Mike Elgan shares essential advice.
Mike and I have a fundamental disagreement on how to use blogging and social media. He blogs on a third-party platform he does not control, Google+. I did this myself until recently, but in April I started blogging here. I want to build something long-term, and I don’t have faith Google+ is around for the long term.
I have not abandoned social media. Far from it. I use Google+ and other social media for publicity and discussion. I check social media a couple of times a day.
Publicity is a bit of a dirty word, because people do spammy things for publicity. But all I’m talking about here is using social to notify people that I’ve got a new blog post up, when I have their permission to do so. Every single one of these people is someone who has implicitly asked to be informed by virtue of having followed me on social media.
Don’t want to be informed about my updates? Unfollow me. I won’t mind — not even if we’re coworkers, friends, or even family. With one exception, none of my family follows me closely on social. And that’s OK. Being active on social media is like being an avid model railroader — a perfectly lovely hobby but not everybody who stops by the house should be dragged into the basement every time they visit to watch the electric train set go round and round.
Julie does follow me closely but I try to remember to remind her a couple of times a year that she doesn’t need to feel obligated to do so by virtue of our being married. It wasn’t in the vows.
But I digress.
The essential part of Mike’s advice is sound: Use social blogging to let people know what you’re doing, what you think, and what you feel. Social blogging is not for denouncing people who disagree with your politics, or for sharing things other people created.
Mike is a purist on the sharing — he often shares other people’s content but he always has his own take on it. I’m a bit more lax; I’ll share other people’s content if I think it’s noteworthy. But really I’m more and more coming to think that sharing personal experience, thoughts, and feelings is the best way to blog.
As for politics: Five or 10 years ago I was more active sharing about politics, because I felt like Someone Should Speak Out. Now, plenty of people are Speaking Out. It’s all gotten to be noise. I’m reminded of a friend who is a very religious Christian. Christians have an obligation to witness their faith to convert others. My friend said the televangelists had so poisoned that well that speaking directly about Christianity just drives people away. Instead, he lets it be known he is a Christian and witnesses by example of living his own life.
Similarly, people denouncing other people’s politics has gotten to be an annoying noise. Mostly I don’t say anything nowadays. If I feel strongly about something — like just this morning — I speak out. Mostly I just shut up. Did some state Senator I’ve never heard of in a state I’ve never visited say something stupid and offensive? Happens every week. Price of republican democracy — you end up electing a certain percentage of idiots. And maybe the guy isn’t really an idiot anyway — everybody puts their foot in their mouth now and again.
More often, when I talk about politics, it’s about the game. When I say I think Hillary Clinton is a shoo-in for the Presidency in 2016, it’s not because I support her or oppose her. It’s just how I assess the race. (By the way, that’s something I would have said a few months ago but not now.)
The biggest mistake you can make on blogging and social media is trying to rack up numbers for the sake of racking them up. 100 valuable followers is better than 1,000 disengaged ones. And anybody who buys followers ought to have their credit cards taken away from them because they have demonstrated a complete inability to spend money intelligently.
The Last Social Blogging Guide You Will Ever Need.
By the way, did you see what I did here? Rather than just sharing a link to Mike’s article, I shared my own thoughts about it too.