Bonus points if you read the title of this post and instantly had a certain song start playing itself in your head.
I'm a writer. An author, a blogger. Slowly but surely, I'm building a social media platform and I'm learning about business operation, growth, and management. All of these things are happening at once for me, behind the scenes of each blog post, each chapter of each book. Each Patreon story ... each social media tidbit.
Most of what I've learned is trial and error - I've messed up a lot. I've said things I wished I hadn't, I've posted things that maybe were unwise. I'm sure I've accidentally alienated readers that might have been valuable to my career. In the business world, I've made - and lost - friends.
But through it all, one strong lesson remains - a lesson that's hard for me to accept sometimes, a lesson I'm not always prepared to truly embody.
BUSINESS SUCCESS - REGARDLESS OF THE BUSINESS - MEANS ...dun dun dun ... NETWORKING.
I know, I know. It sounds intimidating, sure, especially if it's an unfamiliar concept. But it boils down to one simple thing that even the most business-ignorant person can learn to master - it all boils down to being friendly. Why? Because when you take the time to make friends, you create meaningful connections - not only with your readers, but with your colleagues. Share their work ... let them help share yours. Networking is, after all, the magic formula to everything - and, even as painfully introverted as I am, I'm okay with that.
But the fact is, there are some parts of it that I just can't get into.
I mean, don't get me wrong, I can play well with others just as much as the next kid, and I genuinely try to always see the best in other people, even if I disagree with them. I seek the good, even when the chances are high that the good simply isn't there - my personal history is a testament to this.
So, I get out on social media even though I'm not passionate about it, and I do that because I AM passionate about the connection it gives me - not only to my colleagues in the writing world, but to readers like you who often find this blog because someone shared a link on Facebook or Twitter or wherever. I do it because while the writing is a labor of love, the social media ... well, in a lot of ways, it just isn't. At least, not always, not when it comes to work.
Part of building my platform means watching anxiously for the magic ingredient to trickle into my hands - like when I'm playing Fashion Story and I complete a mission I didn't know was there, only to be surprise-rewarded with gems. In my world, in my real life, gems are found in the comments section, and I'm always looking for a gem to fall into my lap - because in life, just like in my current favorite game, that's how I grow.
I look for likes on my Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, because those likes help me figure out what my readers want to see from me. I look for comments, on Instagram, Facebook, and this blog, because your feedback helps me fill my editorial calendar. I look for tweets and retweets, because those things tell me how you want to interact with me.
So you can see why I truly value the time it takes you to interact with me and give me your feedback - when it's genuine. I will answer your comments. It may not always be in a timely manner, but it will be done. And I see all of your likes, all of your retweets. I see every one of you who comes over to one of my social media pages and cares enough to click that follow button.
But I won't always reciprocate just for the sake of it, and recently someone asked me about why there's no guarantee that I will "follow-back". This same person asked me why, when they liked one of my photos, I "didn't take the time to like back."
Reason Number One: It's because, while I see and appreciate the genuine interaction, I also see the lack of genuine interaction. I see the bots. I see the way likes go up, and if I don't like back within the hour, the likes go back down (because it's weird when you have a notification on your phone from 9am, and you click it at 11:30am, only to realize that the like has been unliked or the comment has been deleted, etc). I also see when I post something with the same hashtag more than once, each time, I almost immediately get comments that are exactly the same as each other - right on down to the emojis - from the same account. That's not interaction, folks, that's a bot, an automation. And that's just not what I want to attract - nor is it what I want to be.
I see the way I interact - genuinely seeking out content that I'll have something relevant to say about - and I see the contrast between that and the way others interact. I see the comments from people who take the time to read my content or click my links, the people who leave genuine feedback because they CARE about my brand, and I see the contrast between that and the people who only interact in hopes of getting attention.
- I use Buffer.com to post to my social media. I use it because it allows me a way to keep interacting all day long with my followers - I spend a few minutes each day setting up posts, and then they go up throughout the day as scheduled. This leaves me with time to interact with my readers through responding to notifications, time to interact with other content creators by responding to their content, and time to create content of my own. It allows me time to play with my kids in the afternoon, to make their dinner, to help with their homework. But did you know that there are people who automate their likes and comments too? Let me assure you that I am not, and will never be, one of those. Because I'm genuine, and I intend to stay that way.
- I am also a member of several blogger groups that allow me to network and interact with other bloggers. And even in the smaller, more close-knit groups, there is a marked difference between the people who are there to give back, and the ones who are there only looking to receive. It saddens me, this lack of genuine willingness.
Reason Number Two: In the interest of the aforementioned desire to stay genuine, I don't "like" pages that I don't like. I don't do "Like for Like" and "Follow for Follow." I don't do "Review for Review." I do "Post content that I like, and I'll like it. Do it consistently, and I will follow." And really, networking or not, I simply see no other way to go. So if you like my pages, really like them, and if you leave a comment, let it be because you took the time to have something to say.
But it's not just in business, people. It's life, it's friendship, it's family. It's your job and your neighborhood and the way you present yourself to the world. Don't be a bot.
Be genuine. Be kind. Be a friend. Search for the good - and give people something good to find in you.
The truth is, it's just better that way - and that's how you build real follows anyway, if that's what your after.
Because fake is out. So be real.
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