Social media: Loudspeaker or buzzing hive?

talkingI’ve been thinking for a long time about social media and its effects on us. Tools like Facebook and Twitter are meant to connect us with people — in the case of Twitter especially, people all over the world. Everyone has a voice, and anyone can communicate.

But are our voices coming through a loudspeaker or drowning in the noise of too much conversation?

Facebook and Twitter can be amazing resources for promotion or social networking. They’re also a great place to broadcast our thoughts. But who is listening? These aren’t cure-alls for the anonymity of the Internet. It doesn’t guarantee success or instant popularity. In fact, social media has been shown to trigger feelings of depression and anxiety.

Why? Well, these sites play host to drama, for one. A lot of people spread negative energy on Facebook or Twitter. But we also resort to comparing ourselves to others: how many friends or followers we have, “likes” or “retweets” we get, and so on. Worst of all, among so many voices, we can feel like ours is rarely heard.

The solution is to step away, which is exactly what you shouldn’t do if you want to maintain or build a good online presence. So how do you reconcile the two?

I think it’s healthier to limit your time on social media and focus on life outside the computer. They’re also huge distractions and can kill productivity. But how do you manage this if you’re a budding author or someone who needs to create and foster a platform online?

Do you feel isolated when you spend too much time on social media? Do you find yourself comparing your success and social standing to those of others? How do you cope with this?

My first blog award!

Thank you so much to Amy Marie, who runs a wonderful and very helpful writing blog called The Literary Mom, for giving me the Liebster Blog Award! As someone who greatly enjoys writing and building relationships with readers and fellow bloggers, this is an honor, and one that I deeply value. So thank you again, Amy! :D

The Liebster Award (as stated on Amy’s page):

The guidelines for the Liebster Blog Award are:

  • Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.
  • Reveal your top 5 picks for the award and let them know by leaving them a comment on their blog.
  • Post the award on your blog.
  • Bask in the love from the most supportive people on the blogsphere – other bloggers.
  • Most of all – have fun and spread the karma.

I’m extremely excited about the chance to point out some of my favorite blogs! If Amy hadn’t just received the award, I would definitely nominate her. (PS: She’s also critiquing the first twenty or so pages of my novel, so she’s twice as awesome.) Anyway, be sure to follow her and these other amazing bloggers:

1. Sarah’s Place: Embracing life in the northern lattitudes – No other blogger has welcomed me to the blogosphere quite like Sarah, and for that I owe her a great deal of thanks and appreciation. Not only that, but her blog is fantastic! She has (in my humble opinion) one of the best cooking sites on the net. I’m pretty picky about recipes—they can’t involve an excess of rare, needless ingredients or be too difficult to make—but Sarah consistently provides ones (complete with personality and great step-by-step pictures) that are easy to understand and make and look absolutely delicious. Keep up the great work, Sarah. No pressure or anything. Just keep being you! :)

2. Yo Mama: ‘Cause there ain’t no yo daddy jokes – My favorite women’s advocate and gender blogger who—brownie points for her—also has me listed on her blogroll (she’s also listed in mine, see the sidebar). She’s one of the smartest and most talented bloggers around.

(FYI, I’m totally open to blogroll exchanges, if anyone’s ever interested. Just send an email to wita [dot] blog [at] gmail [dot] com.)

3. The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say “Shhh” – Oh my goodness, I could say oodles about how wonderful Miss Anderson is. She has one of the most fun book blogs out there, and she adds layers (I’m talking Shrek layers, like an onion, only more awesome) of personality and charm to everything she writes. Plus, she doles out letter grades to the books she reads. Nice!

4. Sometimes Bailey: A non-fiction writer’s blog about making a literary life while balancing work and family – I haven’t pinned down Veronica yet—her blog entries are always refreshingly varied in my feed. Her posts about literature, life, and writing are always a pleasure to read.

5. Kristen Lamb’s Blog – Kristen is an author and a social media and publishing whiz, and her posts constantly brim with wise and insightful advice. Check it out!

Delight and surprise: a review of Likeable Social Media

The loudest, biggest spenders don’t win anymore. The smartest, most flexible listeners do.

Social media is a big deal these days. Whether you’re looking to sell or you have something to say, platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks are the new sounding board—and the new way to connect. If you’re a blogger who’s managed to reach any audience, big or small, then chances are you’ve learned firsthand the power of harnessing social media. Dave Kerpen knows it. He wrote Likeable Social Media (on Amazon and B&N) to spread the word in print and online.

I’ll say this upfront: If you’re a blogger, freelancer, or any young or progressive person who’s fluent on the web, then Likeable Social Media won’t tell you anything you don’t already know. The book is aimed at business professionals and marketers who were taught that pushing a brand and products on consumers through television, radio, and print ads was the way to be seen: You just had to be smart at selling it. Likeable Social Media explains that a new wave of advertising has begun, and it’s lighter on the legwork of actually pitching products. It’s about building a fan base and rewarding a loyal audience—it’s about them, not you. Sorry.

Because of that, Likeable Social Media doesn’t preach to the average reader, but with a little creative thinking I found some ways to apply its tenets to everyday writing and communication on the web—methods that are good for bloggers, in other words. So instead of doing a standard review, here are some tips on how to “be generally amazing” online:

  1. Respond to every comment, good or bad. Thank people for positive feedback (or feedback at all), encourage them to return, and address negative comments as quickly as possible—that’s the really important part. Be diplomatic about it. If someone’s unhappy and it’s your fault, don’t delete the comment or ignore it, hoping it will go away. Let the commenter and everyone else know that you’re listening, and consider extending an olive branch apology—a simple “I’m sorry” will go a long way.
  2. Make the conversation about them, not you! Engage with your readers as often and as deeply as you can.
  3. Be real and authentic. Show some personality and let people see the person behind the computer. Be human. Revealing yourself as a likeable individual will endear you to your audience. Be open, honest, and approachable.
  4. Ask questions that touch on any of your readers’ possible interests. Don’t limit yourself to what you personally are “selling.” Let the conversation flow where it wants to.
  5. Use storytelling as a means to connect with your readers. Let people get to know you better! Sharing on a personal level doesn’t have to mean drudging up your personal life, but it does mean breaking down the barrier between writer and reader and letting them in. How are others supposed to support you and advocate your work if they don’t know anything about you?
  6. Do giveaways, contests, promotions—anything that will reward dedicated readers and encourage new ones to join in. Create “wow” moments to surprise and delight without asking anything in return.
  7. Provide value. Share info and tips about your area of expertise freely, even when it doesn’t directly benefit you. Don’t horde good information. It comes out eventually, and if someone beats you to it, the people listening will be grateful to him/her, not you.
  8. Don’t sit in a bubble, either. Branch out—link to others and don’t always claim information as your own when you found it through someone else. Share and give credit where it’s due.
  9. Remember these four essentials: listening, transparency, responsiveness, and engagement. Open your ears to the conversation around you, show people the real you, be attentive to what people say (and let them know you appreciate them saying it), and encourage them to speak up!

How do you connect? I reach out on Facebook, through Twitter, Tumblr, and more.

Blogger Kristen Lamb wrote a great post about improving your “likeability quotient” as a blogger. Her book, We Are Not Alone, is all about using social media the right way.

Ermiliablog praises The Thank You Economy (a book I’ve added to my wishlist recently) and Tweet Right, if you’re looking for more recommendations on social media at its best.

More on Dave Kerpen and Likeable Media: