small change toward a rich life

Not a Social Media Expert: a confession and cry for help

Two weeks from tomorrow, I’m heading off to Denver for the second annual Financial Blogger Conference, also known as FinCon12.

FinCon12 | Denver | Sep 6-9I am dragging with me (from across the country) my best friend Stacy, who has been known to write a personal finance post herself from time to time, when her relentless day job as editor for CNN Money will allow.

While there I will see a few other personal finance writers that I’ve met before — JD Roth, Matthew Amster-Burton, and Donna Freedman.

Of the remaining three hundred some-odd people, I have a passing familiarity with the blogs and sites of perhaps a handful, only one of which I read regularly.

Apparently this makes me something of a crazy recluse in the PF world. It seems that many (most?) of the PF bloggers out there know each other, and constantly read and comment on each others’ sites.

Anyway, for several days now I’ve been trying to sample a goodly portion of those 300 blogs, so as to have some idea whom I might be meeting or listening to in a couple weeks.

That’s a heap o’ readin’. I’m drinking from the firehose here.

And I’m wondering: how the HELL does anyone keep up with this?

•   •   •

This is all just part of a larger conundrum: I am often overwhelmed by All The Online Things.

I do a lot of offline reading — something like 80-90 books a year, mostly nonfiction. The worst thing that happens there is that sometimes more books will surface simultaneously from the library hold queue than I can read in three weeks. In which case I triage and put the less urgent ones back in my queue, where they will magically pop up again at some future date without any further effort from me. Easy peasy.

But Twitter? Man, you have to catch that shit as it zooms by, or you are SOL. And frankly the signal to noise ratio seems painfully low, even though I curate the (non-friend) people I follow as strictly as I can. Am I somehow just doing it wrong?

carnival ride swooping lightsAlso, am I the only one that thinks blog carnivals are insane? Fifty-plus article links on a page is just way, way too much to handle, even with a sentence or two of commentary each. I see ‘Carnival’ in a post title and I physically flinch.

Blogs or tweets or whatever, eventually there gets to be just Too Much and I can’t keep up. And then I just stop. I avoid the milieu altogether.

I’ve been through the same cycle in the past with every social network I’ve tried. Hell, it’s even happened with email. (I’ve never formally declared email bankruptcy, but practically speaking it’s amounted to that at least twice.) I’ve fallen off Twitter several times. Posted an ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ status and ignored Facebook for most of a year. Got all excited about Google Plus and then stopped actually looking at it.

Twitter logo sand sculptureBut I’m making a serious play at building a bigger audience here, which in this decade apparently means social-networking it up all over the place. (Yeah, there’s always been networking in some form or another. But there was a time on the web where I could simply build write it and they would come. I hope it’s not too whiney-pants of me to say that I miss that.)

I have balls in the air, folks. And I know I’m not the only overcommitted soul out there, which means somebody must have more efficient processes for keeping up with everyone and everything else. If you are engaging regularly in online social spaces without getting overwhelmed, please tell me how you’re doing it. A process? A tool? I’ll consider any sort of suggestion.

Here’s my current practice:

  • I tried RSS once before and it didn’t stick, for assorted reasons. I’m trying it again now in some desperation. I’ve added 14 new PF blogs (and two I was already reading) this week to a Google Reader account. But if I don’t check it for three or four days (juggling!), the backlog is daunting. And that’s with just 16 feeds. Which I fear is just scratching the surface. Commenting, of course, has to be done on each individual site.
  • I am using HootSuite, in what I recognize is a fairly rudimentary way, to maintain my two Twitter accounts (@karawynn and @pocketmint). At the moment, between the two, I’m following around 150 people/accounts. (How very Dunbarian of me.) I feel certain I am missing some signal here.
  • Chinese bronze sculpture, face emerging from bookLast year I ruthlessly trimmed my Facebook friends back to people I’ve met in Real Life, and heavily curated who appears on my Facebook news feed. I may have gone too far, as now I feel a bit out of touch — but on the other hand, it freed up a lot of time.
  • I need/want to rearrange things on Google Plus, both a) find more interesting strangers and b) weed out some of the not-so-interesting strangers I have circled already. With what time, I have no idea. But overall I find the G+ format much more comfortable than either Fb or Tw. If only it were as well-established …
  • I am not happy with autoposting from Facebook to Twitter or vice versa because the formats are so different, so I’ve been doing them each by hand. (Multiple times, as my personal accounts everywhere have way more eyeballs than the Pocketmint-specific accounts.) I would love a way to cross-post to Facebook and Google Plus, but I don’t know of one.

Okay, all you social media mavens. What should I be doing differently?

(Photos by nate2b, Rosaura Ochoa, and laikolosse.)

19 responses

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  1. Abby says

    I’m not a maven by any means, but I have a couple of suggestions:
    1. Get rid of one Twitter account so that you only have one to keep up with. While Twitter seems like a lot to read/go through, the only tweets that really matter are the most recent ones, so don’t bother reading it like a book, just skim through and get the recent highlights/conversations.
    2. On Facebook, you can arrange your friends in lists–family, close friends, acquaintances, work contacts, etc. This lets you have multiple newsfeeds, so if you just want to keep up with family, you can go to that specific list instead of sifting through everything. When you have more time, you can check in on the more distant friends. You can also hide certain types of updates so that you don’t have to see absolutely everything your friends do.
    3. For your Google reader, try to check it often, like once or twice a day, the same way you would read a newspaper. The more you check it, the less time you have to spend reading. I don’t think you should feel obligated to read and comment on every single post, especially if it isn’t something that it interesting to you.
    I think that goes for any type of social networking, commenting, liking, tweeting, etc. The more often you check/read things, the more in touch you feel and the less time it takes out of your day. It seems less like a chore. Also, your feedback will be more genuine if you only engage when you’re really interested, and you’ll be more likely to check back and respond to a comment if it is a conversation you’re interested in having. Don’t do it just because you feel like you have to–do it because you want to!

    • Karawynn says

      Abby, thanks for the suggestions!

      Kill one twitter account, really? I guess I should have asked this question before I sent business cards for FinCon to the printer. :/

      Seriously, I’d like to know if one-and-only-one Twitter account is a general consensus. Since I can log into both simultaneously with HootSuite, I don’t feel like my inability to keep up has anything to do with having two accounts, and the option to have one semi-professional handle and one entirely personal one seems useful. Like I thought someone might like to read pf-related tweets but not my other random whatevers. But maybe no one cares?

      I’ve done some of that sort of organizing with Facebook, but I should do more. The main difficulty, however, seems to be that I forget to check the non-default lists. Out of sight, out of mind.

      Do other people read newspapers twice a day? Or even once? … Because I never did. Once a week, if that. Maybe that’s my problem right there.

      I used to check in on Facebook several times a day, and you’re right, it didn’t seem like a chore — but it ate a lot of time that I eventually needed to reclaim.

      And gosh no, I wasn’t thinking to comment on every single post! Even just the reading seems like too much. But as anyone who knows me will attest, I am not one to say things I don’t mean.

  2. Miki says

    I have a friend in town who is a social media consultant for small businesses and blogs – if you’re interested in bartering, it’s possible that she’d be interested in trading some of your expertise for hers, especially since she has quit her day job to focus on this and has some life plans that will require creative financing. :)

    • Karawynn says

      Hey Miki, sure. Why don’t you ask her if she’s interested, and put us in touch if so?

  3. Steven Saus says

    What Abby said, for starters. Seriously.

    CONSUMING: I rarely scroll back on Twitter or Facebook – it’s simply not possible. SocialFixer helps a lot with FB, but it’s still a pain. If it’s something that’s actually worth your attention, multiple people/sites will pick it up – and then it’ll hit your radar. Twitter lists are your friend. Curate them ruthlessly. You’re a content *creator*, not a consumer.

    PRODUCING: I had to actually map out the propagation network once – from various Tumblrs and G+ to Twitter, then from there to Facebook. (At least at present, it’s easiest that way.) My blog is my main content source, though I have a couple of Tumblrs that *only* serve for specific types of content.

    ATTITUDE: I don’t presume my peers read my blog(s), and vice versa. I will often begin a conversation with a peer saying *exactly that*. Sometimes they’ll have read the post I’m going to reference – great! Sometimes not. And – I can’t stress this enough – vice versa. Making the assumption that someone reads your blog smacks of pure ego.

    TOOLS: ManageFlitter (G+ to Twitter), Twitterfeed, RSSGraffitti (RSS -> Facebook), SocialFixer (makes FB navigable).

    • Karawynn says

      Steven, thanks for the software suggestions! I will clear some time soon and check them all out. After which I might just email you a question about your propagation map, if the reasons for that arrangement are not obvious by then.

      “You’re a content creator, not a consumer.” That’s a very interesting line, because it touches on the question of whether content creators have consumption obligations. Lately I’ve been feeling like the answer might be yes (or at least that many people think so, which is a sort of self-fulfilling rule). In which case I have possibly been remiss.

      I’ve always consumed content mostly for purposes of learning, and to a lesser extent to maintain pre-existing connections. I almost never use consumption as a networking strategy or to make new friends. I’ve always been a gatherer rather than a joiner. But I’m getting the impression that joining may be expected and/or necessary.

      And gosh no, I don’t assume anyone in particular reads my blog. Except Jak. I make Jak read all the things, always. :D

      • Steven Saus says

        There’s a degree of consumption required – but as you said, it’s for learning, not networking. Sure, reading and commenting elsewhere is good – it’s like asking the “smart questions” in class, where the instructor gets to know that you’ve passed that initial bar of comprehending the material. But it doesn’t establish your own ability or skills past that initial level.

        Just because you’re friends with someone (or in the same area of interest with someone) doesn’t mean you read their blog… or that you should. When we all get issued time-turners… THEN we can assume that. :)

        • Karawynn says

          You’re doing a great job of making me feel like I haven’t been doing it wrong after all. :)

  4. Stacy says

    I’m just planning to make friends at FinCon by sitting at the hotel bar and tweeting “HAI COME TALK TO US.” that’ll work, right?

    • Karawynn says

      … and right there, you’ve proved your social media superiority. ;) That would never have occurred to me.

  5. Kimberly C says

    I’m not a blogger (yet), but I tend to consume blogs one at a time, going through pages and pages of past posfs for one blog, then adding it to a list of blogs I keep up with daily. Definitely pretty small scale with just 10-15 blogs. I caught on to your blog by seeing you comment on Dogs Or Dollars and clicking through.

    • Karawynn says

      Welcome, Kimberly. :) I am honored to be one of your 10-15.

  6. Philip Brewer says

    I’m pretty ruthless about following people on Twitter in the first place. I’m delighted to follow-back people who tweet something once a day. Each additional tweet per day pushes up my signal-to-noise threshold considerably. And I, like others, long ago gave up any effort to read everything. When I come to my Twitter feed, I only read the latest 30 or 40 minutes, figuring that stuff older than that is already out of date.

    I’ve used an RSS feed reader for years now. (I used to use Google Reader until they broke it. Now I use Tiny Tiny RSS.) There’s no way I could keep up with the blogs I read without it. But with blogs I’m quite different from with Twitter. Anything that’s at all interesting gets added to the list of blogs I track—I probably have 700 feeds. But I make no effort to read all of it. I have a short list of blogs that I keep up with daily. The rest are organized into categories, and I read whichever categories I’m interested in on any particular day. So, one day I’ll read the blogs in the category Money, another day Fitness, another day Tools. Sometimes I’ll develop an intense interest in a topic and read a bunch of blogs for a period of time, and then largely quit reading. But I don’t unsubscribe, so I can dip back in anytime I want.

    I’ve never felt an obligation to read what my peers are writing. I recognize that this has meant that I’m not quite as much part of the conversation as I could be, but I’m okay with that. I aim to read the most interesting stuff, whether it’s part of the conversation or not, and then I write about whatever I’m moved to write about.

    • Karawynn says

      How is Google Reader broken?

      ZOMG on the 700 feeds. I don’t know if I could handle that … having the unread posts stack up like that makes me twitch. Maybe I could get used to it.

      Regarding the lack of obligation to read: you also are doing an excellent job of reassuring me that I haven’t been doing it wrong after all. Which is not the consensus I expected from this post, but it’s not a bad one …

  7. Erica / Northwest Edible Life says

    I’m here because I’m a friend of Dogs or Dollars, and you commented there, and viola. So in a way that commenting stuff does help other bloggers meet each other. BUT, really, I write for my audience, (some of whom are awesome bloggers in their own right) not other bloggers per se. I’m interested in delivering really useful content to the people who are looking for what I have to say. Sometimes the blogger world get’s a bit circle-jerky and there is no shame in not…uh…stepping into that circle. Following 300 blogs in any meaningful way is nearly impossible unless that really is your only job. I need to spend those 10 or 12 hours a day creating content or doing the stuff I write about that inspires the content. Read what you like. Don’t feel guilty.

    That said, here’s how I do it. I can only manage one – ONE – social media outlet because the thing about social media is, to so it right, it’s SOCIAL. Which means you really have to keep up a dialog with your audience. I’m too damn old and slow for twitter and I’m not quite anti-social enough for Google+, so Facebook it is for me.

    My facebook “professional” page is TOTALLY separate from my personal page and I recommend you keep it this way too. Keep your friends your friends and your followers your followers. Way easier that way.

    I try, most days, to put something up on my facebook page about every 2-4 hours from around 9 am until around 9 am. I post links to my blog and things my audience will think are discussion worthy. I post questions and resources and – most successfully – photos. On facebook, photos (including things that are direction-giving or idea-inspiring or quote-containing) are total share-bait. The idea is, make it as easy as possible for your followers to tell THEIR friends about what cool stuff there is on offer at your site and then more people want to hear what you have to say. Some days I barely touch FB at all. It happens.

    FB allows you to pre schedule posts. I take advantage of this as often as I am organized enough to do so. You can link a twitter acct to FB so that whatever you post on FB goes automatically to twitter. I do this too, that way what I’m sharing on FB reaches those people who prefer to follow me on twitter. But, just because of time, I have very little ability or desire to actively follow a twitter feed. If people direct mssg me I’ll usually (sometimes?) respond, but basically the twitter platform is just totally secondary for me. Pinterest is the same way, though there is HUGE marketing potencial in Pinterest for people who talk about food, garden, home stuff like I do. Like your other commenter said, when I get my time-turner… :)

    Other people will have different perspectives, obviously, and I do think twitter is better for connecting with industry peers, but at a certain point reading everyone else’s stuff
    doesn’t leave any time to make your own. And I really do think content is still king.
    That’s my two cents.

    • Karawynn says

      Thank you, Erica. It’s really nice to hear your perspective.

      I found your blog through Dogs or Dollars too, though I think it was a link from a post rather than a comment. Dogs or Dollars I discovered through a comment she left on Get Rich Slowly; it was a rare find for me. I like her writing style, which is saying a lot because I am damned picky as a reader.

      So obviously leaving comments on other people’s blog helps build audience. That’s clearly a consideration. But the, as you say, ‘circle-jerkiness’ is a new discovery for me. Like this blogger, who asserts that 80-90% of the readers of any given PF blog are other PF bloggers, and we should all just admit that and deal with it. Which really left me blinking. I don’t think that’s true of Pocketmint, but it’s hard to be sure, when only a tiny fraction of my readers have ever left a single comment. And if it’s not true for me now but is generally true, then does it mean that I’m missing out on a huge potential audience?

      This is all coming up because I’m going to FinCon, and reading the blogs of other attendees I guess I started to feel like … you know when you move to a new high school and everyone in your class has known each other since kindergarten, and has already decided who’s friends with whom and in what cliques? Like that.

      Re Facebook, I’m guessing that you meant ’9am to 9pm’, not every 2-4 hours around the clock. :D Now I’m going to go study your Facebook page … I am a bit envious of you (and Sarah) because chickens and gardens and dogs are so photogenic. Photoillustrating, say, car insurance is a lot harder. :| Which is also why I feel zero ability to leverage Pinterest.

      I HAD NO IDEA Facebook allowed you to preschedule posts. SERIOUSLY? How is this miracle accomplished?

      Anyway, thanks for helping me feel less guilty and possibly to do a better job of engaging. It looks like you’ve done a great job of walking the line between too much and not enough.

      • Erica / Northwest Edible Life says

        OK, about to run and get my daughter. Have 14 seconds. Do my a fave. Send me a really great one liner personal finance tip. Think something 20-60 words. Ideally something that will save people money. Email it to me. You have my email from this comment I think. I’ll email it back to you as personal finance link bait.

        And, yeah, 9 am to 9 pm. LOL.

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