s the solution?

Buy your own ads on Google’s self-service backend called Adwords.    It’s really not that hard to set-up an ad campaign and even if you simply bought the same exact ad you’re now paying a flat fee for, you’d likely save  hundreds of dollars a year.   Not only that, when you start buying the ads yourself, you’re likely to be far more selective because Google gives you the tools (and the encouragement) to test out using different campaigns and see which ones are working best for you.

I’ve found that the main factors that determine how successful your AdWords campaign will be are:

  • The price you’re willing to pay per click
  • The keywords you target
  • The text you use on your ad
  • The landing page that you send people to

As I mentioned, if you manage your own ad campaign, google gives you all the tools you need (and many more) to experiment with adjusting all of these factors so you can find the ads that are most cost effective for you.

Talking (and talking…) online marketing in real estate

upcoming conferencesReal estate presentation season is in full swing!

After a great event last week with the Leading RE Companies of the world in Las Vegas, I’m off to Chicago later this week to talk about how to make Social Media Work for You, Atlanta next week to talk about how agents can optimize their lead management strategies… It also looks like I’ll be speaking in Portland, Orange County, and Toronto in the very near future, but those events are all at least two weeks away, so they haven’t hit my radar just yet!

I simply love engaging, challenging and entertaining a live audience… I may not be the best speaker, but I sure do have more fun than most! So if you know of anyone who’s looking for a speaker who can provide valuable education to a group of real estate professionals on developing an online marketing strategy, don’t hesitate to send them my way. While I’ve talked for years on blogging (my first real estate blogging presentation was in May 2006!), my current favorite topics to cover include building a real estate hub and developing a lead management strategy that works.

[Also, I have a super special request to make… About a year ago, I was invited to speak in Burmuda for a Christie’s Great Estate event… That was super cool. Total bonus points if you can get me a paid trip to an exotic location: New Zealand, Brazil, Japan, Paris, the Caribbean, etc… ;)]

And of course, if you’re going to be attending any of my talks, don’t hesitate to reach out and introduce yourself! Far and away the best business contacts I’ve made came after meeting people at conferences!

Publishing from my phone???

About a wek ago I decided to stop trying to make do with my blackberry and bought an iPhone… I’ve spent the past week playing with apps and found some great ones, although I haven’t tried publishing a blog post using the wordpress app, so here goes…

By the way, (assuming the photo upload works like I think it will), here’s the apps that have made my home screen so far:

“How likely is this person to send me business?”

Lately, I’ve been putting a huge focus on thinking through how we (as professionals) can use social networking tools to build and strengthen our relationships... and in particular, our relationships with people who are key to growing our business (i.e. our “sphere” or “referral network”).

And this has led me to my new favorite tool, Gist.  (much thanks to Gahlord Dewald for the intro!)

The main idea behind Gist is pretty similar to other social media aggregators like MyBlogLog, FriendFeed , Seesmic and Google Buzz in that you add all of your other social media accounts (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc) and then use one tool to see all your updates.

However, there’s one HUGE improvement they’ve made.  Rather than forcing you to view updates based on a timeline (i.e. most recent updates first), they allow you to view updates in a “people” mode where you can view all the updates from that person (whether they are on Facebook, Twitter, their blog, foursquare, etc.) based on the importance that you’ve selected. (Facebook has tried to do this with their “top news” feature, but it’s crude at best and doesn’t do a great job finding updates that are important to me).

After a few days of using Gist, I can tell you that there’s no turning back to this style of update consumption.    If I’ve got 5 minutes, then I can quickly navigate all the people that are super-important to me, whereas if I have a bit more time, then I can dive deeper into reading updates from people that are less important.   And because I’m not missing out on updates from super-important people any more, I’m finding I’m MUCH more active on places like Twitter and Facebook because I spend less time sorting through the noise.

However, there is a HUGE problem with the tool.  There are so many options and ways to configure things that it could definitely be off-putting because it can take a few hours of configuring before the system is humming.   Nonetheless, it’s totally worth taking the time, so let me walk you through the steps to setting up a configuration that’s working really well for me.

1) Import contacts (connect) from four main tools:  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Email. For Facebook, Twitter and Gmail (my email), this only needs to be done once and then will get updated automatically afterwards.

2) Configure your dashboard view to get updates.  My configuration is listed below, but the important parts are:

  • show all news, blogs, twitter and facebook updates
  • show people and companies
  • show importance level 1 and above
  • show all tags
  • Sort by “importance”

In other words, just show EVERYTHING and then sort the results by importance.

3) Start prioritizing people within your sphere.  All you need to do is go through your people and start ranking them on a scale of 1 to 100. Initially, I’ve been adjusting EVERYONE’s priority, even if only just a bit to make sure I put some thought into how important this person is to me.  To make this as easy as possible, I’ve been basing my ranking of each person based on one simple question:  How likely is this person to send me business some day?

Here’s a screenshot of my page where I’ve ranked Scotty Brown a 100 (out of 100!).

Using the criteria “how likely is this person to send me business some day?” might sound a bit cold and calculated, but I’ve found it works quite well.  The people close to me (family and good friends) are almost always referring business my way, so they show up highest.   Other people have been ridiculously great to my consulting practice in terms of referring business my ways, so of course I want to see and respond to their updates whenever appropriate.

4) Use Gist instead of Facebook, twitter.com, seesmic, tweetdeck or whatever else you use to check status updates of your contacts.   If you configure things just as I have, you’ll find that there are a ton of updates coming into the system all the time… almost definitely too many to check on a regular basis.  However, there’s no need to read all the updates.  Start at the top (i.e. the most important people) and wind your way down as you have time.

To move from one person to the next (and this is critical!), all you have to do is click on the check mark to the right of the “importance” bar (this is the “mark all as read” option).  For example, while I’m reading Linsey Planeta’s updates, if I click on the check mark, the tool will bring up Scotty Brown’s updates because he is the next most important person with an unread update.

And, of course, if I want to respond to any of these updates, there’s always a link that takes me to the appropriate place to respond.

Another useful feature is the “remove” button to the right of the check mark.   This will remove this person’s updates from showing up on your dashboard.   If you find a person or company that you never want to see updates from, simply hit the remove button.  In order to make the tool as useful as possible, I’ve adjusted just about all of my contacts by either revising their “importance” or “removing” them.

5) The hardest part of using gist is configuring the importance for all your contacts and this is only hard because it takes a decent amount of time.  However, if you ignore tags and all the bells and whistles besides “importance”, it doesn’t have to take all that long before you can start using the dashboard and getting some decent value from the tool.  At least a few times you’ll almost definitely want to give yourself an hour or two in order to filter through updates from everyone on your list. Gist tries to auto-prioritize folks for you, but tons of folks from Facebook and Twitter who might be super important to you will likely be have the default importance levels of “50,” “25” or “1”.

The beautiful part of the tool is that once it’s configured, you end up with so much more control over which updates you see.

Here are just some of the most obvious benefits to this style of consuming updates:

  • Better focus: rather than letting the “noisiest” people (i.e. the folks who tweet the most) take up the most mindshare, you can rank those people low on importance and only see their updates on a day when you’re bored and get to the people who rank at lower levels of importance. By the same token, if there are a few folks rarely update, but whose updates you never want to miss, you can make sure to rank them high in importance and you’ll get to see everything they say.
  • Remove noise. If a friend is having a super-busy day on social media, you can quickly scan their updates and hit “mark all as read” rather than have them clog up your twitter and/or Facebook stream all day
  • Network integration. For the people I care about, it shouldn’t matter where they are active (Facebook, Twitter or their blog), I just want a tool to connect with them where appropriate, so I’m loving that Gist mixes and matches updates based on the person, not the network.

Finally, Gist is still in “beta” and there are a few bugs (and they mention they will likely start charging some day).  However, even if they start charging some outrageous amount, or go under for lack of funding, I can tell you that this approach of  filtering people based on the importance you place on them is here to stay.  It’s just too darn useful!