7 Reasons your Social Media is Stagnant (and How to Fix It)

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

  • http://www.devacoaching.com Sandi Amorim

    Oy, thought provoking! First impression is I’ve got to do more of numbers 1 and 2. It’s easy to keep reading the same stuff, the same people day after day. But that also makes it easy to tune out, skim and worse still, promote without reading. 

  • http://twitter.com/Chris_Eh_Young Chris Eh Young

    I’m pretty sure you know exactly where I stand on this. You just said it so much more eloquently than I could have. Thanks Amber.

  • Cathy

    Thank you! I needed to read this today.

  • http://kevinekmark.com Kevin

    Ugh… Way too guilty of #4.  Great post Amber!

  • http://flickr.com/tracylee Tracy Lee

    Thanks for a great post, Amber! It is good to get reminders to help stay focused and on track, especially for those of us who have been around this for a long time. Excellent advice for those starting out! You ROCK! (But we already knew that… ;)

  • http://flickr.com/tracylee Tracy Lee

    Thanks for a great post, Amber! It is good to get reminders to help stay focused and on track, especially for those of us who have been around this for a long time. Excellent advice for those starting out! You ROCK! (But we already knew that… ;)

  • http://twitter.com/SCHugarmama Christine Ryder

    Jeez.  It’s like you’re looking over my shoulder.  *sigh*
    Thanks for the thoughtful and actionable post.  I definitely need a refresher on why I’m doing this, and what I’m trying to do.  I’m getting bored and disengaged because the funnel got too wide and when you stop caring about the input, the output is bound to be crapola.  As usual, smart post on something I really needed to read. 

  • http://twitter.com/SCHugarmama Christine Ryder

    Jeez.  It’s like you’re looking over my shoulder.  *sigh*
    Thanks for the thoughtful and actionable post.  I definitely need a refresher on why I’m doing this, and what I’m trying to do.  I’m getting bored and disengaged because the funnel got too wide and when you stop caring about the input, the output is bound to be crapola.  As usual, smart post on something I really needed to read. 

  • Tracey Byrnes

    Straight to the point, insightful and refreshingly plain language.

    I swear you’re tapped into my stream of consciousness sometimes, though (and it’s pretty darn freaky, btw!), delivering that swift kick or “hey, stop and regroup” message JUST when my conscience needs that extra nudge to help overcome whatever stumbling block I threw into my own path. And on that note, I’m off to go get a bit more work done on #4…

  • Anonymous

    Very well written ! The simplicity in your explanations with such appropriate examples really got me thinking about my practices..

    Blackberry Application Development

  • Becky Graebe

    I feel as if I’ve been to church. Preach on, Amber.

  • Anonymous

    Very insightful! You must be reading my mind because you described a lot of where I am right now. Thanks for the insights and reccomendations!

  • Anonymous

    Very insightful! You must be reading my mind because you described a lot of where I am right now. Thanks for the insights and reccomendations!

  • Claude LaFrenière

    Great post Mrs Naslund.  :-)

  • http://twitter.com/RunningBecause David H.

    Love this post – definitely some things I can take from this and apply it to both my job and personally.

  • Anonymous

    Wow… this post simply hits you straight, with a thud.. and I’m loving items #3 and #7.  I think that we lost the fun in conversations these days as we try to be a human RSS feed on the loose, 24/7.  There’s nothing wrong with automating news that you think your peers will find interesting, so long as you spend more time getting to know them.  Whatever happened to good ol’ engagement these days?

  • http://twitter.com/Collectual Collective Intellect

    Great reminder that every situation is different and that generic best practices are just that – generic. There isn’t a pat, standard, default answer for working with or on social media, it’s definitely a trail and error process and that’s what can keep it both interesting/frustrating.

    Thanks for the insights!

  • Neil Renicker

    Great read; thanks. Especially appreciate #4 – a call to contribute. Thanks!

  • Nick Sweeney

    Thanks so much for this post, Amber. You’ve found a new follower, and if it ever gets overwhelming, I know I can always unfollow you. :)

  • http://thecontentcocktail.com Christina Pappas

    It’s amazing how the universe works sometimes! I’ve been having some health issues with a a botched wisdom tooth surgery and feeling pretty bad about the state of my face when all of a sudden I am noticing people all around me with worse-off conditions.In the same regard, I have been having some challenges getting excited about my blog lately and have not been too inspired to write. I love that you shared here that it took 3 times before you were good to go. Im not ready to give up on it, but Im thinking more about my priorities within social media and why they are my priorities.

  • http://www.datadoctor.biz recover data

    Great advice. Social media
    require effective strategy for engaging with people and creating brand
    awareness. I will implement these techniques in my marketing campaign.

  • Genevieve Jooste

    A perfect blog post for me to read today. Thank you Amber. Sometimes the fear of realizing that something isn’t working hinders me rather than pushing me forward to discover something new. The ever changing landscape of this space is really what moves me – that it is never the same is both terrifying and exhilarating. Sometimes you just need to jump in and go for it and as someone once said “fail quickly” if you have to fail and then move on. Great reminders. 

  • Kris10sl8

    Well done! I’ve become cynical lately with the conflicting advice bombarding me on Twitter. This however, is a happy medium.  

  • http://www.telemartnetwork.com/Herbal/24-Sandhi-Sudha.php Joint Pain Oil

    Nice blog!! I found this very interesting & useful that these are some points which we dont follow for our social media & its not fast moving. Time is crucial factor in it. As we go through it & follow these tips, our social profile will get mature & we will be visible in our network & outside as well, more easily. Thanks for sharing this blog with us.

  • http://blog.adminitrack.com/ Adminitrack

    I have definitely fallen prey to plenty of these!  Nice reminder to stay on top of things.

  • http://blog.adminitrack.com/ Adminitrack

    I have definitely fallen prey to plenty of these!  Nice reminder to stay on top of things.

  • http://heathero.com HeatherO

    Great post Amber! So so true! Everyone needs to ‘play in the playground’ that is the best fit for them AND focus less on “I’m not getting anything out of this” and more on “what can I contribute” (because that is when you get more out of it:)

  • http://twitter.com/markhrutledge Mark Rutledge

    I love your writing!! Very inspirational and very real. Lately, I’ve been feeling a little stagnant. I’ve been mulling over in my mind the idea of starting over. Re-focusing on what really interests me and not what I think I must focus on for the sake of business. 

    For example, I love conversing and talking about all things Native American, but I feel the need to also dive into the business end of things. Social media, Strategic thinking, ROI. My twitter, Facebook and my google+ lists all need a major overhaul or cleaning. :D  

    Sure my Klout score may drop to a single digit. But I can always bring it back up. Your article has given me the push to make a change. Chi-Meegwetch (big thanks)!