Let’s look at social networking from a different perspective, shall we?
As I’ve made my way around the interwebz recently, I’ve been reading up quit a bit about increasing traffic to a blog, or increasing engagement with your fans, etc. Call it a professional curiosity, as a blogger I’m always interested in the latest best practices, what’s working for others, what isn’t etc., but as I’ve made my way around, I’ve also realized that just about all of the social media advice out there is 100% targeted toward people with something to sell. While some of the advice is still worth checking out, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the commercialism of it all.
Look, I’m not against commercialism, every business has to make money, and they do so by selling things. I’m all for that. But even individuals who aren’t trying to sell something have a place in social media. In fact, as someone who’s been blogging for over a dozen years, without it being part of a business, I’d say there are lots of reasons to have a large social media presence any way. You could almost argue that, in some ways, you are still selling something. You might be selling yourself, making a name for yourself, creating a presence on the internet for yourself so that people who might want to connect with you, opening up new opportunities, or you might be selling an idea or a story. Certainly, in the myriad ways I interact on the internet, I’m sharing information, just because I’m doing it for free doesn’t mean that I don’t care about whether any one reads it or not. Here, I’m sharing thoughts, ideas, and helpful information related to technology, eDiscovery, blogging, and so on. When I started, I thought it was a good way to network with other tech professionals and have a group of people who could share ideas and solutions. I may not work in IT any more, but the thought remains the same.
Over at childabusesurvivor.net, I’m trying to get a message out, that is about me, but is larger than me, that survivors of childhood abuse are not alone and can overcome their past. Drawing attention to that site is something I have a desire to do, because I think the message is an important one.
The problem with most social media advice these days is that it is written by people who do this as their fulltime job. The focus on attracting fans, engaging with them with targeted campaigns in different social networks, and creating good content is all accurate, but the details are unrealistic for someone who works at something else fulltime, and wants to have a family and social life. So we try and implement some of the ideas, but in the end, we can’t always keep up. Life gets in the way,
When we look at the way Facebook has changed how pages can reach, or not reach as the case is increasingly becoming, the same fans who have liked the page, what we see is the commercialization of Facebook as a social network. Those of us who do this to spread ideas, for free, are left out in the cold when it comes to reaching people who prefer to spend their time on Facebook as opposed to visiting various sites or using an RSS feed reader. I’m not about to start spending money to do that, and I don’t have to time to create custom content and run contests to increase engagement on Facebook.
I fully suspect that Twitter, LinkedIn, and other networks will follow suit. They have to make money. They are, as I’ve said about Google before, more or less companies who sell ads. All of the various other tools that they provide, as much as we use and enjoy them, are simply ways to keep you playing in their field so that you can be fed more ads. Again, there’s nothing wrong with that, but we should recognize what it is, and stop trying to pretend that they will always remain open communications platforms.
That’s why I’m not going to spend a lot of time there. I have a variety of tools to automatically add content to the social networks, and I even drop in and interact when I can, but the focus will always be on my own sites.
The trick, however, is reaching people who don’t know about them. That’s where you have to have the presence. A long time ago, a wise evangelist told me that if you really wanted to reach people who were lost, you had to go where they were. You couldn’t just go to church and wonder why no one new ever came to hear your message. You had to take the message wherever people were. When I look at increasing the reach of my ideas, I think that holds true. I need to be on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, etc. but I also have to realize that everyone else is too, including many companies who have much more money and resources than a single blogger has.
It’s not fair, but then again, I don’t need to convince a million people to buy my product. Whether it’s the thousands who follow my Child Abuse Survivor site on Twitter and Facebook, or just my cousins and I chatting about sports on my sports page, I’m getting something out of the effort by simply connecting with people who I might not otherwise have the chance to, and it’s those connections that make the effort worthwhile, even if I don’t have a million page views.