Social Media: This Is How I Do

The other day, I told you to throw the pebble.

Today, I’m going to tell you how I sometimes throw the pebble. Or the acorn. Or the pennies. Or the fastball, hand grenade, or angry wombat. Choose your metaphor and hold it tight. Unless you go with “angry wombat,” because you do not want to hug an angry wombat. That fucker will tear your eyes out and drop wombat pellets into the gaping sockets. I’ve seen it. I’ll never forget that trip to the zoo.

Anyway.

Let’s chat about social media, you and I.

This Blog

Terrible Minds Logo (Misc) Obviously, this is my mainstay of social media. This is my biggest handful of pebbles, and I continue to whip them at your computer monitors with as great a velocity as my meager arms will allow. Were I to chart my social media usage on the Internet as some kind of image, this blog would be the center of the spider web. Or the bullet hole in the glass, from which all the cracks branch and fork outward. It’s the beating heart. The biggest dog in the fight. The tallest building in town. And so on and so forth.

This is where I do most of my yammering, and as a writer, I damn sure love to yammer. It’s equal parts home and home base. I feel like, if you come here, it’s because I invited you into my house — but it’s still my house, and it’s got all my decorations on the walls and the dishes in the sink and the smell of coffee brewing and a rattling closet door behind which I keep my latest abductee.

Here, I can pontificate, I can ramble, I control the remote control, I can tuck my hand into my shorts, I can stumble around drunk.

I do have some loose rules for blogging here which I’ve already described, but in short: I blog often (every day), I try to have some variety, I attempt to blog with honesty, and I attempt to blog my “brand,” and my brand is essentially a jacked-up version of me.

The goal of most of my social media is to drive you here, to this blog.

The goal of this blog is to build up an audience and, curiously, drive you away to other places. Does that make sense? You bet your sweet ass it does. The blog isn’t an isolated thing, but is rather connected to a social network of other like-minded people — friends, professionals, what-have-you. Obviously, once cannot link out to Everybody All The Time, but a focused and deliberate gateway out of here is always good. You come to appreciate the other people and places I appreciate. Further, you (ideally!) begin to see this place as a Trusted Content Driver.

In less corporate bullshitty terms, I point to cool shit, and you say, “Hey, look, cool shit.”

And then you tell your friends, “This dude knows cool shit.”

And then they come here.

We won’t talk about how I lock them in my closet. That’s a whole other blog post.

Twitter

(My Twitter page, here.)

Twitter is equal parts news ticker, bullhorn, amusement factory, and Zen delivery machine. You might think of it as a synaptic haiku switchboard. Rarely robust enough for full content, it serves more as connective tissue or delicious marrow to suck from meatier bones.

Actually, I think it was Jeff Tidball who said it best when he suggested that Twitter was essentially “watercooler” talk for all of us who don’t have watercoolers around which to gather. By the way, Tidball’s site is back up with a new face. The simple, elegant typography makes me bow down to it and kiss its digital feet.

I use Twitter most as a content driver (“Go here to see cool thing!”) and for random nonsense (“My dog’s breath smells like shit, because my dog just ate shit!”).

I’m constantly experimenting with, “What’s the best time to tweet something?” Or, “How often should I tweet this?” Loosely, I lean toward tweeting something (like a link to this blog) twice a day, spread out throughout the day a few hours apart. You don’t want to over-market something, but you also want to realize that Twitter sometimes works in shifts — some people show up for the morning shift, the day shift, the graveyard shift. I really do think you can overdo it and become annoying — obviously, I follow a lot of creative types, and if I get two or three of the same link in a day, that’s fine, especially if it’s mixed with general bullshit, cool links and light chattery. The moment the Twitter account becomes nothing more than a marketing mouthpiece, though, I start to fade out and will potentially unfollow. It’s nothing personal, it’s just like tuning out a radio station.

Also, it’s easy to let Twitter conversations grow into things that should be left to e-mail. Multiple times I’ve found myself embroiled in topics that 140 character-bursts do not accommodate, and I’ve also had such conversations fill my Twitter feed from others. Best to keep it brief, so you’re not alienating or annoying readers — again, I say this from the perspective of You As Creator, a creator using social media in his handful of pebbles.

Tumblr

(My Tumblelog, here.)

I’ve only recently gotten on board Tumblr, as per the suggestions of Will “Mad Skillz” Hindmarch, but already I’m really loving it. It’s not the micro-blogging aspect I like; that, I get nicely from Twitter. No, what I dig about Tumblr is that it’s like a visual record of my Internet journeys. An explorer might have a journal of maps and sketches and hastily-scribbled notes — that’s what I get out of Tumblr. I pass by something interesting, I simply click the Share On Tumblr button in Firefox, and poof, there it is.

This serves first as a social media driver, since Tumblr has its own social network attached to it (though one that admittedly remains a bit mysterious to me, for my Tumblarity score seems to indicate… something?). But it also serves second as my own personal repository. The wife comes home, and if there’s something I want to show her, it’s probably on Tumblr. Or I can think back to a great image, and there it is, kept for me, by me. It’s like a visual Evernote, a persistent log of my trials and travels.

Best thing is how low-verbage it is for me. I see other people using Tumblr with full blog posts and lots of text — that’s fine, that’s their bag, but to me that’s not the strength of it. I like that it’s visual. It’s almost artful, honestly, the way it displays. Plus, they have really nice, elegant themes and some very slick typography.

I didn’t “get” Tumblr until I tried it. If you question it, I’d recommend the same.

Facebook

(My Facebook, here.)

Facebook is fast approaching “too much noise, too little signal” territory. As a means by which to catch up with old friends, classmates, co-workers, it’s highly functional. But it’s also clogged with heaving buckets of sewage. Lame apps (“Which merciless dictator are you?”), games (“Rodney needs you to help him bury a Decapitated Hooker in Pimp Town!”), or fan group invites (“Gunter invites you to become a fan of LOOSE STOOLS!”).

Further, Facebook moves fast. So many people use it that anything you throw out there runs the risk of being lost.

Worst of all, Facebook’s constant changes constantly upheave old ways and seem to replace them with new, shittier processes. What is a news feed? What is a live feed? What differentiates my status update from a page update? Who is poking me? Who is superpoking me? Stop throwing snowballs at my head. I don’t want your goddamn Magical Cactus or Chupacabra Egg. No, I will not play Sea Town or help you raise Space Llamas or assassinate your enemies in the Mafia Farm Arena. I am happy you enjoy these games. I just wish Facebook would stop telling me about it.

All of this makes me think I’m using Facebook inaccurately. I used to use it much like I did Twitter, but now, I’ve kind of defaulted to it just being a content delivery system, which is probably annoying to people. Smartest move might be to do what others have done and bind my tweets and status updates on FB together with some application, and choose to have the occasional tweet go to Facebook, as well.

Flickr

(My photostream, here.)

Flickr is an interesting pair to Tumblr, in that it remains a largely visual content delivery system, but in this case, it’s visual content that you yourself have crafted and uploaded. (Er, ideally.)

I’ll admit that my Flickr habits have changed over the last six months. I used to post something every day, which I still do — but back then, I’d play the game and try to get it on the Explore page, and further comment far and wide on a great many other photostreams. That was cool because it earned me comments and a number of Flickr front pages, but since I’m a full-time writer and not a full-time photographer, it was over-focusing on the wrong thing. One of the hard realizations with Flickr is, some social networks only give you an equal return — in essence, a comment per a comment, activity per activity. That’s all well and good, but it’s not really ideal in terms of work output and audience input. I write this blog and I hope that a number of you read it regardless of whether or not I’m involved in your lives. Flickr doesn’t work that way. Unless you’re a major shaker and photo genius, you only tend to get comments if you give them. That would be like, you only visit my blog if I only visit yours. Or, I’ll only buy your book if you buy mine.

Such is the give-and-take of some social networks. Bottom line is, I can’t keep up with that, and it wasn’t earning me the kind of audience I needed. Plus, the 1-to-1 feedback made me even question: “Is my photography really that good, or are they just coming to me because I went to them?” If it’s just one big circle jerk, what’s the point?

Now, I use Flickr differently. I still engage in the community a little, because I’ve met some great people and great artists over there. I do post daily, but a lot of it is just because I enjoy photography and Photoshop. It doesn’t really drive content anywhere, though I do get content from Flickr, usually to feed this blog. Nom, nom, nom.

Livejournal

(My LJ, here.)

I like Livejournal, but mostly it’s an outlier, a place where I can link photos or blog posts. Still, a lot of awesome people are over there, and so I endeavor to visit my Friends page everyday. I’m linking to here (er, from there) more vigorously now, and it’s actually paying off.

Plus, you get some good communities, too.

All told, Livejournal feels a bit dusty, though. It either needs a rebirth or a shovel to the back of the head. It’s definitely a Web 1.0 feel over there — or, Web 1.5 or something. I mean, we’re not talking Geocities, but it has a whiff of antiquity.

Still, it works for what it is. I will say — if you’re over yonder, maybe hook yourselves a WordPress or Blogspot page. I think you’ll find it more versatile, especially if you’re a creator of some ilk. Just my two cents. You can shove them up my ass if you’re so inclined.

Myspace

Ahhh, Myspace. Unicorns, glitter, Def Leppard, animated gifs. It’s the equivalent of a doodled-upon high school notebook dipped in a strong hallucinogenic tea. It’s an assault to the senses, which is why I’m not even linking to my page. It punches my eyes and soul every time I go over there. Is anybody there anymore? I’ve tried to post links from time to time, and no content — like, zero — drives from There to Here. It’s like drawing on the walls of old Pompeii — you’re advertising in the shadows of ruins.

So, I don’t really use it much anymore. If you’re one of those bands or creators who still keep their main page as Myspace — shame on you. You make Baby Jesus throw up.

And he throws up glitter and unicorns.

Personally, I think that if Facebook keeps going in the same direction, it’ll end up like Myspace — an unholy accommodation of Everybody Doing Everything All At Once Oh My God The Noiseworms Are Boring Into My Soft Brainparts.

See, that’s part of the trick with social media. To my mind, you’re not trying to get The Message (aka your pebble) out to everybody. Or, if you are, you’re trying to focus heavy attention on one area (say, this blog). The rest of social media is in many ways an attempt to grab hold of what I think of as “prime movers” or “proselytes.” Those people (often themselves Trusted Content Drivers) who will retweet you or will be a voice for you even without you asking them to, just because they think your shit is pretty cool. (And you in turn will often act as prime mover or proselyte — not in return, but just because it’s a habit you slowly grow to find useful. Acting as such serves as more pebbles in your palm.)

Myspace and Facebook make this more difficult by creating uber-audiences and a hissing susurrus of white noise.

What Else?

I use other sites, of course. I put restaurant reviews on Yelp, I contribute restaurant photos to Urbanspoon, I love both Pandora and Last.FM. The last two are mostly for me, and the former are for the People Who Eat Food community, but neither are particularly self-serving in terms of my writing.

I do want to learn more about sites like del.ico.us and reddit, because man, those can really generate some hits for you if the right prime mover proselyte gives you a boost there. At present, though, they remain at least half-mysterious, veiled in gauzy shadow.

What am I missing?

What should I learn?

What will help other creators pick up more pebbles (to carry forth that increasingly silly metaphor)?

20 comments

  • I’m glad you wrote about Tumblr. I opened my account a while ago then let it go fallow. I like the idea of using it more visually; I’ve really had a hard time figuring out its place in my arsenal. Um…I mean, repertoire. It’s not like I’m assaulting people with my crap, right?

    Aw, hell.

  • Item #1: Delicious has a social component, albeit one that’s a little bit tricky. If you use delcious for handling your bookmarking (which you totally should) then you can also use it share links – you can subscribe to other people to see what they bookmark, or suggest links for specific people. Badass.

    Item #2: Google Reader is a great way to aggregate your various blog and news feeds, sure. That’s a big enough plus that it has supplanted NetNewsWire as my reader of choice thanks to its portability. But it’s also got an awesome but sorely underutilized social component – if someone on your contacts list is on it, you can follow them. This doesn’t mean you see _all_ their stuff, but they can note pieces that they want to share (and also comment on them) and the people who follow them can see them. It means you can do very easy, very smooth sharing as part of your workflow when you check the stuff you read. Google reader is my ultimate trick for staying on top of a million things without taking all day, and I love the social part of it.

    Item #3 is even more specialized and nerdy: Goodreads. It’s a social media book club. List what you’ve read or are reading, rate and review books, and see your friends do the same. I use it in a pretty half-assed fashion, but I do enjoy it when I use it. It’s definitely a niche, but a robust one.

    I’m rdonoghue (with out without an appropriate @) at most such things, just for reference.

    -Rob D.

    • Rob:

      Good tip on Google Reader. I may poke into that — I like that it creates a backward, behind-the-scenes social component for blogs that are otherwise unconnected. That said, I always fear that my readers will just gum up information and clog the pipes, which makes reading blogs more like work. I’ll have to try it, see if it suits my shit-brained whimsy.

      — c.

  • My blog today was going to be about the absurdity of the social media phenomenon. Dangit.

    I’ll wait on that one now.

    I deleted my Myspace account because it seemed like every page I tried to load had some dreadful streaming music that caused my browser to crash and after 2 tries I’d give the fuck up. ANNOYING.

    I maintain a Livejournal account simply to read a friend’s page that is set to Friends Only. Livejournal bugs me.

    I’m too tired lately to throw many acorns. Maybe I’ll start pitching them at 2am when I can’t get back to sleep after a feeding.

  • For me, LJ is still my favorite site even though with the rise of Twitter most people have disappeared from it. I scan around for familiar faces and I find they’ve switched over to posting from Twitter and then copying it to their LJ or they’ve adopted their own website to talk about stuff. None of that is bad mind you; I mean, I’ve got my site over there as well.

    (Go to http://www.writingincarnate.com today! Later, we’re talking about cyborgs, robots, and their use in media!)

    I do agree that LJ feels nostalgic at this point. I read through my old entries and some of them I cringe at. Some it’s because of their writing style and how when I was in my early twenties I didn’t care about how I appear on the internet. Sometimes when I look back I cringe because of particularly difficult times in my life and LJ just reminds me of what happened. (My grandmother’s descent into Alzheimers, my breakup, the Matrix trilogy, etc.)

    http://www.writingincarnate.com (For all your Christmas Gorn needs!)

    I was never a fan of Myspace although I do use Comicspace from time to time to talk to other comic writers. I prefer Comicspace and RPGBomb because the audience is narrower, the interface is simpler, and a lot of my business contacts maintain sites on both.

    Oh, and there was something else I was going to say…

    http://www.writingincarnate.com

    …what? Gotta get the word out somehow! ;)

  • I’d like to throw in my 2 cents for Goodreads as well. You can build a bookshelf, put reviews or just starts on stuff you’ve read, but it also has Author Pages capability so your books get listed and I think it has an auto feed to connect back to your blog and post updates there for people following you. They get an email in their box telling them their Goodread authors have updated their blogs.

    I’m all over the place and biggest issue is having the time! Since I work full time in RL, does take a bite from the possible *infect others* time. I’m cheating through a utility Outlook add on to Tweet during the day as it it. :P

  • I use fb pretty much entirely for games and occasionally saying “hi!” to old acquaintances. It is my sanity-saver when I have insomnia at 3 am and need to kill time harvesting crops, playing with my virtual pet, or fortifying my castle. It has never seemed like all that useful a networking tool to me.

    • I can see that, Heather — mostly, the network is purely social, and it’s engaged as I see a lot of comments from active users on one another’s walls, but I don’t know how *productive* a networking tool. Seems the opposite for me. I get some mileage out of it, but the brilliant aspect of Twitter (I can follow people without them having to follow me) is the ability to lurk — and, in lurking, we’re not forced into a reciprocal situation. I can hear an author or creator say, “Hey, this is cool,” or “Look! I made goat porn!” and I’m suddenly informed without being involved. If that makes sense.

    • Fred:

      I think you’ll appreciate the simplicity of something like Tumblr, at least — amazing how easy it is to maintain. Further, how straightforward it is to make it look nice.

      — c.

  • Tumblr intrigues me. StumbleUpon doesn’t seem to give me quite the control & personal touches I expect from pebble-tossing.

    I’m with Rob on Google Reader. I just need to remember to actually open mine up on a daily basis.

  • GoodReads is smart addition to your mix; claim your space there, import your blog feed, and check in now and then with reviews. (Here’s my page: http://bit.ly/8tPPlZ)

    Google Reader definitely belongs in the mix, too, though my approach to it has been greatly affected by Twitter. I unsubscribed to the majority of the blogs I had in there a couple of months back, and the volume is much more manageable now. I use the “Share with note” feature as my social bookmarking and export them to my site and to Friendfeed.

    Twitter also affected my approach to Facebook, which is now predominantly for friends and family, and I view that as a personal space.

    I’m loving Tumblr (another Hindmarch convert) and agree with you on its ideal usage; don’t love the straight blogging that happens there.

    I still have a LiveJournal account, but only use it to archive my tweets via LoudTwitter. I’m surprised I still have any friends there!

  • The Livejournal take is interesting. I still find that LJ has the most robust permissions control of any blogging site out there, even though I’ve moved off of it as the initial point of launch for my own posts. I also find myself preferring it for handling aggregation of RSS feeds that I read, largely by dint of being the place I’m already at. (I got a permanent account a while back.)

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