Confessions of a social media lackey

by Kristin on October 21, 2009

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

Illustration by Jason Berg

Perhaps you’ve long suspected it, or maybe I’ve had you fooled. Either way, here’s the truth: I have almost no idea what I’m doing when it comes to social media.

Sure, I’m tweeting away on Twitter each day, I publish a blog and comment on other blogs, and I participate in the tertiary networks, like Facebook and LinkedIn. But I can assure you, there is no master plan or strategy here—unless you call trial and error and “making it up as you go” a plan.

I’m the person who ended up on Twitter because a friend told me I should have an account. (My first tweet was something like “Trying out Twitter. Not sure how this is supposed to work.”) I’m also the person who knows what SEO stands for, but has no idea how to leverage it to optimize anything when it comes to my blog.

I regularly second-guess myself, too. Is this blog headline really more enticing that the one I thought of 15 minutes ago? Should I tweet the link to my blog again, for the people who missed it, or will that be annoying?

The Facebook fan page conundrum

One of the things I’ve been hemming and hawing about for a few months now is whether to create a Facebook page for my blog. The whole issue came up when a stranger sent me an email asking if I had a fan page for the blog; I thought “why not?” and started to set one up. But two main issues kept me from publishing it: One was that I couldn’t really figure out the point of fan pages, and the other was that I just felt funny asking people to become a fan of my blog. It feels too much like asking them to be a fan of me.

A couple of months went by, and the page sat there unfinished and unpublished. Then I went to Portland, Chicago and New York to participate in readings for the book I’m a part of (Ask Me About My Divorce). At the readings, I met people who were interested in my blog and wanted to connect in some way, but they aren’t on Twitter and I’ve made a personal decision to not friend people on Facebook I don’t actually know (in a real-life way).

Finally, I decided to set aside my tendency to over-think things, and just get the page up there. I would have to figure out how to use it as I went. When the page was live I shared the link, and wouldn’t you know someone had to comment: “I don’t understand fan pages. You already have a page and post links to your blog from FB, why have a fan page?”

My real response was maybe slightly defensive. What I should have simply said was “I DON’T KNOW!” I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know where this blog is heading—I’m just experimenting and learning, and trying to figure out what works for me as I go. After all, there’s plenty of advice out there about these sorts of things and no shortage of opinions, but there are no rules. I get to decide what feels right for me and my readers.

I’m a fan of taking concrete steps

Less than a week later, some of the benefits of having a Facebook fan page for Halfway to Normal are beginning to take shape. Over a third of the people who have become fans of the blog are not friends of mine on Facebook—this is a way to reach out to those people, who don’t know me but are genuinely interested in what’s happening here. (And now I can reserve my personal Facebook profile for my own status updates, and use the Halfway to Normal page to let people know about new posts.)

Becoming a fan also gives people an easy way to share the blog with others who might enjoy what I’m writing about, or who need to know they’re not alone.

So that’s what I’m a fan of: Trying things out and seeing what works. Taking concrete steps even when you don’t know exactly where you’re going. Recognizing that there is no “one way” to do things when it comes to social media.

My next task? Figuring out how to spread the word that our #lovelist hashtag on Twitter has been co-opted by a rapper with more than a million followers. Overnight, it went from a tight community of people sharing what they love and want more of in their lives, to pages and pages of people I’ve never heard of sharing…well, I’m not quite sure what. Anyway, our new hashtag is #thelovelist. I suspect I’ll muddle my way through this little conundrum, too.

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  • http://exit78.com Mike Goad

    Interesting.

    I’ve tried twitter twice…. and I’ve quit twitter twice. I still don’t get it — or want it.

    I finally got on facebook, but, like you mentioned, it’s reserved for people I know — real world family and friends or bloggers I have regular exchanges with.

    However, I do have a page for my blog. I just haven’t done anything with it…., yet.

    Maybe I’ll take another look at it, when I get some time not doing something else.

  • Trina

    Who sez you have to do what ‘they’ say… good on ya for doing what feels right, for doing what works for you.

    I too keep Fb for IRL people. I didnt see the sense in connecting in two places with people I am connecting well with on Twitter. I figure if we need to say more beyond 140 characters, then I likely ‘know’ that person well enough to connect via email.

    Through your perspective I can now see the use of a fan page – funny how you cant please everyone – never will, so, just please yourself in these circumstances.

    Incidently, you were the one who ‘convinced’ me to go on Twitter, so – Thank You!
    Oh ya, the illustration – rocks!

  • http://modite.com/blog Rebecca

    Great post, Kristen. I agree, I’m a big fan of experimenting, and particularly with the Facebook fan page, the results spoke for themselves. I also really like reserving my personal status update just for me. There’s something freeing about that.

    Anyway, that’s why I like blogging in general; because you can experiment and do different things and it’s all your space to do that with. I often use my blog as a playing ground to see what works for my company.

    Finally, I’m guessing you know much, much more about social media than you’re allowing. But it’s always good to be humble :)

  • http://www.ihatemymessageboard.com Tracy

    I agree, it’s just one more way to connect with people who might be interested in your work. I have family and friends that aren’t for whatever reason likely to comment on a blog post, but would be willing to continue the conversation on Facebook. That’s great and as a blogger, that’s what I think my job is ultimately: to start conversations (of course mine tend to be more on the canned meat side than yours do!)

    In the beginning my facebook fans were all people I either knew or were familiar with through the whole blog commenting circle, but now when I look at the list, there are many folks I don’t recognize. I’m guessing that they probably don’t want to friend me and have me be privy to their personal lives to keep up with my blog and any “extras” I throw up on the fan page, which is completely understandable and groovy to me.

    And you know, I’m starting to have as much fun with the fan page as Twitter. I put links up there I think folks that would like my blog would like, post photos that aren’t quite deserving of a post of their own but still fun to share, 1980s videos, lots of little things.

    My new project is managing a friend’s fan page and seeing if I can help him reach his goal of building a community on Facebook. Should be fun!

  • http://themusicalfruit.net Bejewell

    Just the fact that you used the word “tertiary” in reference to Facebook and LinkeIn proves that you know more than I do.

    On the fan page thing — I was lucky, or unlucky, depending how look at it — someone else set up a fan page for my blog — which is great because I don’t have to maintain it, but sucks because they don’t either. The fan page has a link to my most recent post, which hasn’t been updated since the page’s inception – at least six or seven posts ago.

    Hell, who knows? I’m pretty convinced we’re all at varying levels of “WTF?” when it comes to social media — the so-called experts included.

  • Carmen

    Sign me up for the one that says I’m a fan of YOU!

  • http://www.orangeshirtguy.com Dave Thurston

    Aren’t you getting to your 10,000 hours level of writing? and social media, and interacting.

    [Queue obscure reference] Like that guy that (for whatever reason) just started collecting Lewis and Clark books. Did it for 15 years . . . didn’t really read any of them . . . then one day began reading, got hooked, became an expert in L&C, sold all of his books to the local Lewis and Clark University, and had enough money to retire . . . oh, and now he spends many of his days at the L&C library near “his” books and enjoying life.

    Your L&C-ing your style of writing! Good for you and Keep going for it!

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com/ Kristin T.

    Mike, it sounds like you’re finding your way in the same fashion I am—by trial and error. That’s really the only way you can do something and feel good about it in the end.

    Trina, I always appreciate how open and go-with-the-flow you seem to be about things. Is that a Canadian trait? :) Also, I’m very glad you found your way to Twitter. It seems to suit you well.

    Rebecca, I hadn’t really thought about this before, but I completely agree with your thoughts on blogging: “…that’s why I like blogging in general; because you can experiment and do different things and it’s all your space to do that with.” When I started my blog, I think I was too unsure of myself in the social media realm to enjoy that aspect of it, but now I’m starting to find my stride.

    Tracy, YES: “…as a blogger, that’s what I think my job is ultimately: to start conversations.” I think that’s why I feel funny, is that I worry people will think I’m just trying to get big numbers and look more “popular.” Why does it feel so hard to convince people who don’t really know you that your motives are pure and good? Anyway, you’ve got a lot more fan page experience under your belt than I do. Please let me know if you have any ideas or suggestions for me!

    Bejewell, using words like “tertiary” is actually just a holdover from my snooty English major days. Sometimes those words slip out. :) Anyway, I’m glad I’m not alone in my WTF take on things (and glad you got the WordPress, Twitter, Facebook double-meaning that I have been so amused by).

    Carmen, awww shucks. Long-time in-real-life friends are still the best kind.

    Dave, I’ve definitely surpassed 10,000 hours of writing, since I’ve been writing for a living for more than 15 years! But no, I’m still an unsure toddler in the whole social media realm. And maybe, when it’s all said and done, the experience in one area and lack of experience in the other work together quite nicely. :)

  • Trina

    Caught your update on Twitter :-) I hesitate to say go-with-the-flow is a Canadian thing. However, tolerance/acceptance is a widely accepted Canadian trait. I use go-with-the-flow purposefully to minimize my stress, be more open to others ideas etc. There is a rigid side to me too though, not a quality I revel in.

  • http://www.etherealjoy.blogspot.com Joy

    Kristin,
    Finding your way with concrete steps opens you up to some criticism, but also enriches your life in ways you probably couldn’t have imagined. I’m glad you’re finding your way by experimenting and that you keep on trying new and different ideas. Lots of good energy your way:)
    And I’m going to read the book you’re involved with. Went to order it right away:)

  • http://www.jenx67.com jen

    i have a love-hate relationship with it. i can’t believe gen xers who shied away from group identification dominate both facebook and twitter. we really don’t know ourselves very well at all. maybe it’s face-to-face we avoided. i wonder why.