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This post asks the question, “Does your blog need social media?” and answers it in a sort of milquetoast way: maybe, probably. What it comes down to is this:
- Why are you blogging?
- Do you like social media?
What kind of content you have also might influence your choice of which social media channels to choose, but that’s the subject for an upcoming post. For now, let’s look at Zip as he considers getting social media for this blog and some of the pros and cons of social media. If you want to go on a social media TED talk binge-watch, I’ve put together a playlist that I’m slowly working my way through.
Zip is perusing his WordPress Customizer and finds that the theme he’s using has an area to add social icons. His social icon area is embarrassingly bare. He doesn’t have any social media accounts, so he only has his RSS feed listed.
Should he create some social media accounts, he wonders? And this leads him to wonder what he’s missing out on my not being in the world of social media. Before, he was simply content to nap, eat leaves and very occasionally, write a blog post.
If he asks his friends…
His friend Type-A T-Rex emphatically tells him this: if he has a blog, he SIMPLY MUST interact on at least the major social media channels. He must constantly promote his content, become the #1 top sloth blogger — at least if he wants anyone to actually read his blog. But Zip’s friend, Mindful Monkey, advises him about the multiple articles that have been published over the years, informing us that social media makes us less happy and asks Zip to remember why he started blogging.
Who is right? Does T-Rex have a point? How about Monkey?
As is often the case, both sides here have some truth to them. My husband would take up Monkey’s side in this argument. He’s not on Twitter and, years ago, for a short time, I thought he had unfriended me when he suddenly deleted his Facebook account.
He likes to rant about social media and what a “cesspool” it is: “their (social media users) Twitter bell goes off, and they start salivating!” I find him in the kitchen ranting like an old crudmudgeon1
I tell him that, perhaps, he’s thinking of Pavlov. Maybe Twitter users would drool if they somehow had come to associate the notification tone on their phone with lunch!
But I see his point — frequent notifications disrupt our attention. The “Twitter bell” goes off, and we suddenly grab our phone and descend into the social media vortex2, sometimes emerging several hours later.
Then again, T-Rex also has a point. Social media can be a great (and free unless you use paid tools) place to promote your website.
So Does Your Blog Need Social Media?
Why Are You Blogging?
Blogging for Business
If Zip decides to blog for business, that is, if he’s trying to make an income from blogging in some way, then, yes, he’d be well advised to be on at least a few social media channels. At least, choose ones that typically work well for the type of content he has on his blog. And it will help to have them be channels that he likes (or at least doesn’t hate).
But if that’s his goal, I’d also tell him that, perhaps, he should set up a business plan, do some market research first to see if there’s actually a market for whatever he’s planning on selling, be it products or content3 He should probably also keep his website very niche and not like this one4
HOWEVER, I know some very niche businesses that are doing quite well that have websites but absolutely NO social media presence. Then again, what they’re doing is not content marketing — their websites serve the purposes of a brochure, contact point, or even receiving job submissions. Still, they are not trying to get leads via social media channels.
Affiliate Marketing and Advertising
If you’re planning on earning money with your blog by affiliate marketing or advertising, it’s advisable to have social media. Advertisers, and most affiliate programs, will want to see your numbers. If you don’t have a significant social media following, some affiliate programs will reject your website, citing low social media following as a reason.
I can’t blame them, really. If you’re a business, you want to promote yourself in a way that will get results, and social media numbers are one way for them to gauge the reach of your blog.
Blogging for Fun
If you, like Zip does at this point, are mainly blogging for fun, simply because you like to write or because you enjoy the process of building a blog, whether to use social media or not comes down to:
- Do you enjoy social media?
Do you like social media? If you enjoy it, it will work better for you as you’ll regularly engage with others. If you hate it, you either won’t engage as much as necessary to truly make a difference to your website traffic, or you’ll do it but find yourself increasingly resistant.
- How much do you want people to read your content?
How much time and effort are you willing to put in to get people to read what you write?
Most of us are overloaded with content. I read somewhere, not too long ago, and now can’t find the source, that more written content has now been published digitally than all writing history combined. Whether that’s true or not (and I’m sure it is), there’s so much constantly being published that your blog post doesn’t stand a good chance of getting read unless it’s on a very unique topic that’s not oversaturated or you heavily promote it and in the right way.
SEO vs. Social Promotion
If you genuinely dislike social media, perhaps you’d be better off spending more of your time making sure your post are well optimized for search engine optimization.
Personally, I find that more people hang around on websites I’ve had, click links, interact and such when they’ve clicked through from Google. While I’ll get going over social media channels in another post, I find that nobody EVER clicks through from Instagram (though I’m sure they do for certain types of content) and that Facebook and Pinterest have been the best sources of non-paid traffic.
The Ups and Downs of Social Media
Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of social media. As if you hadn’t heard all this a million times before.
The Pros of Social Media
When I write here about social media’s pros and cons, I’m talking about personal social media and using social media as a blog promotion tool. I’m not going to touch on the other numerous negative issues that come with the whole social media package; things like the promotion of conspiracy theories and other bad ideas, privacy issues, etc.
Social media has plenty of upsides. I know of people who have developed real support networks and lasting friendships via social channels (and even gaming)
Social media has plenty of upsides. I know of people who have developed real support networks and lasting friendships via social channels (and even gaming).
It can be a way for extended family to keep in touch and share updates, photos, and memories.
I remember my mom, who had ALS, gesturing toward her phone to have replay a message from my niece announcing that she’d just had her baby. This niece, I knew, was a relentless poster of photos on Facebook, and I was immediately able to show my mom photos of her latest great-grandchild — something that brought tears to her eyes.
Of course, social media can be a way to inexpensively promote your business, blog, product, writing, etc. It can also be a way to find new content and discuss it with others; I’ve seen and read some things I’ve loved reading via social media channels.
Cons of Social media
As I was writing this post, I started to look at videos about social media and found myself getting sucked into the YouTube vortex, so (as I mentioned previously) I compiled a list of social media TED talks to watch later. While a few seem to be about social media’s positive aspects, as you might imagine, the vast majority are about the harmful effects of social media.
Many videos–TED talk and otherwise–that I encountered were about what people found after doing a “digital detox.” The very fact that they needed this “detox” and that their time away from social media was some strange aberration implies both toxicity and how ubiquitous social media has become.
Portlandia’s “Social Bankruptcy” sketch, I thought, spoke a truth: the “FOMO”5 that social media seems to engender. If I quit my social media accounts, will everyone, like Fred Armisen in this video, forget about me? Will they forget about my blog? My business? Will I miss out on something important?
Of course, the flip side of this is that if you get your nose out of your device (and I’m speaking to myself here), you might find JOMO — the Joy of Missing Out.
Social media, as mentioned previously, maybe a great way to promote your “brand,” but does Zip want to be a “brand”? And how much peace of mind is he willing to trade for that promotion.
Downsides of Social Media
It can be distracting.
Zip comes down from his tree and goes out to breakfast with Hannah Human. He plans to tell her something important about his life but gets the vague sense she’s not really listening to him.
Will he be able to do it differently if he amasses social media accounts (but, first, gets a phone)? What will he find himself doing when his “Twitter bell” goes off?
It can be a waste of time.
Like I mentioned previously, my daughter says that she sometimes gets sucked into the “YouTube vortex.” If you’ve spent any time on social media, you may have also experienced this phenomenon. You may have also encountered the Twitter vortex, the Facebook vortex, or the many other vortices which seem to swirl around social media channels, sucking you in.
My husband likes to remind me of what John Lenon reportedly said: “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” Maybe being on social media isn’t wasted if you genuinely enjoy it, if it does bring significant website traffic, if you learn something new6, or if it fosters new real social connections.
But consider what you might be missing out on while you’re inside that social media vortex. Don’t fear missing out on something on social media; fear missing out on life and on the moment.
Social media can lead us to compare ourselves unfavorably with others.
This is the #1 reason that gets brought up about how social media can make us less happy. While people post about their problems on social media, people are often putting their best virtual foot forward and making you sure that they have a better life than you.
They travel more, are more attractive, are doing more fun stuff. You see that they’re singing at the local cabaret with a bunch of friends on their birthday while you are trying to deal with caregiving issues surrounding your irascible father-in-law. Just saying!
However, this greener grass is not necessarily reality — an excellent thing to keep at the forefront of your mind when you consume social media. If he looks at Instagram too often, Zip might become convinced that he SIMPLY MUST move to the next valley as it has better trees, only to find that the neighbors are annoying, the leaves aren’t even as tasty, and those beautiful trees were Photoshopped!
Along with this, social media can affect our self-esteem for the worse in other ways.
Did nobody “like” our recent post? Maybe nobody even saw it! Perhaps it didn’t fit some algorithm for promotion, you didn’t post it when anyone was looking, or you think hashtags are stupid and didn’t add any. But now you feel bad because your friend got 500 likes for posting “OMG #gonnahaveafoodbaby” with pictures of her dinner, while your sincere and heartfelt post got absolutely no response. Does everyone hate you? Maybe. But more likely, they just didn’t actually see your post.
And, while I’m not sure how it applies here, I want to mention a strange and very awkward in-person interaction I had about social media many, many, many years ago. I wasn’t blogging at the time, but I had decided to “embrace social media” and start interacting more on my personal accounts. While on my personal Facebook feed, I didn’t try to friend people I didn’t actually know, I did start “friending” acquaintances on Facebook and inviting them to connect on Linkedin.
That is until one woman in our gymnastics carpool approached and told me that she had received my invitation, and she was just not sure she would be able to accept it, shaking her head with a sense of vague regret. Ummm…I sputtered out an answer saying that was OK, perfectly understandable, etc.…but…
Why not just ignore my invite?
Now I just felt terrible. Was something wrong with me? I had to console myself by reminding myself that the other moms in the carpool said that this woman was weird and questioned if they wanted her driving their kids around. I had liked her, actually. Now, I wasn’t sure and, additionally, wondered what the other moms in the carpool said about me?
This interaction really quenched my “let’s friend everyone on social media” fire, and I quit that campaign soon after! I stopped friend requesting anyone and only “friended” anyone when asked for it, at least with my personal Facebook and Linkedin accounts.
In retrospect, I could have pursued the matter and asked for clarification of why she was reticent to connect with me on social media, but the first conversation felt so awkward that I didn’t want to take it further.
Social media promotion requires constant engagement
While not a waste of time, per se, if you’re using social media to promote your blog or if you enjoy it, another downside is that it requires constant engagement.
While you can7 just tweet forth your blog posts and other exciting articles, social media is interactive. To really succeed at social media means you need to actually engage on social media. This can be difficult if you have more than one blog, too many accounts, or if you just hate social media interaction in general.
Social media can be a stupid game that can make you miserable
I guess I’m an idealist. I’ve always thought that social media should be a place where you can follow people who you know, who post things you need to know, or content you like and that they can, in turn, follow you if they’re interested in what you’re posting.
However, there’s long been an expectation that you “follow back” if someone follows you. Unfortunately, there seems to be a game in which people try to tip the scales (this is on Twitter in particular) to get more followers than people you’re following. You’ll see people follow you, you follow back, and then if you look, find that they’ve unfollowed you.
I don’t like the “me” that worries about things such as “getting likes” or “getting followers.” I refuse to use such things as “who unfollowed me” or obsess over who stopped following me and why. I used to do this when I blogged years ago. It’s not a way I want to live; it’s not a good recipe for a calm mind.
The Twitter Bell is Real! Dopamine and Social Media
Did I mention social media addiction above? It turns out that my husband wasn’t too far off about his “Twitter bell” comment and Pavlovian response. While we don’t (necessarily, unless possible, it’s a food post) salivate when we get a “like,” studies show that our brain does release dopamine — one of the neurotransmitters linked to pleasure — in response to such things as social media likes.
So that “hit” you might feel when you get a “like?” It’s natural and has a physical basis.
So, should Zip even set up social media for his blog?
However, all the worry about getting followers and likes isn’t necessarily all about narcissism or dopamine. If you’re a business, the scales tip in favor of using social media for promotion.
Right now, Zip probably doesn’t need social media for his blog with a handful of posts. But he plans to write more. In the back of his mind, he has an idea of opening a shop, and we’re writing about his blog in this series…so, yes, he’s going to go ahead and set up some social media accounts.
In the next post, we’ll muse about how many social media accounts might be a good idea. Then we’ll follow with some ways to manage social media without going insane, finishing with a Social-Media-O-Rama post discussing many of the major platforms and what they do best.
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- Yes, that’s an intentional misspelling. He said “crudmudgeon” once, and the word stuck.
- This phrase comes from my daughter, who likes to refer to getting sucked into the “YouTube” vortex.
- Actually, even if you’re running a casual blog but are selling products or running ads, you’d be well advised to set up a business license and/or LLC and have a separate business bank account.
- This website actually started mostly to keep me from posting unrelated content on my other blog.
- Fear of missing out, if you don’t, somehow, already know what that means.
- But please make sure you verify this new thing you learn!
- As I’m mostly doing with this website currently. DO NOT see this as an opportunity to offer your social media services!