How Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Comments Killed Your Blog

This is a guest post by by Jennifer James, APR.

So remember these two things: you are talented and you are original. Be sure of that. I say this because self-trust is one of the very most important things in writing.

-- Brenda Ueland, If You Want To Write, 1938

We've all done it. Blogged the mind-boggling life experience. Tweeted the terrifically funny. Posted the undeniably profound. And, we've all had it happen: Absolutely Nothing.

Nobody re-tweets your remarkable one-liner. Nobody comments on the post you poured your tenderness and intellect into, and nobody, absolutely nobody, submits it to StumbleUpon.

Welcome to the rough-and-tumble, highly competitive world of blogging. The long tail ain't for sissies, friends.


My Journey

I've been blogging since 1999. I began on the Open Diary, safeguarding my identity for eight years. I cherished my two loyal followers. Then in 2006, I went public with a new blog, and by 2008, I was blogging daily. Since that time, my blog has been featured in the National Associated Press, the Washington Post, Tulsa World, The Oklahoman and more. I most recently began providing a weekly radio commentary on KOSU, a National Public Radio station that broadcasts in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City. I feel grateful to have come so far, and yet I know I have at least that far to go to meet my goals.


I'm Rambling and Incoherent

Despite my success (albeit modest when compared to Dooce or The Pioneer Woman), I continue to deal with one of the greatest challengers any blogger will ever face and that is rejection. For example, recently, an acting professor at a local university posted on Facebook that my public radio commentaries were rambling and incoherent and an embarrassment to the station. Here is a screenshot of our exchange.

negative comment

It would have been easy to crawl under a rock, but the truth is, I'm not a stranger to this kind of criticism. In 1992, while working in Air Force Public Affairs, I interviewed a 10-year-old whose parents had both served in the Gulf War. The little girl told me in the interview that every day when she got in the shower and the water poured over her she cried and worried that she would come home from school and find that her stepfather's car wasn't in the driveway. He, too, like her mother, would have gone off to war leaving her alone on a military base to fend for herself.


Accused of Lying

I was certain this feature story would win me accolades Air Force-wide, maybe even make it into Air Force Times. Instead, the girl's parents accused me of making the whole thing up. They complained to the installation commander, a two-star general, and the story was effectively killed. Luckily, I had one of those mini tape recorders and I always recorded every interview in order to get my quotes right, but, it still hurt to think someone would think I'd do that.


Public Criticism

In 2006, after the birth of my son, I wrote an opinion editorial for our local paper. It was intended to be a light-hearted look at my own heartbreaking realities. For example, I wrote that I was so busy I cleaned the tub while I peed, and that I was so isolated as a working mom that my current best friend was the girl in the drive thru lane at the local Taco palace. I was stunned that anyone would find what I wrote the least bit offensive, but both working dads and stay-at-home moms had a field day. With me!

Public criticism had some unexpected gifts, though. It made me stronger and comments like the one from Mr. Fall only help make me better. So, I'm grateful for them, not bitter about them. It takes time to arrive at this station though. It doesn't happen overnight. As a graduate professor wrote on the top of my first short story, "The world needs to hear the things you have to say, the way you say them." It's the only paper from college I ever kept. Even at my lowest point, I continue to believe him.


The New Public Square

Today, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and even your own blog are the equivalent to the old public square where people once gathered for parades, carnivals, shopping and conversation. It's appropriate to use the town green as a place to market products; greet friends and even make new ones. But, returning here time and time again for validation is how social networks killed your blog. You used them to seek acceptance, approval and adoration. When it all left you wanting your motivation and creativity suffered.


Thumbs Up!

While comments, re-tweets and thumbs up are all nice, they all too often become a temporary charge. They're like a fix that gives you a buzz, but they rarely, if ever, inspire new content. In fact, they just leave you hungering for more accolades. In order to succeed you must get off this train and stop this vicious cycle.


Refocusing On Content

Here are some tangible resources to help you refocus your efforts on content creation:

  1. Manage Digital Distractions. Turn off email notifications while creating documents in Word, etc. You can't connect with your highest self, your muse or your critical thinking skills when you are getting popup and push notifications of comments, LinkedIn requests, Twitter updates, etc. These notifications create disarming distractions. Recognize that you may seek them out as a way to avoid creating content and even out of fear of success. Imagine that! Humans can be so complicated.

  2. Get To Know Outlook. Speaking of electronic notifications, set a schedule for when you open and respond to email. Outlook has a lot of bells and whistles for helping you  manage the communication stream. Learning can be key to staying organized and on task.

  3. Set a Schedule. It's very easy to get sucked into the Internet. Set a schedule for social media and social networking. Create timeframes for when you will post content to Facebook and Twitter, etc. Buy a timer and set it when you jump onto Pinterest. When the buzzer goes off, you'll know it's time to get off and move on to other tasks. Also, check out various tools like Hootsuite to manage multiple social media accounts.

  4. Unplug. Turn off your mobile devices while writing. The call, text and instagram photo can wait. Really.

  5. Go Minimal. Use a plain text editor like notepad to draft your blog posts. After all, the ideas you put into words is what matters most. Go a step further and use a professional writing application like QuietWrite, PenZen or Byword. These tools provide online writing environments that are minimal and free of distractions. I know several writers who swear by these.

  6. Hire Someone. If you have some money to invest, seek out independent PR practitioners and digital strategists to manage social media efforts. These professionals usually operate with very little overhead and can work wonders managing your social media and digital content needs.

  7. Live An Interesting Life. When I'm not blogging, I'm a part-time director of a nonprofit and a part-time PR/digital strategist. I have worked from home for the last four years, and I know from personal experience it's very easy to live like a hermit. Again, set a schedule for exercise, coffee with friends, etc. Like one of my favorite writers said, writers live interesting lives. If you aren't living an interesting life, then take steps to reinvent yourself. Dive into a new medium like digital photography or chalk art. Do something that involves creating content in a different venue. Resist your usual haunts. Visit cultural enclaves in your city to gain new perspectives. I do this all the time and it works wonders for my creativity. Remember, people don't fall in love with movies as much as they fall in love with actors. The same is probably true of blogs and bloggers.

  8. Never Surrender. While you may never become a famous blogger, you can still be successful and make a big difference within your cause, community or niche. Believe that you have information that people want and need, even if they don't pat you on the back, give you a thumbs up or share your content.

The folk singer Brett Dennen said it best in his song, Don't Forget:


You are a secret
Waiting to Be Found Out
Soon Be What Everyone
Is Talking About...

Even if you never hear them, when you tell the truth and write from yourself, you are original. Your helpful spirit makes a difference. Writing to be read is brave. You are brave. Press on!

About the author
Jennifer James, APR, is an American mother and Oklahoma writer. She writes about generations on her blog, Are You There, God? It's Me, Generation X (jenx67.com).

17 comments to "How Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Comments Killed Your Blog"

GABixler May 11, 2012 at 10:01 PM    

Hi...I just had to respond! And join the site...

I can't figure out why you say that your blog was killed by the other sites. For me, it has been the opposite...

Would like to see more specifics and let's connect on other sites? I'm curious...

Best
Glenda

Sine May 12, 2012 at 7:49 PM    

Jennifer - I agree with everything you've said. This is very well written. I absolutely know that feeling when you were so inspired and wrote your absolute best piece, ever, and no one even notices. It can be crushing. And then you go to Facebook and someone posting about how tired they feel today gets 20 comments in half an hour. Any serious blogger will find a lot of truth in this article. Some of my best writing comes when I've a) had an interesting experience that was usually something out of my comfort zone when I would rather have stayed home blogging, and b) when I've been disciplined, turned off everything and focused on writing for several hours non-stop, without worrying about who might have responded to something I wrote.

Vanessa - Designer of Vanith May 12, 2012 at 11:06 PM    

Jennifer, this is a WONDERFUL article. This is perfect timing and great advice as I just started my own blog. The social media aspect has been daunting for me. You have given me a fresh perspective on my content and for dealing with the social aspects. THANK YOU!!!

Rosie@leavesnbloom May 13, 2012 at 5:27 AM    

Hi Jennifer

It used to bother me on twitter and fb when I rarely got a response or a retweet so I tried to remedy that and ended up spending even more of my precious time on there. Nowadays I'm not so bothered though still delighted if I get a retweet, repin, comment on FB, G+'d or get stumbled. I limit my time on those platforms try to focus my attention is on being creative as I get so many more unique things to blog about.

Jennifer James May 13, 2012 at 5:39 AM    

@SINE - I just took at look at your sites. It must be quite an adventure - JoBurg as you call it. Thanks so much for your comment. I can't tell you how many times I've been on FB and had that same experience - seen some status update that is about as meaningful as "My fan broke," and it gets a dozen thumbs up. I was going to include some quotes from Henri Nouwen, but included Ueland instead. But, Nouwen's books have helped me a great deal as a writer let go of the need for validation, confirmation, and the proverbial Thumbs Up! Have a great day! - And, thanks, GreenLava, for letting me guest post!

Jennifer James May 14, 2012 at 11:31 AM    

@VANESSA - Good luck with your new blog. After all these years, I'm training myself to focus only on the feedback loop and not on numbers. That frees me up to just create.

@ROSIE@LEAVESnBLOOM - I agree - the validation and feedback are great - and even helpful in some ways as you try to tailor content for an audience. But, like you said - we are more creative when we aren't watching water boil - which is what it's like waiting for a thumbs up on FB sometimes. =)

Martin (Lemonade Media, Web development Beijing) May 15, 2012 at 8:06 PM    

There is something missing in most Social Media. I believe Social Media like FB is fast food communication. A blog is more personal and more well-thought. People usually think before writing something on a blog. I would say that Social Media are more impulsive in the sense that people do not think before replying to a post. It is so interactive and so fast that there is something that is lost in the process... Blogging is old-school and old-school is always cool.

Mister Leaf May 22, 2012 at 8:33 PM    

Hmm, on the other hand, comment might help to increasing the traffic.

Jennifer James May 26, 2012 at 9:54 PM    

@MARTIN - I've been blogging going on 14 years. It's hard to believe we can think of it as "old-school," but I love that analogy. And, I agree, the impulsive nature of social media (my impulses included) are a big detractor from thoughtful dialogue.

@MISTER LEAF - Yes, that's true. Great blog content goes viral via social media.

Thanks, ya'll!

Blogger Tricks May 31, 2012 at 1:21 AM    

Nice post, thanks

seo company uk June 3, 2012 at 7:08 PM    

Jennifer, this is a GREAT post. This is certainly optimal timing and also great tips and advice because I just launched my blog. The social media aspect has become daunting for me personally. You have got given me personally a fresh perspective on my information material and also for dealing with the social aspects. THANK YOU!!!

day2dayblogs June 9, 2012 at 12:25 PM    

Nice post jeniffer.

Dilshard Seneviratne June 15, 2012 at 2:59 AM    

Hi,made my first blog two days ago. i know nothing about blogging and i'm new to computers eagerly learning. After reading your post i decided to be original in future. not a copy cat. thanks for changing something in me.wish you the best jennifer.

Dave Lucas December 9, 2012 at 9:45 PM    

Timing is everything - we just can't predict where all of these social networks and blogs and smartphone apps are going to take us next!

trackback

sunil chhabra February 26, 2013 at 6:49 PM    

Thank you so much..great article....it helps me a lot in my future......thanks for sharing....keep the good works going...-)

Aeroplane and Apparel March 16, 2013 at 9:52 PM    

Nice words, but I did not understand your reference to all the stories before you talked about social media and how to start blogging...are they some how related?

Aeroplane and Apparel March 16, 2013 at 9:53 PM    

But I do like your word of encouragement though!

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