7 Things I’ve Learned About Myself from Social Media

Last spring I, along with others, took a Lenten break from social media. When I returned, I wanted to know more about my presence on social media, including my blog. That’s when I turned to Frances Caballo and engaged her to check my social media sites as well as my website.
The results of Frances’s assessment provided good information, both positive and some not so positive. Eager to see what I could do with her suggestions, I moved ahead full tilt. And as reported in this post, I noticed some rising numbers and growth changes.

Frances even provided a schematic or schedule for posting to the social media sites I use. I have worked hard at prescheduling using Buffer and Hoot Suite. Of course, before you start scheduling, there is the step called curation, which also takes time. After curating and prescheduling, I felt an overwhelming strike against my writing time. Not only against my writing time but against my ability to keep up with certain blogs where I believe my community contacts are strong.

As a result, I’ve learned some things about myself. Most of them I already knew; some of them I didn’t realize until now.

Flickr via Sagle
Flickr via Sagle

1. I don’t like numbers, and I dislike counting them even less. I never liked math in any form growing up. I still don’t care for math which leads me to my newest discovery about self: it’s all about numbers. Not only do I not like numbers, I like analyzing and counting them even less.

I have heard all the arguments about numbers of followers, social analytics, and platform building. But I’m not sure I agree totally with their arguments. It seems those who enjoy social media and do well at it, and therefore accumulate the necessary numbers for a proper platform, are number lovers and counters. They enjoy the thrill of the chase. Everyone seems in the big race to see who can get the most followers, friends, likes, shares, and on and on and on. None of this holds any great interest for me.

I want to spend my days writing, not counting and analyzing numbers.

2. I’m an introvert who does not like crowds any better online than at a social gathering. Yes, I am an introvert. I’m happily married to an introvert. The good news is I can make myself “perform” at a social gathering doing the mix and mingle dance, but I don’t like it. My husband says I’m better at this than he is. On social media, the party or gathering includes people who follow you who have no profile info posted, the ones who want to sell you Twitter followers, SEO and marketing experts, software application outlets, and the beat goes on. I equate these to the dinner hour marketing phone calls we receive. I prefer to spend any time I have beyond writing communicating with those writers and readers I’ve come to know blog-to-blog outside the confines and requirements of social media. Lately, I feel I have lost touch with these fellow writers. And yes, spending time with them means I’m safely hidden away in my writing corner at home with my laptop and my kitty.

Dragonfly Coffee House
Dragonfly Coffee House

3. Lest you worry about me socially, I do have a few writing friends I gather with personally here in Portland and workshops I enjoy attending. Through the time social media extracts from my days, I had less time to spend with these people. I quickly learned I preferred being with these few than with the masses on social media. Sometimes it’s over lunch, over coffee, or browsing one of our great bookstores in Portland. We talk writing, share our work, and even give time over to fostering friendship between us. It’s the way I like to do business and friendship.

4. Some of the time I spend on social media detracts from my continuing education in the art of writing, and I consider ongoing education prime to my efforts. With the writing community available to me here and just down I-5 South, I have so many opportunities. It is often difficult to choose which one to take advantage of first. There are multiple Meetup Groups for writers in Portland, as well as Willamette Writers and Oregon Writers Colony, with Indigo Editing and PDX Writers offering workshops and classes, and people like Gigi Rosenberg, author and artist coach, who have found Portland to be the place they want to craft and teach (more about Gigi in #5 below). With all these entities offering so much, how can I spend time on social media and not increase my knowledge of my craft? Personally, I can’t, and I won’t.

5. A short time ago Gigi Rosenberg wrote an eye-opening and inspiring blog post, Be Your Own CEO. This post made an impact on my feelings about how I spend my days. In the post, Gigi talks about one of the assignments she gives when coaching artists. The assignment comes in two parts as you’ll see when reading her post. I decided to work through the assignment, knowing already what the answer would be.  Mine is the same as Gigi’s. And this is what she had to say:

For me, the one thing is to finish this revision of my memoir. Everything else in my life needs to support that one mission. Because I am the CEO of Me, Inc., and what I say, goes. …

Everything else is going to revolve around that one thing I want. Because I want it and I’m the boss of what I want.

Now, I know what you’re saying: That’s pretty selfish. Not really. We all want something, and most often we want it badly. So badly we are willing to do almost anything to get it. Why shouldn’t a writer, musician, artist, aspiring doctor or lawyer, other professionals, star athletes not do the same?

6. None of the above have mentioned my life outside of writing.  In order to cram everything into a 24-hour period with 5-6 hours of sleep each night, I have ignored my husband, necessary work on our small businesses, cleaning our home, cooking at my best level for two meals each day, making proper time for personal devotionals and prayers, forsaken my music participation with my husband, and for the most part have given up my love of needlework (quilting and knitting). Cutting out these things meant I had enough time for social media, the blog, and some of the book. Nothing about that seems quite fair, at least to me. There should be an hour or two each day to enjoy another creative outlet. And I’m going to do just that. Let’s not forget we should all be committed to our health and physical well-being, and I’ll admit I’ve been neglectful of mine of late.

7. The decision is made, and no one can change it. I am going to spend the bulk of my waking hours writing–my memoir, short creative nonfiction, blog posts. Also, I will take back my domestic duties (which I enjoy) and clean my home, do the laundry, and cook decent meals and in good weather help Farmer Meyer with the outdoor work. I intend to make sure nothing is left undone about the two small businesses Bob and I run. Church and daily prayer and devotion will take a greater priority. This is what I want to do, and I choose to do it.

Via QuotesCover
Via QuotesCover

I know there will be naysayers about the time needed for social media. Others will debate whether or not a person has to count numbers or not. Some will argue that I’ll never sell a single book without platform based in a grand social media presence. Even more will disagree with the time I spent on social media providing enough time to pick back up the chores at home and the things I do for others. And there may be some who will find something to say I haven’t even thought about yet.

They are entitled to their opinions. That’s why we choose to do all we can to keep this country free. However, as we used to say when we were kids, “Nobody is the boss of me!”

No, I’m the boss in this office, and I get to choose what priorities I set. I’m also allowed to choose which tasks I don’t need or want to do, especially if I find them hindering my best efforts in my chosen creative outlet, writing.

I hope you’ll find a moment to join in discussion and conversation below.

Notice Any Changes? Here’s Why:

Remember a few weeks ago I talked about the social media and website assessment I had done? If you missed it, here’s a link back to the post.

Photo by Sean MacEntee
Photo by Sean MacEntee

In the website part of her assessment, Frances Caballo of Social Media Just for Writers made several suggestions. Things I’d never thought of as needing help with my website. After studying them, I had to agree with Frances. These were necessary changes.

And here are the changes I’ve made since then:

  • Change text and placement of email widget. What I had in place before was an image of my free ebook above the email signup. Frances pointed out the number one focus on the home page is to collect email addresses. Therefore, I needed to move the email signup below the ebook image. Also, referring to a recent study, she noted website visitors aren’t overly fond of the word “subscribe.” I have removed it from any references to my newsletter, ebook, or blog follows. The benefit in signing up, i.e. my free ebook, is the incentive for signing up.
  • Alter focus of site.To date, I have shared many book reviews, resource reviews, and writing tips and tools. The concern here is whether readers might be confused as to the purpose of my site: (a) to attract writers or (b) to attract readers. Authors should want to create reader-centric websites.

⇒When I began this site, I was barely writing a book. I knew I might want to write a book…someday. In the meantime, maybe I could just get my name out there by meeting other writers. It worked!

⇒Now is the time to focus on people who will want to read, or maybe buy, my memoir. I’m slowly creeping toward that fine line from drafting and revising to editing and then on to publishing. Time to refocus the blog. Be on the lookout for new topics, new material, and more updates on the book.

  • Header image on site. Some time ago I circulated a survey. One respondent mentioned the “template look” of my header image. Frances didn’t see a clear connection between that image and writing memoir. So, out with the old and in with the new. I’m really enjoying the new look.

⇒The old image reminded me of a home that was warm and loving. As a girl, I always longed for that home, but that never happened. I suppose I chose the farmhouse image for that reason.

⇒The new image ties in with the theme of my ebook, Healing Benefits of Writing Your Story. The book cover and header share one thing in common: images of lavender, a natural healing and soothing agent. I also designed the header to include an image of writing tools and one of my mother and me (age 4 months) to connect my memoir to this site.

  • Sidebar and footer. I don’t know if you remember…my previous site not only had a sidebar and a dark footer filling almost the bottom half of the page. I had filled that footer with widgets of all kinds: Goodreads quotes, the books I was reading, information about Akismet, and on, and on, and on. Frances pointed out that the general consensus is websites are moving toward a simpler, cleaner template. I have also read that dark characters on a light background is better for readability. There are any number of articles to dispute or confirm this impression.

⇒I took a few days to study this suggestion. After all, my old look had become very comfortable. But the longer I looked, the darker it seemed. And crowded and like my house cluttered.

⇒It has taken a while, but I think I’ve landed with just what I want. Frances hasn’t seen this yet (at least I don’t think she has), and I’ll be interested to receive her comments.

⇒I have built this redesigned site so that on each page my visitors will find what I would like them to read, focus on, and act on.

Yes, it was time for changes.

I am closer to publishing my book than I was when I began this site. I should focus on gathering my current followers closer to me for support and encouragement while finding new followers who are readers and book lovers who will hopefully find my book worthy.

Somehow, before Frances I didn’t see this. I was too comfortable in that worn out pair of shoes, or a comfy chair, or a pair of yoga pants to see the next step in commanding a presence as an author with a book you or someone will want to read.

After Frances, the fog lifted and I understood–change was in the air!

What about you? Are you too comfortable where you are? Did you need to change something? The possibilities are endless in what we might want or need to change. Share with us, if you’re willing.

Return from Lenten Leave from Social Media and a Visit from a Social Media Guru

Google Images via treecommunicacion
Google Images via treecommunicacion

On February 16th I announced my intention to honor the Lenten Season by stepping away from social media. I began my “leave-taking” on February 18th. I returned last week having been away for a total of seven weeks. Here’s what I can share with you:

  • I do not regret one minute away from social media.
  • I breathed easier, wrote more, spent more time with my family, and found rich blessings in everything I saw and heard.
  • I missed my social media connections, and I found myself thinking about taking a “peek.”
  • I enjoyed a few days writing in unbroken time and solitude at the Willamette Writers Writing House; more about this in a future post.
  • I delved into books dealing with the legal aspects of the writer’s life, the intricacies of grant and fellowship application writing, traveled the writing journey of William Least Heat Moon in his new book, Writing BLUE HIGHWAYS: The Story of How a Book Happened, and finally read Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.
  • Together, Bob and I focused on the Lenten message in our morning devotionals.
  • Bottom line, I relaxed a lot.
Frances Caballo
Frances Caballo

And then one day I stepped outside my usual box called “Comfort Zone” and emailed my friend (and probably yours too), Frances Caballo, the mastermind behind Social Media Just for Writers. My email had one purpose behind it. Ask Frances to help me!

I have always stumbled along creating my blog, creating accounts on several social media sites, attempting to understand what I’m doing on each of those sites, and questioning if my blog was as user-friendly as possible. One of Frances’s many talents and services is analyzing social media profiles and pages and providing you with a written assessment and the next steps you should take. I knew I needed Frances to work with me to improve.

Frances looked at each of my social media accounts and my website, within several days provided me a typewritten assessment with suggestions about social media and my site. Her tips were outlined with clarity and the benefit of technological experience I don’t have. I am a happy social media camper and blogger now. Because of Frances, I’m moving through my postings to each account with ease, scheduling using HootSuite and Buffer, and I’ve updated my blog. Here’s a testimonial from me on Frances’s site.

And now here’s a word from Frances:

I can take a more in-depth look at your social media. For $297, I will examine your social media profiles and pages closely and write an assessment and next steps for you to take.

Your audit will include a complete review of:

  • Your Facebook page posts and About Section
  • Keyword placement on your LinkedIn profile and a general review
  • Analysis of your tweets and tips to improve engagement
  • Suggestions on how you can get more out of Google+
  • A review of your Pinterest account with suggestions for new boards
  • A review of your website and blog with ideas for improving them

Perhaps you already have someone like Frances working with you on these issues. However, I am so pleased with the work Frances did I could not help giving her a shout out on my blog.

5 People and 2 Sites You Should Follow

Writers and bloggers need resources to aid in getting their ideas into context attractive to their followers. In order to find these resources, we could spend hours surfing the Internet to find those people most helpful to our brand, blog, or book. The following five individuals and two sites are resources I follow consistently. I hope you find something helpful among them.

1. Frances Caballo of Social Media Just for Writers

Frances Caballo
Frances Caballo

“Social Media Just for Writers was named as one of the top 30 websites for independently published authors by Penny Sansevieri of Author Marketing Experts, Inc.”

“This website will help you to get your writing in front of more readers who would love to know about your books. You’ll learn how to use social media efficiently and effectively, and you’ll learn about new applications, best practices, and tips that will help you reach your marketing goals.”

(quoted from About page of Social Media Just for Writers)

2. Dan Blank of We Grow Media

Dan Blank
Dan Blank

“I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of writers, helping them share their stories and connect with readers. Some of these folks are bestselling authors, with millions of books sold, while others are first time authors, and many more are somewhere between those two points.”

“…I’ve worked with hundreds of authors, and some of the most amazing organizations that support writers.”

(quoted from About page of We Grow Media)

3. Gretchen Louise, Connoisseur of Words and Code

Gretchen is a treasure trove of tech tips, social media tips, suggestions for maintaining an easy-to-work-with inbox, and more. Read some endorsements I found on her site:

Gretchen Louise
Gretchen Louise

“I like to think I’m fairly computer savvy, but there are some aspects of WordPress that really freak me out! Gretchen took my vision and was able to make anything I wanted happen. All I had to do was ask!”
-Kalyn Brooke, Creative Savings

“I really can’t say enough good things about Gretchen…she is professional, helpful, kind, and a coding superstar! She customized a theme for my site and it looks amazing. I felt completely confident that she would make my site look beautiful and work flawlessly, and I was right! She is a wonder.”
-Kelly, The Pretty Bee

4. Angela Ackerman and Rebecca Puglisi at Writers Helping Writers

Writers Helping Writers, formerly known as The Bookshelf Muse, is hosted by co-authors and co-bloggers, Angela Ackerman and Rebecca Puglisi. Together they have written “bestselling triplets, The Emotion Thesaurus, The Positive Trait Thesaurus, and The Negative Trait Thesaurus.”

From their About page, “Our mission is simple: offer help and support as much as we can. This site has many different tools and resources for writers, editors and teachers, so poke around and enjoy!”

5. Joel Friedlander, The Book Designer

Joel Friedlander
Joel Friedlander

Joel Friedlander, better known as The Book Designer, offers practical advice to help writers in producing better books. The following quote sums up Joel’s philosophy:

“Writers change the world one reader at a time.  But you can’t change the world with a book that’s still on your hard
drive or in a box under your bed.”

Joel’s blog is filled with resources and tools to help you decide how you want to publish your book and to teach you the ins and outs of self-publishing should you choose to follow that route. The author of many books on the subject of publishing and with a background in the field, Joel’s expertise is priceless.

6. Writer Unboxed

In 2006 aspiring novelists Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton collaborated to dissect complex books and movies. After their second rejection, they decided to create a site where they could state their opinions with no possibility of rejection, except possibly from readers. Writer Unboxed was born. With a list of contributors too long to share here, the articles posted in Writer Unboxed always bring something to the reader useful, educational, and resourceful. It is a site I recommend to all aspiring writers.

7. Writers Digest

writers digest
writers digest

Writers Digest, the site, is a one-stop shopping experience for the writer. With everything from books, magazines, downloads, conferences, workshops, classes, webinars, tutorials, blogs, competitions and resources, this site is like an online shopping and educational experience rolled into one. Writers of all genre will find something to suit their needs and competitive spirits. With a subscription to the newsletter, you’ll receive a list of 101 websites for writers, more than I’ll ever be able to list here. (That doesn’t mean you won’t need to continue to read my blog! Or subscribe to my newsletter.)

These are some of the folks I rely on for information and leads as I write my book. Of course, there are many others as well. However, I encourage you to take some time to visit each of these if you haven’t already. I think you’ll find something valuable.

What about you? Do you have favorite sources of information online you could share with us?