Social media fatigue, social media frustration, “this is all a waste of time”, “we’re not getting anywhere”, you’ve heard it all. For some reason, we’re smack in the middle of the evolution curve when the luster has worn off piling on every network like so many dogs on on a bone, and we’re disillusioned that we haven’t seen magic and unicorns and glitter once we do.
Reality is setting in, and it’s not always pretty.
If you’re not getting the most out of your social media participation, or if you feel like it’s falling flat on either a personal or professional level, there might be a few things at issue. Have a look through the list below for some of the causes behind the symptoms, and what you might to do give your social a shot in the arm.
1. You aren’t exercising your filters.
Nothing destroys a social media presence faster than not being willing to exercise discretion in who you follow and connect with. Collecting people and connections like marbles means that soon you’ll have lots of numbers to point at, but a network that has about as much substance as a low-calorie beer.
Be willing to click the dreaded “unfollow” button. Unsubscribe to the blogs that you don’t scamper to read. Ignore the social networks that do nothing for you (and I don’t care what they do for your Klout score, people). Find the ones that make you WANT to go there every day and see what’s going on. Success and fulfillment in social is driven by enthusiasm and interest. Find yours, and don’t be afraid to adjust it along the way. Your social experience is almost fully within your own control. Humans and networks are dynamic, after all.
2. You aren’t following breadcrumbs.
Seeing the same old crap in your timeline or reader? Follow the breadcrumbs to different people and places.
Watch for interesting conversations. Look for interesting comments on posts on Google+ or on blogs from people you don’t know, and connect with them. Check out a Twitter chat that looks interesting, and watch who participates. Click on a link or two that people leave in their posts. Be willing to find uncharted territories, whether it be people or content, because the breadcrumbs are there for you to follow. If it doesn’t work out, you just exercise those filters all over again. But the internet is laden with new paths to follow. Sometimes they’re rabbit holes, but sometimes they’re gold, and it can be very valuable time spent if it leads you somewhere new and interesting.
3. You don’t take time to shut up and listen.
If all you ever do is crank out links to your stuff, praying for someone to click and validate your existence, no wonder you aren’t getting much out of this.
Read. Click other people’s links (well, not the stupid ones you get in your DMs, beware those my savvy friends). Watch a conversation or a chat and observe it, resisting the urge to jump in. Write some notes. Contemplate. Sit in silence and just think for a while. It’s amazing how much you can learn when your mouth (or keyboard) isn’t working overtime. I’ve found some of my greatest inspiration, clarity, and ideas from watching from a distance and just processing things for a while. I lurk. A lot.
4. You aren’t completing the cycle by putting stuff back in.
Related to the above, if you *over* consume, you won’t complete the magic social media cycle: listen, process, contribute, converse. Rinse. Repeat.
Give something back that has nothing to do with you. Not your posts or your ebook, no matter how valuable or relevant you think they are. Ask questions, and sit still for the answers. Share a great post from someone that’s looking to get a leg up in blogging. Dive into a forum discussion around a topic that’s important to your industry, and share what you know (and express what you might need to learn more about). Raise some money or awareness for a cause you care about. Write, but don’t publish. Make videos and pictures…about someone or something else. Sketch something. The social media ecosystem is fueled by not just consumption, but by contribution. We thrive on input AND output, and the cycle that creates. Be part of it.
5. You expect one thing to be everything, and won’t just walk away.
If the merry go round sucks, get off. Go somewhere else. Spend your time where you DO find value instead of wasting your breath bitching on the social network about the social network. Or, if your blogging isn’t carrying you where you want to go, maybe it’s time to stop and reassess and find a new focus.
The off button is okay. And it doesn’t have to be permanent. The social web allows us to be as fickle as we like. Hate Facebook today, find new hope in it tomorrow. Spend a few months blogging, hit a wall, start over, and watch it take off (I started four blogs before one worked). Above all? This isn’t a Chia Pet, folks. If it were as easy as smearing on seeds and adding some water, none of us would have to work at it and everyone would be doing it. Get realistic about the time and effort it takes, and find some satisfaction in THAT process instead of the magical, glorious, utopian result you’ve imagined but that is likely nowhere near what success really looks like.
6. You aren’t applying context or critical thinking.
You voracious content consumer, you. Always on a quest for research. Your bookmark account is overflowing (and whether you reference it much is another story)! Always accumulating every case study you can find, thinking that osmosis will kick in and you will absorb the wisdom of the ages by reading amazing books and blogs and videos about how to do social media. Then you go back to your own profiles and corporate accounts and wonder why the hell that stuff isn’t just magically transferring over.
You. Are. Different. Your person, your company, the entire woven fabric of your experience in social media is different from the next guy. Your goals are different, your circumstances are different. So are your strengths, your not-so-strengths, your company culture, your interests…it’s all different and unique. Which makes it tricky, but it also makes it awesome. The only way any of the “best practices” or other generic, prescriptive advice (including every stitch of content on this blog) makes any sense at all is if you parse it through your own lens and filters, and use critical thinking.
Ever try and diagnose your own illness on something like WebMD? Take a million possible generic symptoms, and suddenly ALL of them sound like you and you’re convinced you have the Mutaba virus with a side of a very rare but deadly disease contracted from alpacas.
We do the same thing all the time with social media content and instruction. We read it all, and try to cram it together and do everything (which means we do nothing). Stop it, right now. Read, process, be selective about the parts that seem to make sense for you, and jettison the rest. I mean it.
Your job in this new era is to unravel and assemble the melange of objectives, strategies, and tactics that apply to YOU and no one else. Then? Apply them, with all of the work and determination and trial and error that comes with it.
7. You forgot why you started.
How often do you sit down and simply ask “What am I trying to get out of this?”
Don’t answer with a string of jargon that sounds like The Strategic Imperative Paradigm Handbook For The Intellectually Gifted. I mean, why do you get up and do this? Is it because your boss wants you to (which is a fair answer, btw)? Is it because you love the conversations you have with friends? Do you love to write and share? What in the world makes this any fun or rewarding to do at all?
It’s a much harder question than you think, and the answers might change over time. But you need a touchstone that you can always come back to. When the avalanche of social media seems to be sweeping you along with it and you’re not driving anymore, you need to be able to look at what you’re doing and see if it’s remotely in touch with why you started to begin with.
Me? I started because I see magic in what happens in between the connections, the contributions, the give and take of teaching and learning, and the collective spirit that emerges when a community – no matter how small – manages to come together and make something bigger. My driver? Words and conversations (which is why I focus on my blog, and networks that are driven more by conversation rather than creating a lot of photos or video myself). I see it daily, and it’s what reminds me where my efforts are best spent. Find your touchstone.
Keep in Mind…
Stagnation is not a permanent state. It’s only as stuck as you let it be. I’ve yet to encounter many things in this crazy social media world that can’t be shifted without a good shove in another direction. Inertia works.
Feel bored, stuck, frustrated, overwhelmed? Take charge, and take stock. The internet will live without you for a while if you need to step back and figure it out. No puppies or unicorns will die if you change your approach and do something different. There’s always a reason, always a different choice, and each and every one of you is equipped to find it and fix it.
Now, off with you. Go start kicking over some rocks.
image credit: mckaysavage