Bump in Stats: Social Media Blackout Results

I don’t have a ton of time today, so I won’t be able post a ton of graphs like I wanted to, but I did want to talk about the fact that all of my stats: e-book sales, RSS/web traffic and social media followers (with the exception of Twitter) went up.

  • My RSS feed subscribers increased by twenty percent.
  • My newsletter subscribers increased by fifteen percent.
  • My overall traffic (comparing the same time frame to the previous) went up by ten percent.
  • Book sales for Paths of Storytelling, which was a collaborative work I contributed to, hit a milestone sales status on DriveThruRPG.
  • Book sales for non-new releases like The Queen of Crows continued to trickle in.
  • My Twitter followers decreased overall by 50 followers whereas my Facebook friends increased by 125 (combing personal and the fan page I set up).

Combined, what this data tells me is that the conventional wisdom holds true. Content is valuable and to get more “out of” your content — you need to watch where you put it.

Before I went on this blackout, I said that it’s not a good idea to put content that is archive-worthy on Twitter or Facebook. It’s better to house it on your own website because then, by owning the content, you draw people back to “your house.” You’re not partying in someone else’s mansion with your own crystal. To me, these stats prove that. Content is worth something.

The Twitter followers could have gone down either because I wasn’t engaging people in conversation or Twitter updated their spam filters. I’m assuming Facebook went up because the way their algorithm works? You only see a fraction of the people you’ve friended anyway and you have to keep futzing with the controls to get your view working right. Not to mention, the abandonment of a Facebook friend takes more effort than a simple “unfollow.” In some ways, FB is harder to maintain once you get into it.

The other thing this tells me, is that now when I figure out a cost/benefit analysis for the work it takes into increase social media followers versus website visitors — I can better assess what’s worth the effort and what’s not.

Monitoring, measuring, accessibility and analyzing social media are a few of the hidden costs of being ON social media. (With or without e-mail notifications, you still need to know the trends to stay relevant and sound genuine.) But, like research for an article, it’s a cost that can be taken for granted.

Then add the money statement on top of that: List three reasons why I am using these tools.

Here’s mine BEFORE the blackout:

1) Connect with readers

2) Network/Communicate with industry folk

3) Touch base with family and friends

Here’s mine AFTER the blackout:

1) Be a part of the community

That’s it. Why?

Because no one is “just” one thing. As much as people whine and moan about hearing what someone had to eat or listening to them talk about their illnesses or grandmother’s community or stamp their feet about the so-called rules of engagement… it wouldn’t be social media otherwise. You can’t build networks of people and expect them to follow all of the social rules that typically don’t incur negative results.

Now, if you started charging people for being trolls on the other hand…

I think the interesting thing for many people isn’t figuring out what they want to get out of social media, but how best to interact within the neighborhoods they feel most comfortable in.

By the way… I was curious to see if anything changed, so I was watching my Twitter stream on my second monitor today. Three fails. Oy.

I have to tell you, even though I knew intellectually what was valuable and what wasn’t, I didn’t really feel comfortable sticking with my own advice until I removed the tool I was abusing myself.

100 Days Social Media Experiment: The Results

All this week I’ll be releasing a five-part series about the results of my social media experiment. 100 Days: Turning Off the Lights on Social Media kicked off the series in early April and I’ve been blogging about my observations here and there. Now that I’m drawing this experience to a close, I’m happy to share my conclusions and results.


When I first started this experiment, I had no idea how much social media played a role in my life as an author and a friend. I was frustrated and overwhelmed, because I felt obligated to use the tools and be connected at all times. I didn’t realize how much of a perceived burden this connectivity was until I wrote this article entitled Hunting Down the Value of Social Media on SFWA.org and had a frank chat with my friend Matt Forbeck.

After being in e-commerce and online marketing for so many years, Matt had pointed out I was hyper-sensitive to certain sticking points. So, on a surface level, I was getting really annoyed with day in and day out personas of people I knew that were trying to present themselves in a different light to get visitors or clicks. Remember, I travel in many creative circles, so it’s not just “one or two” friends and acquaintances that place a lot of value on their web presence. It’s — quite literally — hundreds.

While I have “unlearned” something often preached about in online marketing — the idea that there are best practices and one must not (typically) deviate from them — at the time I was more opinionated than I wanted to be and, without realizing it, I was really angry with myself about that because I’ve always prided myself on being fair. If anything, this experiment has allowed me to return to my core philosophy: do what works for you.

I’ve made my peace with rampant self-promoters and exaggerated personas, in part because I didn’t see the micro-trends and the near constant “fails” for a few months. The sheer lack of critical comments, opinion and feedback from hundreds of people allowed me to simply…be. The voices in my head returned, my writing is back to the level where it needs to be, and I’m taking calculated risks with my work.

Once I realized that my frustration with social media was the real reason why I felt compelled to stop using it, I dug a little deeper. I wanted to know whether or not it had any real, tangible value to my website or my work.

    Three Questions I Wanted to Know the Answer To

    1. Did getting off of social media hurt my book sales or my chances for publication?

    No.


    2. Did getting off social media hurt my website traffic?

    No.


    3. Did getting off social media kill my social media presence?

    No.

This week I’ll explore these answers and questions more in depth. I’ll also be talking about ways I’m going to manage my social media presence since I’ll be back online more regularly on Wednesday to prevent that feeling of obligation from ever happening again.

If you have any questions or comments about this experiment, feel free to post them and I’ll try to address them this week.

Thanks for being such a valued part of my readership!

100 Days Experiment of Social Media Silence is Almost Over!

So it’s almost been a hundred days since I’ve been off of Facebook, IMs and Twitter for personal use, and…

…it’s about time.

It has been an absolute chore trying to connect with friends, readers and fellow gamers outside of these tools. Some people are only accessible via Facebook. Others rely on one tool or the other.

Not to mention, both Facebook and Twitter upgraded their messaging system. Now I get e-mails every time someone mentions me on Twitter, re-tweets a link, likes me on Facebook, etc. I even got a message that sounded a little creepy from Facebook, like Hal from Space Odyssey: “Monica, your friends are waiting.”

Last week I logged in to do some maintenance, and over the weekend I broke my silence with a single word: beer.

While I probably won’t be using the tools as much as I have in the past, a hundred days was a long time to conduct this experiment. I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been offline but, in the end, my conclusion is the same as my assumption: it’s just a tool like any other.

The interesting thing, is that getting off of social media has allowed me to do away with some really bad habits of mine. Like whenever I saw a “fail” meme, I felt obligated to uncover the real story instead of just blowing it off. Or when I noticed a blatant falsehood or incorrect piece of data, and felt it was necessary to help the person out — whether they wanted it or not. (You know, because no one is wrong on the internet… ever…)

The funny thing is, I’m finding that the less I know the better I feel and the more focused I am. I turned off Google Alerts and I’ll be turning off notifications, too. While I don’t (won’t) do away with social media completely, I feel I’ve finally got a grip on what I want to use the tools for.

And the best part? I no longer feel obligated to use them.

Less than a week and a half to go! Oy! In the meantime, I’m going to take a break from blogging this week so I can focus on my vampires.

‘Till then!

Day 74 of 100: Reinforcing Silence

Today’s post will point you to an article on the SFWA.org blog that I feel is extraordinarily relevant to being creative. The author, Leo Babauta, spoke to several writers, actors, musicians, etc. on the value of solitude and what it can do for you. Then, he goes on to explain how participation is also crucial. You can’t have one without the other and, if this social media sabbatical has taught me anything, I am finding that to be the case in my own life.

Here’s a quote from the article:

I’ve reflected on my own creative habits, but decided I’d look at the habits that others consider important to their creativity. I picked a handful of creatives, almost at random — there are so many that picking the best would be impossible, so I just picked some that I admire, who came to mind when I thought of the word “creative”.

This was going to be a list of their creative habits … but in reviewing their lists, and my own habits, I found one that stood out. And it stands out if you review the habits and quotes from great creative people in history. — SOURCE: The Number One Habit of Creative People

There’s several great quotes in the article and it does offer quite a few tips. The Number One Habit of Creative People is definitely worth a read if you have your time.

Day 43: Personal Development By Way of Slowing Down

After I wrote my article for SFWA.org about my hunt for the value of social media, I realized that I’ve reached a new “phase” in my experiment.

Whether it’s a side effect of not being plugged in twenty-four seven or not, my habits have slowed down considerably. It’s not just caffeine consumption; I’m processing information more slowly and thoroughly than I have in the past six months. After a fashion, this makes complete sense to me. Several studies have pointed out how the web changes not only the way we think, but rewires our brains. For example, you can read this article dubbed Author Nicholas Carr: The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires our Brains. Or check out Does the Internet Change the Way We Think? on Newsweek, where a neuroscientist makes the claim that it doesn’t.

Dealing with what I have been, I would argue that it absolutely has an impact on the way that I think and process information. Typical habits and personality quirks aside, what I suppose is this: because I’m not being bombarded with data point after data point, my mental response time has been adjusting to the lack of information I come across in a day. For the past two weeks, especially after being taken down with a nasty cold, my inertia has slowed.

If you’re keeping up with the analogies I’ve been giving, I’ve mentioned how it feels like I’ve been a student in a school of fish swimming this way and that, in perpetual motion. When I left the school, I headed toward the bottom of the ocean. At first, all I could see is a reef of coral because that was my destination. Then, I literally touched the sea floor and slowed to a halt.

Mind you, I’m not the type of person that can handle just “sitting still” for too long. At the bottom, though, I experienced something I haven’t in a long, long time — silence. Sheer, unadulterated, quiet. Then what? I can’t just sit there and wait until this experiment is over with. Right? Right. My thinking, is that in order for me to function more quickly, I either have to consume or process information more quickly, too. For me, the way to do that, is to become a student once again. To learn. To deliberately choose what I want to know, enhance or revisit.

For the past couple of years, there’s been a number of “personal development” type projects and initiatives I’ve always wanted to do but never got around to doing. Volunteer work. Revisiting my graphic design and layout skills. Running a 5K. (I have a long list.) In the past, the challenge I had, was that I was looking at these experiences from the perspective (or the visualization) that they were already done. So the progress from Point A to Point B (a.k.a. “the journey”) was lost in my expectations for constant progress. While the internet isn’t responsible for my demands (or expectations) of immediacy, I certainly believe it contributed to it. This is part of our culture — get it now. And in my mind, that’s not necessarily a good thing. We admire the artist who can paint an incredible portrait, but we don’t see the hours of practice. The same is true with just about any other creative talent out there — including writing. In a way, I feel talent and ingenuity have turned into thirty-second novelties. To be an expert at anything, takes time and experience. You can read the information and obtain substitute programs that’ll replicate certain tasks, but that’s not the same thing as doing it yourself.

What getting offline has done to my thought processes, is slow them down to the point where my mind cleared. Tabula rasa. Blank slate. By slowing down, I was able to get back to the basics in a valuable, meaningful way. Instead of submitting every short story I write, I’m playing around with techniques in a story I don’t intend to sell. Same goes for just about everything else I’m doing, too. Walk for fitness before run. Learn new jewelry-making techniques by focusing on basic designs before creating the ones I want. Etc. Etc.

Getting back to the “bottom of the ocean” analogy, I floated down onto the sea floor and stopped. Then, I realized I could go in any direction I wanted to, as opposed to following and connecting with the crowd. (In this case, quite literally. For to engage socially, you have to use the tools everyone else is using, too.) Once I clearly identified the areas I wanted to develop, then I started over from the beginning and am building momentum to create and do some really fun things. I’ll be showing you some of those projects over the next couple of weeks, too.

Now that I’ve got forward momentum on the personal development aspects, my next step is to speed up my productivity and get back to where it used to be. For that? I’m going to turn back to the clock and start building in some routines.

In the end, what’s happened here is a complete ideological shift by way of a slower thought process. Because I no longer feel compelled to share my knowledge or participate in a social network, I’m not proving or professing my expertise (either consciously or subconsciously). The end result of not doing that anymore, is that my focus is on development to increase my skills and my talents. The silence and sheer lack of social pressure (whether perceived or not) allows me to do that without fear, without time constraints. If I screw up, who cares? If I fall down, I get back up. If I do something amazing? I don’t have to show the “one awesome thing” right away. Instead, I’m going to work towards several awesome things. With the way my creative energy has exploded, I’m already well on my way to doing just that.

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