Tag Archives: Social Media

Blogging Advice: Social Media and Networking

This is the fourth instalment of the series on blogging that  Ruth Feiertag asked me to write late last year. Scroll to the bottom of this post to read about how to begin a blog, how to brainstorm ideas for it, and where to find visual images that won’t violate any copyright laws.

Now that you’ve gotten your site set up and have some posts published on it, how do you find readers?

Today I’m going to be discussing some strategies for attracting new those readers, connecting with likeminded fellow bloggers, and getting the word out about your site that I’ve found useful.

It all begins with how you behave online and what kind of reputation you’ve built up. The Internet can feel like an anonymous and impossibly large place sometimes, but it’s been my experience that word can travel very quickly about how someone behaves on it. Anything you write or share as an update could go viral at a moment’s notice, so be mindful of that when you’re deciding how to present yourself online just like you do in real life.

Play the Long Game

None of the tips I’m sharing today are going to turn you into a fabulously wealthy, world-renown blogger or writer overnight. It takes time and effort to build up a loyal following, and no one is guaranteed success in three easy steps or anything like that. Just like many other things in life, there is no shortcut here. Anyone who tells you otherwise may very well be trying to sell you something.

Be Generous

No matter what strategies you decide to use to hopefully attract new readers to your site, be generous with your time and attention when you stumble across things that resonate with you.

For example, if I read a blog post that I really love, I’m going to leave a comment on it telling the blogger how much I appreciated that post if their site allows comments. I will probably tweet or retweet it, and I might even send links to it to a few friends or relatives who are interested in the topic it discusses if they’re not on Twitter.

Not every post I like receives all of these different types of attention, of course, but I do regularly promote the things that bring me joy without any expectation of reciprocation.

In my experience, people can tell the difference between you sharing something because you feel obligated to update your feed X number of times a day (and are hoping to get similar signal boosts from others yourself) and you sharing something that you genuinely loved without attaching any strings to it.

Be the second kind of person online. Speaking of social media…

Social Media

No, you don’t have simultaneously maintain Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Youtube, Tumblr, Reddit, and Instagram accounts. The thought of that is exhausting!

Pick one or two of them instead, and focus on getting to know those sites as well as possible. Ideally, they should be places where you and people you know already spend time.

The culture of a (generally) anonymous, teen and twenty-something site like Reddit is completely different from somewhere like Facebook where the audience tends to be older and everyone is expected to use their real name. I can’t tell you which social media site(s) to choose. So much depends on what you’re writing about and where your audience is located.

What I can tell you is that Twitter is what works best for me. The hashtags on that site make it easy to connect with potential friends who are also into underwater basket weaving (or whatever your passions are in life), and I enjoy the fast-paced conversations that happen there.

Once you’ve chosen a site or two to follow, begin sharing updates about your life. I like to see at least two-thirds of the tweets I read from any given account be non-promotional in nature. That is, don’t endlessly tweet links to your website, book, or product. Instead:

  • Tell a funny story about something that happened to you recently
  • Ask a thought-provoking question and discuss it with anyone who responds
  • Reply to other people’s status updates
  • Share a quote, picture, or meme
  • Talk about something you’re struggling with (or doing well at)

In short, treat social media like a dinner party, not a sales pitch. Of course you can and should occasionally share links to your site, but those updates should be the garnish instead of the main course. I generally tend to mute or unfollow people whose accounts feel like never-ending advertisements.

How Often to Tweet

Some of the people I follow on Twitter post new tweets multiple times an hour from morning to night. Others might pop in once a week, once a month, or less.

In general, I think it’s best to tweet at least one new, non-promotional thing every day if you can. For example, your tweets for a week might look something like this:

  • Monday: Post a link to your new blog post for #MondayBlogs* and retweet other participants, too.
  • Tuesday: Ask your followers an open-ended question and reply to their responses.
  • Wednesday: Tell an amusing story about your dog running around in the backyard and trying to catch falling snowflakes during that big snowstorm last night. You’ll get bonus points from all of the animal lovers if you include a picture, too!
  • Thursday: Share a thought-provoking quote.
  • Friday: Talk about one of your hobbies or interests, especially if it’s somehow related to your blog’s subject matter.
  • Saturday: Grab a post from your archives and share it on #ArchiveDay.*
  • Sunday: Start a conversation with your followers about how everyone’s weekends went. Did you or they do anything interesting during it?

*I’ll talk more about these hashtags in the next section of this post.

Any retweets you want to share can be interspersed between these snapshots of your everyday life.

This doesn’t mean that you should spend twelve hours a day on social media. I know many people who set strict limits on how long they spend on Twitter and similar sites. After their 10 or 15 (or fill-in-the-blank) minutes are up for social media time, they close those windows or apps and get back to writing and other work.

One of the downsides of social media is that individual tweets tend to only attract an audience for a short period of time. By tweeting and retweeting regularly, you’ll begin to build rapport with the other people you meet there as they see you pop up over and over again on their timelines.

How to find new people to follow on Twitter might be worthy of its own post, so I won’t say anything else about it today.

Recurring Hashtags to Follow

Some of the hashtags I use are meant to be tweeted only on specific days of the week. If you’re able to spend a bit more time on Twitter sometimes, I’d recommend checking out one or more of the following hashtags.

#MondayBlogs

Rachel Thompson created this hashtag in 2012. Use this hashtag to share links to your blog posts on Mondays. You can use a current post or something from your archives, just don’t share anything that is pornographic or a promotion for your books. Be sure to retweet other participants as well!  Click on the link above for more information about this hashtag and the woman who came up with it.

#ArchiveDay

I believe that #ArchiveDay was originally created in late 2010 or early 2011 by Rosh Sillars so that he and other bloggers could share links from their archives and attract new readers. It wasn’t associated with any particular day in the beginning so far as I’ve been able to determine, but  for the past few years it has become a Saturday tradition for many of us. This is the least well-known hashtag I’m sharing today, but I love the idea of digging through your old posts and introducing them to new audiences. I hope it will become more popular in the future.

#SundayBlogShare

This hashtag was created in 2014 by Suzie81. As of April 2018, she is no longer participating in it, but I still see people using it to share old and new posts every Sunday. To the best of my knowledge, any posts that don’t include pornographic content are welcomed to be tagged with this hashtag.

If you only have time for one of these events, I’d recommend going with #MondayBlogs due to it’s large, active, and diverse population. Definitely don’t feel obliged to participate in all three of these hashtags every week unless you truly want to.

Leave Relevant Comments on Other Sites (and Allow Comments on Your Own)

Let’s say that last week you wrote a post about how to keep sharks from getting tangled up in your underwater basket weaving supplies. Today you noticed someone on Twitter sharing a post on their struggles with the same problem. You love their writing style and really want to connect with them.

This is the perfect opportunity to comment on their post to discuss what worked for you and, if their comment system allows for it, share a link to your post on the topic.

Relevant is the key word here. I definitely don’t share links to my blog posts in the body of every single comment I leave. In fact, most of the time my responses have nothing at all to do with what’s on my site and everything to do with reacting to whatever it is the other person is blogging about that day.

Many bloggers appreciate comments, especially when they know that you’re genuinely interested in who they are and what they’re talking about. If they’re interested in learning more about who you are, they’ll click on the website link that’s included in most commenting systems.

By allowing comments on your site, you’ll give your readers a chance to do the same for you.

Linkup Parties

A Linkup Party is a special type of blog post that is created specifically for people to leave links to their sites in the bodies of their comments. Some of them have specific themes (e.g. share a link to something you wrote on the topic of history, or it might be a linkup for LGBT+ bloggers only). Others are open to all participants.

Generally, the host will ask you to give a brief summary of your site, share a link to a post, and then visit other posts in the comment section of that post. Be sure to follow any additional instructions they give you and check out the other sites, too. You might find some that are right up your alley!

Blog Hops

Finally, we come to blog hops. A blog hop is a weekly prompt that a group of bloggers all write posts about. The site that created the blog hop will provide a space for you to share a link to your response and click on links to the responses of other participants as well.

If you can think of a topic, there is almost certainly a blog hop for it somewhere. That directory I just linked to is just one of many out there.

Top Ten Tuesday and the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge are the two I participate it. They’ve brought quite a few new readers to my site over the last month or so since I first began doing them.

How many of these strategies have you tried? Ruth and anyone else who would like to chime in, what other questions do you have about blogging?

Additional reading:

15 Things I’ve Learned From 15 Years of Blogging

Blogging Advice: How to Begin Blogging

Blogging Advice: Brainstorming and Idea Management

Blogging Advice: Finding and Using Visual Images for Your Site

Not Everything Deserves a Response

There have been references to the argumentative nature of the Internet for as long as I’ve been aware of such a thing, much less an active participant in it.

Without giving away my age, I was around back when people got into never-ending arguments on message boards about topics that ranged from the serious to the downright silly.

For those of you who don’t remember those halcyon days,  message board discussions sometimes went something like this:

 

Thread title: Dogs Are Great

Anne: Here’s a humorous story about my dog not realizing that it’s Daylight Savings Time and waking me up an hour early for breakfast. I really wanted to sleep in, but he was so excited to spend time with me that I ended up getting out of bed early. Aren’t dogs the best?

Bernard: Oh, so you must hate cats then.

Anne: Wait, what?

Bernard: Obviously, everyone who loves dogs also hates cats. If you didn’t feel that way, you would have included cats in the beginning of this thread since they also like to ignore Daylight Savings Time.

Charlie: Yeah, what Bernard said. You really should have thought this rude thread through before posting it for these fourteen reasons that I will now list in exhaustive detail.

Diego: Well, I agree with Anne. Cats are the worst pets that have ever existed for these fifteen rebuttals to Charlie that I’ll now list in exhaustive detail.

Anne: ………..

Depending on how Anne responded once she realized that her innocuous thread about the joys of dogs had immediately been hijacked to argue about whether dogs or cats are the superior pet, this thread could go on for multiple pages and many days.

It didn’t matter what the original purpose of the message board was. I saw it play out on every one I ever visited. Maybe these kinds of arguments are an inescapable part of human nature in general.

At any rate, this pattern of behaviour carried over to social media as soon as such a thing existed. It’s shown no sign of of stopping since then.

No, this isn’t going to be a rant against social media or the Internet in general. Like many other tools, they can be used in all sorts of constructive or destructive ways depending on the intentions of the person behind the screen.

What I did want to talk about today is why not responding is sometimes the best possible thing you can do when someone online – or offline, for that matter – is determined to argue with you no matter what you say or do.

It Takes Two to Argue

I was originally going say that it’s impossible to argue with yourself, but I have seen a few examples of people so determined to win a debate that the lack of an opponent doesn’t do much to stop them.

Still, most arguments require at least two people to sustain them. If one person simply refuses to play the game, it becomes much more difficult for the other one to keep pressing their points. I don’t personally find any fulfillment in debating, but I’ve noticed that many people who do get a thrill out of any response you give them.

It’s not necessarily about the merit of the arguments themselves, it’s about the act of getting the other side to respond in any way.

Nobody’s Mind Will Change

There is nothing Anne can do to convince Bernard that her original post was intended to be lighthearted and happy. He is so determined to drag his own feelings about dogs and cats into every interaction he has that he’ll probably never stop.

Likewise, Bernard will never convince Anne that cats are better than dogs. That wasn’t why she originally signed up for this message board or started that thread. She has no interest in arguing with a stranger on the Internet on a topic she already has an opinion on, and there’s nothing Bernard can say or do to change that.

You’re Not the Cause or the Solution

A certain percentage of people have urges to do things like stir up conflict, always be right, or push their opinions onto everyone they meet regardless of the social context.

Nobody that I’ve known has ever learned to examine the reasons why they behave the way they do based on a conversation with a stranger. If or when they decide to work on changing those parts of themselves, they’ll seek out help on their own terms.

But you didn’t cause their behaviour and there’s nothing you can do to fix it. They are who they are just like you are who you are.

I Choose Peace

There’s something liberating about choosing not respond to everyone who wants to debate. The Bernards of the world obviously have the freedom to rant about cats and dogs as much as they wish, but they’ll soon learn that I’m not someone who will jump into fruitless arguments with them.

There are plenty of other folks on the Internet who are willing to do that, and I wish them well with their virtual battles.

How do you decide what you will and won’t respond to online?

Remaining Mindful on Social Media

Social media is a double-edged sword. On the positive side, I’ve met a lot of incredible people on Twitter and other sites that I never would have otherwise crossed paths with. I’m grateful for the opportunity to make friends from so many different parts of the world. They’ve opened my eyes to everything from social customs to tasty snacks that I would have probably never heard of if I hadn’t decided to sign up for accounts on those sites.

However, there are times when I’ve grow tired of the argumentative and dramatic cultures that have arisen on these platforms. There’s something about typing words out on keyboard that removes some people’s filters. They have the urge to say things online that most folks would never say out loud in front of everyone.

Some of my friends who are also interested in mindfulness have reduced their time spent on social media because of this. Honestly, I don’t blame them. I’ve cut back certain aspects of my social media usage, too. The gap between what these sites could be and what they actually are is simply too big to ignore in certain cases.

With that being said, something interesting has been happening to me on the various social media sites I use now that I’ve been practicing mindfulness regularly for a while.

For one, I’ve started to become hyper-aware of how I feel before, during, and after I use each one of these sites. When a particular leader of one of the most powerful countries in the world goes off on yet another prejudiced, incoherent rant online, my timelines fill up with people arguing over, joking about, and attempting to decipher what that person was really trying to say.

It’s not my place to tell others how to react to the things he says, of course. That’s not what this post is about at all.

What I am talking about is focusing on that moment when my body and mind begin to react to what I’m seeing or hearing. I feel conflicting needs to always know what terrible thing he’s planning to do next while simultaneously wanting a long, quiet break from all of that foolishness. It’s difficult at times to know when to lean in for more information and when to pull back and watch cute animal videos or take a walk instead.

This isn’t even to mention all of the other destructive things happening on various social media sites: mass outrage over something someone said or did; harassment; bullying; doxxing; pictures and stories about things that either never actually happened or that are so heavily edited it’s impossible to tell what’s really going on in them.

Filtering

The beautiful thing about mindfulness is that it doesn’t always have to be something that comes from within. There is definitely something to be said for learning how to focus in a noisy or distracting environment, of course, but there is also value in filtering out certain types of stimuli when such things are possible.

To give you another example of what I’m talking about, Ontario is having a provincial election today. (If you live here, go vote as soon as you finish reading this post!)

Many of my friends from this province have been talking about election issues and which party they think they’ll be supporting this time around.

I’ve been playing around with my filters during this election cycle. Sometimes I want to follow every hashtag and account related to the four major parties in Ontario. On other days, I only want the highlights or maybe even nothing at all. I decided who I’m voting for so long ago that there’s really no need for me to continue entertaining the various options.

Saying No

Sometimes saying no to certain hashtags, websites, groups, or users is the best possible response to something that is such contradictory mixture of helpful and harmful content.

I used to have a harder time letting go of stuff that

One of the beautiful things I’ve learned through the practice of mindfulness is how to say “no, thanks” without making a value judgement on a particular thing.

I’m not saying that everyone should mute that hashtag or stop visiting that site. If others find them useful, good for them.

They’re simply not things that work for me right now, anymore, or ever again.

Trimming the Excess

Yes, this means that I’m visiting fewer social media sites than I used to.

I’m no Luddite, but I do see the value in trimming away the things in life that no longer bring you joy. Why balance four or five accounts if they pull you out of what is happening at this very moment and make you worry about what might happen in all of the moments to come?

This isn’t something that makes sense to me, especially for ordinary people who aren’t celebrities or public figures. Again, this isn’t a guide on how everyone should live. I don’t judge others for updating Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Youtube, Google+, and a half-dozen other accounts every day.

Some people are content doing that.

It’s simply not something that brings peace to my life, however.

Respond

What have your experiences with the various social media sites been like? How do you remain mindful while using them?

Related posts:

What Twitter Taught Me About Mindfulness.

Who to Follow on Twitter If You’re Into Mindfulness and Meditation

A few weeks ago I started a new series of posts on this blog about Twitter accounts that share the same theme. This week I’m going to be recommending accounts that are about mindfulness and meditation.

There aren’t as many mindfulness and meditation suggestions as there were for the science fiction and fantasy version of this series, but I’m tentatively hoping to eventually write a part two for this once I’ve found more high-quality accounts that talk about it.

If you have suggestions for specific accounts to recommend or topics for a future post in this series, I’d be quite interested in hearing about them.

@bunnybuddhism‬.

The cute rabbit pictures were what first drew me into following this account, of course, but one of the reasons why I enjoy the tweets from the woman who runs it so much is how insightful she is about topics like grief, death, and truly living in the moment.

‪@tinybuddha‬.

This is the official account for a Buddhist website by the same name. They tweet a lot, but their articles are well-written and full of helpful advice for people from many different walks of life.

‪@yogainspiresyou‬.

Ntathu teaches yoga and meditation. I love the positivity of her tweets, especially when it comes to the short quotes she shares regularly.

@SatyaRobyn‬

Satya is a Buddhist priest I’ve known online for years. She has a lot of interesting things to say about mindfulness and her belief system in general.

‪@calm‬

This is a meditation app I’ve used off and on for years. The guided body scans in the app itself are fantastic, and their Twitter account is full of good information as well.

Previous posts in this series:

Who to Follow on Twitter If You’re Into Science Fiction and Fantasy 

How Social Media Is Changing the Rules About Spoilers

Those of you who have been following me for years might remember my post from 2014 about hating spoilers.

Since then I’ve been paying attention to how social media – especially Twitter – has been changing the rules about if, whether, and when it’s okay to share spoilers.

It was especially interesting to see how people reacted to The Handmaid’s Tale a few months ago because of how much faster that show was released in the U.S. than it was in other parts of the world.

Canada was always one or two episodes behind the United States depending on which day of the week you were on. Other countries were even further behind us.

People in the States were sharing spoilers before or right after the latest episode there ended. Even mainstream news sites were leaking plot twists as they discussed what had currently happened and what was going to happen next. I had to mute the hashtags for that show and avoid reading all news articles about it until I’d finished the whole series.

While I still believe that it’s rude to share spoilers for a show that has just aired, not everyone agrees with me and not everyone who does agree with me has the same rules about how to go about sharing them after a certain amount of time has passed.

The Old Rules

This varied according to which parts of the Internet you spent time in, of course, but I remember the old rules being as follows:

  • Always put a spoiler warning before sharing anything that mentioned even mild plot twists.
  • Don’t discuss the latest episode of your favourite show with people who haven’t seen it yet unless they tell you they don’t mind.
  • When in doubt, don’t mention it.

I do not remember the mainstream media releasing spoilers back then the way they do now. To be fair, I don’t know if that’s because I watched fewer shows at that point or if the rules have since changed for the media as well.

The Controversy

If cats knew what spoilers were, they’d disapprove of them.

I’m going to be doing some generalizing and simplifying here for the sake of brevity, but people who have an opinion on this issue seem to fall into one of two camps.

The first camp believes that everything is up for discussion the second a show has finished airing in their time zone. While some of them do warn everyone about their discussion of spoilers ahead of time, many others don’t bother to mention it at all.

Interestingly enough, my own mother belongs in this group. If I read a book or watch a movie that she hasn’t tried yet, she genuinely doesn’t mind hearing spoilers about it. This blows my mind sometimes, but I’m much less cautious about discussing how stories end with her than I am with almost everyone else I know.

The second camp is against all spoilers. We want to be warned of potential spoilers well in advance so we can avoid them. We often also want everyone to use the official hashtags for that show or movie so that we can mute them before any of the plot twists are revealed.

The New Rules

  • Always use the appropriate hashtags when discussing your favourite shows on social media.
  • Give people fair warning if you will be sharing spoilers.
  • Find likeminded people to discuss (or avoid) spoilers with.
  • Respect the rights of others to make different decisions.
  • When in doubt, don’t mention it.

From what I’ve seen, the Internet hasn’t yet come to a conclusion about how long everyone should wait before spoiler tags are no longer necessary.

I take a conservative approach and add spoiler tags to almost everything. Just because a book was released a few decades ago doesn’t mean that everyone has read it. While I do occasionally share spoilers about old movies, TV shows, and books, I warn people first in case they don’t want to know what happened.

It’s going to be interesting to see how all of this plays out over the next few years.  Is giving spoiler warnings for everything no matter when it was released the best way to handle it? I honestly don’t know. This is something I do as a courtesy for others, but I don’t think it’s currently realistic to expect everyone to follow this rule given how unwilling they are to wait even a few days to dissect current shows.

With that being said, I would like to see people become more aware of the fact that their favourite shows have global audiences and that not every country or time zone gets the latest episode simultaneously.

What Twitter Can Teach You About Mindfulness

Something fascinating has been happening to me recently on Twitter. Social media definitely isn’t the first place I’d expect to grow more mindful, but I’ve been learning more about what it means to live in the moment when I use this particular site for several different reasons. Reason #1: The Case of the Missing Tweets Every once in… Read More