Embrace Social Media. Blog. Get on twitter. Engage. Network. Connect. Start early, think ahead, get a platform in place before the deal.
And because we want to give ourselves the best chance of being noticed, we do it. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr and more. We participate in blog hops, help promo new books, run contests, join writing list-serves and organizations, post on forums, interact through writing support circles and groups. We host giveaways, we retweet, we #FF & #MM, we review books and we critique. We learn about SEO and back-linking and stress about Klout scores. We Follow. We Like. We+1. After all, this is what we were told to do, right?
For writers, putting time and energy into an online presence is the new norm. Time, hard work and luck all factor in on how successful a platform becomes. And some writers are very successful at building their platform. That's good...right? Yes, absolutely. Well, you know, except for the but.
Hold it...there's a BUT in this scenario? Yes, and here it is:
Sometimes instead driving your platform, your platform drives you.
A great platform is every writer’s end game...but the cold, hard fact is that it comes at a price: TIME. It takes a lot of time to manage a successful online presence.
When it starts to chew up too much, we get hit with a fish-slap of reality: there's no time to read. The research we need to do for our WIP is always on the back burner. Our family rarely sees us without a laptop or wireless device in our hand. And, the death blow? We're spending all our time blogging and networking instead of writing.
Eventually, a writer in this situation will become fed up, especially if they aren't seeing dividends as a result of platform building (an agent's attention, the editor's interest, the deal to celebrate). They begin to resent their blogs, or twitter, or whatever else is murdering their writing time. They also may resent those who preach that writers ‘must have’ a platform. Social Media Fatigue sets in, and as the pressure to keep everything going builds, a writer flirts with the idea of just...walking...away.
Running yourself ragged is not the solution. Quitting a platform you worked so hard to build is not the solution. Change is. So if you are finding all your time is spent trying to gain online visibility instead of writing, you need a SOCIAL MEDIA INTERVENTION.
Consider this your therapy session.
Experiencing Social Media Fatigue? Look at what you’re doing for platform and what is draining your passion and time. What avenues can you cut back on? What can you do more efficiently? Here are some common TIME EATERS and POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS:
SYMPTOM: Blogging Burn OutBlogging can be a big chore if you aren't into it. Do you struggle to come up with topics? Are you always writing posts? Do you like blogging but it takes up too much of your time?
CURE:--Blog less. Cut back on your blogging schedule.
--Join forces. Bring someone else into the blog or approach others to Guest Post.
--Broaden your subject matter. Think about what you like, what you're passionate about. Incorporate this into your blog. If you're sharing something you enjoy, it doesn't feel like work. Blogs don't have to have only one topic or focus.
--You don't have to blog. There is no Blogger Mafia. There will be no horse's head lying on your pillow. If blogging isn't your thing, put your energy into what is. :)
SYMPTOM: Google Reader Meltdown
CURE:Repeat these words: I can't visit everyone and that's okay. Give yourself permission to only visit a few posts from your reader, not all of them. If you have regulars, make it your goal to visit them once a week (or two if necessary), not every post they put up. Bloggers who are truly supportive will understand if you pop in a little less often--they are likely in the same boat. Writing needs to be your priority.
SYMPTOM: Email FreezeDo you dread opening your email box each morning? Do you have dozens of newsletters, blog subscriptions, pings from Goodreads to join book tours and contests? Do you find yourself stopping writing to view mail as it comes in? Does that quick check turn into an hour of responding to messages?
CURE:--If you don't read it, unsubscribe. We often subscribe to things--newsletters, alerts, blogs. If you don't have time to read it and just end up hitting delete, get rid of it.
--Put email on a time limit. Give yourself a set time for email, stick to it, then shut your mail off so you can write. If you don't get pings with each email, you won't feel tempted to click over every five minutes. Email watching is self-sabotage. Allow yourself an email break as a reward for a set amount of words written or time spent on task.
SYMPTOM: Comment ManiaDo you spend hours commenting on blogs? Or do you barely skim posts and then dash out something generic just to show that you were there? Are you spending too much time responding personally to each comment on your own blog?
CURE:--Realize it is okay of you cut back on commenting. At some point in time, everyone will need to do this. Bloggers worry if they don't comment as much, readers won't visit their blog. The truth is, if the content is strong, readers will come. Focus your energy on content that meets your readers' needs--this is why they visit.
--Show your support of blog friends in other ways. Sharing posts by tweeting, FB, Google+ etc helps to spread awareness of their blog. Trust me, they will appreciate the shout out!
--Be respectful. If you don't have time to write a genuine comment, move on. Don't just post a 'thanks for the post' comment just for the sake of it--always mean what you say.
--Think group over individual. If responding to every one's blog comments on your post is stealing too much time, comment once on the post, addressing everyone as a group. The personal touch is nice, but only if you have time. Again, it's my experience that people are understanding that you won't always be able to respond individually all the time.
SYMPTOM: Twitter OverloadAre you overwhelmed by the sheer amount of twitter posts flying through your stream? Do you find it hard to interact with everyone who interacts with you? Are you worried some one's feelings will be hurt of you don't #FF them? Do you obsess over followers and lists?
CURE:--Stop worrying. Twitter is supposed to be fun and interactive. Interact as much as you like, with the people you like. If someone @'s your name with something specific, respond (unless it's spam). Remember it's up to you how much to get involved and with whom.
--Install Tweetdeck. If you have too many people to keep track of and you don't want to cut down on your following, start making lists of the people you want to keep tabs of. Assign columns to these folks and scroll through them from time to time to see their latest tweets.
--Only #FF if you want to. It isn't a must to do all the mentions and shout outs if you don't want to. Do it once in a while, or not at all. It's up to you!
--Let your twitter following grow organically. I know there are all kinds of strategies to get a bazillion followers...but do you really NEED a bazillion followers? And if you don't have the time to interact with them or provide useful content in your tweets, do you think they'll stick around?
--For a place to start, find the #MyWANA hashtag. If you find Twitter overwhelming and don't quite know who to connect with, #MyWANA is full of great people.
--Limit Twitter. With constant links and conversations streaming in the viewer, it's easy to stay on Twitter far to long. Decide how much time to spend before clicking on your account. Stick to it.
SYMPTOM: Facebook or Google+ Addiction
Are you on FB or Google+ all the time, liking and commenting and +1 ing, or playing Scrabble and Zombie vs Plants and Castleville and Words with Friends, etc etc?
CURE:--Visit less often. These places can be great fun, but they are also a huge black hole to get lost in. If you need to start your day with a coffee, make this your FB & G+ time. When the coffee is gone, shut it down and get to work. Only come back on when you're done writing for the day.
SYMPTOM: The Social Networking Death SpiralAre you currently dividing your time between all major Social Networking platforms because that's what 'everyone says' writers should do? Do you find that because you divvy up your time between a blog, twitter, FB, Google+ Tumblr and others, none of them are getting enough attention to really be useful?
CURE:--You are the boss. Do the Social Networking Medium(s) that appeal to you, not everyone else. To quote your mother, if your peers told you to jump off a bridge, would you do that too?
--Less is MORE. It's better to choose one medium and excel at it than try to juggle several and only do a so-so job. Again, it comes down to passion! If you enjoy something, it isn't work. Don't waste time trying to be everywhere...concentrate on the place or places you feel comfortable with and have time for.
--Drop the Hot Potato. You remember the kids' game right? Well this time, instead of trying to juggle that spud, let it go. If you are involved in a type of social networking but find it isn't really you, ditch it. Focus on creating your platform in areas that play to your strengths and interests.
Platform is a good thing, but only if you can use it. If you spend all your time building it but have no product that will benefit from it...what's the point? Always, always put your writing first.
Those of you who know me, know I juggle a lot. I am on many SN platforms, using these to bring great writing content to the community when I find it, and to connect with the people who make this industry great--you! I have been faced with overload at different stages, and I am still doing my best to maintain a balance. I have had to do many of the things listed here and continually keep tabs on when to slow down. This blog especially takes a lot of time and energy and without Becca, I wouldn't be able to do it. But I love learning new things and sharing what I know, so I have a huge passion for The Bookshelf Muse, and this keeps me going. Find your balance and the platform will come. :)
Do you need to scale back, or have you already? What strategies worked best for you to achieve a better balance between Platform Building and Writing?