Jane from Life on Planet Baby had a personal take on social media, considering those sites she participated in and deciding which ones she would keep and which ones she would throw out with the bath water. While social media is no doubt a powerful tool, particularly for those who write and publish their own blog, I have definitely felt a generalised sense of ennui from many of my friends about online media, particularly Facebook, and am painfully conscious of the unspoken, what I’ll call “antiflogblog” (that’s really hard to write. Would be even harder pissed) etiquette.
By antiflogblog etiquette, I mean striking a balance between linking from your personal page to your own blog content that friends might find insightful, without making a complete nuisance of yourself, prompting your friends to either block your posts or let out a resounding groan every time you link (possibly peppered with the words “shameless self-promoter”).
Jane’s article analyses Facebook, Twitter, Google+, StumbleUpon and Flout and rather inspired me to do my own bit of social media laundry. She looks at them from a personal perspective, but also from the point of view of a blogger. In the latter, we are coming from different places, mainly because she’s been blogging as a mum for two years, whereas I’m only starting my new blog. Although I’ve been blogging for over 10 years, I’ve never used social media to promote a blog, so the marriage of the two is something new for me, and, I must confess, rather awkward.
In 2002, when I started 35degrees.com, there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no Google+ – personal blogs were pretty new back then, so the commercial potential of them was mostly unappreciated and unexplored. I certainly never imagined I would make any money out of my little blog. That wasn’t my motivator. I wanted people around the world to read about our life and be inspired about travelling and working in Japan and for expats in Japan to share with me the hilarity of living in such an out-there nation. My hit rate was healthy – I had a few fans, fewer flamers, and I relied on word of mouth and forums to promote the blog, such as the Thorn Tree travel forum on the Lonely Planet website. Thanks to a mate, I even got a front-page spot on the Lonely Planet website, but word of mouth and search engines were my main sources of traffic.
Hang on where was I? Ah, 2012, thanks.
Jane’s article highlighted to me that most bloggers (including me) want actual interaction, commentary around posts (either in support of or against), and social media sites are not all created equal on that point. Facebook is far more interactive than, say Twitter, where any conversation around tweets is cumbersome and awkward at best. But then Twitter is an up-to-the-minute microblogging site and has never pretended to be a deep, interactive tool.
It also got me thinking about what it is I want to achieve from both my blog and from social media.
I want people to read my blog. Nothing has changed since 2001. The subject matter has shifted, but that’s it. I love writing and people seem to enjoy what I write, so I want both my friends and the rest of the blogosphere to read what I have to say. I want my readers to relate to my life as a mum, whether it’s sunny or shitstormy and have a laugh at a shared drama. I want Melbourne Mum to be an entertaining place where I can share my foibles and triumphs with the world in an honest (sometimes brutally so) way. Like Jane, I also want interaction with my readers. I want them to tell me if they think something I’ve written sucks, or if they thought it was the most brilliant fucking piece of insight they’ve ever read. I want people to tell me if I’ve made them laugh, or made them cry, or pissed them off and I want to hear their stories, so that the whole experience of writing is a more circular interaction. I’m sorry if that sounds wanky (why does autocorrect keep trying to change this to wanly?? It doesn’t sound wanly!), but it’s the truth. We’re all egotists in our own way, but we’re also part of the human race and being both humbled and gratified by our readers is one of the things that keeps blogging interesting. For me, anyway.
So far, Facebook has been my biggest source of traffic, so I can only assume that it is my friends and family who are reading my blog for now. That’s OK. I’ve stepped onto the Darren Rowse bandwagon and am completing his 31 Days to build a better blog to help better define and utilise my traffic sources. ”Melbourne Dad” tells me (constantly, I have a very short attention span) that “It is a marathon, not a race”, and he’s right of course. Melbourne Mum has a Facebook Page which has 10 likes. 10. Marathon. Not a race. Marathon. Not a. Deep Breath. 10. Of course, to promote this page, I’m linking posts to my personal profile and risk alienating the friends who are already a little bit jack of Facebook. As the traffic is predominantly from Facebook referrals, I guess I’ll be swallowing my inbuilt antiflogblog radar and fumbling on in this way for now (unless of course, they just, you know, “like” the page).
On a personal level, I don’t find Facebook overwhelming. I have a couple hundred friends, but can scan down a page to find those posts that most appeal to me. I don’t find it stymies my real-life friendships, but does mean I can easily keep in contact with overseas friends in one place. There is goodness in that. And conflict. I want to add to Zuckerberg’s coffers as much as I want to give Julian Assange a head job.
Twitter I’ve used on an off for a couple of years, but I don’t find it as useful as Facebook. Trying to put what I want to say in 140 characters is like trying to fit a 4.2kg baby out of a 4 inch fig bush. Probable, but not always comfortable. So as a communication tool, I find it restrictive, but I do love reading what celebrities are tweeting about (my current faves are Brendan Hines and Misha Collins – actors, but funny bastards in their own microblogging right). I’m not about to give it up just yet, but Twitter doesn’t fuel enough meaningful conversation around the topics that I like to read about.
Google+ I unwittingly stepped into it (much like stepping into unwelcome dog poo) when leaving a comment on Edenland‘s blog, and I signed up without realising it was a shitter version of Facebook. I put up a basic profile, but that’s all I’m doing. I can’t use both Facebook and Google+. That’s like doing the same presentation for the same client on both PowerPoint and Keynote. Talk about a version control nightmare. I don’t have time for this shit. That is all. I know Darren Rowse from ProBlogger loves it, but much as I respect Darren and his blogging prowess, if he told me to put a S&W with a half round of bullets in my mouth and pull the trigger, I wouldn’t do that either.
StumbleUpon – this is one of the few things around in 2002 that 35degrees “used” but I think it just kinda happened – I didn’t have to do anything for it to appear. I’m not sure I would use it these days.
Flout – I don’t know what this is, and I don’t think I want to know what this is. I read what Jane said about it, but still don’t know what it is. Clearly, this is not for me.
In an nutshell, I have discovered I’m not a social media addict and I’m probably not overusing it to promote my incredibly insightful blog (cough, splutter) but I need to be careful. I genuinely value everyone who reads my blog and particularly the commentary around posts and I don’t want to alienate real-life friends who read my personal posts in, say, Facebook. My mantra will be “Thou shalt not prostitute thyself in the name of shameless self-promotion”. Take the shameless out of it, and I might do that every now and then. But hopefully it will be of good value.