Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Can you learn to be 'social' when using social media?

When I started blogging in 2005, one of the first things I did was study how the so-called 'successful' bloggers blogged. One of the bloggers I began reading was Hugh MacLeod at Gaping Void.

I noticed as soon as I started reading Gaping Void that Hugh wasn't blogging the 'right' way. Specifically, he was constantly linking out to other sites and bloggers. This was obviously 'wrong', because all he was doing was sending traffic AWAY from his blog. And if a blogger with several days experience could see this, I'm sure everyone else could as well. Obviously.

But as I kept reading Hugh (even though I knew how he blogged was 'wrong'), I began to notice that people were commenting saying that they appreciated the link to Seth's recent post, or Tara's post on Pinko Marketing. Then I saw someone comment that they loved reading his blog because of 'all the great links you share'.

Hmmmmm.....could it be that by sharing links to other sites that Hugh wasn't actually driving people AWAY from his blog, but instead giving people a reason to become regular readers?

Then soon after, another blogging epiphany happened for me. As I was doing a crash-course of reading blogs in an effort to uncover the secrets of being a great blogger, I began to find a post here and there that caught my attention enough to leave a comment. Then a day or two later I noticed that traffic to my own blog started suddenly going up. And for the first time, COMMENTS were coming in! Awesome! But the problem was, I still had no idea what had caused the floodgates to open. Why all the traffic and comments suddenly? Then my friend Jordan Behan left a comment and when he did, he THANKED me for commenting on his blog. I went back and checked, and sure enough, almost all of the comments I had suddenly gotten, were coming from bloggers whose blog I had commented on first.

What these two examples did for helping me understand how and WHY people use social media, is immeasurable. Share something of value with others (such as a link to a great blog post), and they will be thankful. Create something of value for them (such as a comment on their blog), and they will not only be thankful, but they will want to return the favor.

But when I started blogging, my thought was that you become a good blogger by creating great content, and giving people a reason to come to your blog, and stay there. I had to LEARN how to be social with social media. I had to figure out how the tools work, and why people are using them. Not to silo content and information, but to SHARE it.

I was thinking about this learning process as I read Robbin's post today. I agree, I think companies have to train their employees on how to use social media as well. And in reality, the only way to do that is by making mistakes. Even if a company hires me to help them learn how to use social media effectively, there's still a time when the training wheels have to come off and the company takes ownership of their own efforts. No one learns how to ride a bicycle without earning a few scraped knees first. Social media is no different.

BTW as an introvert, I really think this applies. When I first started using social media, I didn't want to interact with strangers, because I am hesitant to do so offline. I had to learn how to become more social online, and now I think I'm an online extrovert, and an offline introvert. Have any other introverts noticed the same thing?


Jeffrey Tang said...

I wouldn't go so far as to call myself an online extrovert, but I think there's a lot of truth to the idea of learning to be social by using social media.

In the process of blogging and joining various online communities, I've forced myself to make participation part of my day, and in doing so I'm becoming more and more comfortable with it.

There's no substitute for doing :)

Oleg said...

Thank you for interesting post.
I would completely agree with Jeffrey Tang, with one addition - for a complete introvert, even when involved in lots of social media over the years, there is still strong desire to give it all up, forget about everything and hide (which I will never do, of course, but anyway). Thus still long way to go to become an online extrovert, probably :)

Mack Collier said...

Agree, Jeffrey. At first I had to force myself to interact online, now I love it. And I also think it's helped me be a bit more social at offline events as well.

Scott Hepburn said...

I shared this post with a few clients today, Mack.

The process of "becoming social" as you explain it here is exactly why I think ghost-blogging fails.

It's not just about good content. Good content is definitely a huge factor, but by itself, it won't get you where you want to go. You need to read other blogs, comment on them, become a part of a community, and broaden those interactions to include Twitter, email, phone calls, in-person meetings and more.

It's hard to do all of that as a ghost.

It's also hard to learn. When I see people struggling to "get it," it's because they're too much MEDIA and not enough SOCIAL.

Great post, Mack. Thanks for sharing it.

Jordan Behan said...

Hey Mack!

For old times sake: thanks for the mention!

Hope you're getting a chance to enjoy some of the Olympics action from my fair city.



Mack Collier said...

Hey Jordan! Thanks for stopping by, and I added a link to Tell Ten Friends to the post! Hope you're enjoying the Olympics!

Davina K. Brewer said...

Mack, I'm also an introvert and lurked for a long time. Took a while to gain the confidence to post comments on other blogs, start my own and feel like I could contribute something of value. So glad I'm getting over those fears, learning to be more social!

As I read, comment and link to other blogs, I do get more comments on my own. I'm happy to return the favor, the RT and build on those connections.

Anonymous said...

I think it's easier for introverts to be social online as we can always be heard, it's just hard to break the habit of just listening/reading.

Legitimate Work From Home said...

I had to force myself to interact online, now I love it. And I also think it's helped me be a bit more social at offline events as well.

Karthik said...

Mack: Wonderful post. If 'introvert' was your issue, stammering was mine. For someone like me who used to stammer and as a result was forced to become an introvert, I used online tools to be a lot more social using what I always did best - write! Had explained in a post, that talked about content creation, yesterday -

Mack Collier said...

Introverts unite! ;) Thanks for the comments guys and your own perspective. Another way that I think social media makes it easier for introverts to connect is that we can come and go as we please. One thing I hate is being in a public setting talking to someone and there's that awkward feeling that the conversation has ended and you need to mingle, but how do you break away?

With online, such as using Twitter, you just turn it off. Makes it MUCH easier to jump in and out of conversations. Do you guys agree?

Mandy Vavrinak said...

Mack, it's my job to create connections. That requires a "social attitude" online and offline. Oddly, though, I am a bit of an introvert offline. I am comfortable with people, speaking, meeting, selling, etc., but it's draining. My energy comes from thinking, reading, writing and planning. Twitter, in particular is great for me because it lets me take energizing activities (writing, reading) and translate them into social ones (sharing, conversing) that might otherwise be energy-drains. Win-win! :)

Robbin Phillips said...

Well, Mack. Another good one and thanks for the link love.

I am a bit of both myself. A shy extrovert who loves to meet people and listen to the stories they tell.

Suzanne Vara said...

While I am not necessarily an introvert or an extrovert, it is easy to hide behind the computer and keep to yourself. It is easier that way as thinking what will I write or how will people judge me on what I do write.

I like the training wheel reference as yes there is learning and practice. I relate well to this as I recently taught son how to ride bike - training wheels and bruises were plentiful but I made sure we kept at it every day for a week and come day 8 he was a speed demon racing around the park. Now, in SM it takes longer but mistakes will be made but to go back at it and take the bruises as the reality is that bruises fade, the scars of giving up do not.


Promotional Products said...


I stumbled upon your blog while checking out if there is something to the point of real social life being born out of Social Media life. You make some great points in this post. I fist started asking the question when a bunch of friends found their to be spouses on eharmony and I think this is certainly worth looking into. Great stuff

Barb said...

I am definitely an introvert in person and online. LOL I have recently been tasked with managing the social media at work, and my biggest challenge is 'starting the conversation' with followers.
My to-do list starting next week is now including commenting on blogs. :-)

Anonymous said...

What a great resource!

Cory Grassell said...

I agree completely. Social media is a contradiction, in a sense, because it allows people to "hide" behind the cyber curtain. Social media definitely requires learning how to be social on the Web. And companies ought to train employees on the best practices for engaging socially via online platforms. And companies need to provide original, thought-leading content to engage visitors; give them a reason to visit your blog and network with you.

Ivan said...

Guy K (I believe it was) said our role was to act as hubs, i.e. distributing quality information with like-minded people.

If you can position yourself in people’s mind as someone who gather, distills and shares information, then people will come to you.

Why wouldn’t they?

Cynthia C. Cutright said...

Mack thanks for the post. I must say that this is the best I've read on the value of linking outside our own blog, commenting, and being social.