Monday, September 21, 2009

How To Blog Without Fear

In my last post, "The Top Five Ways to Succeed in Social Media," I addressed the members of the population who are hungry for more ways to make social media work to their best advantage. These are the folks who are already "out there." You know who you are. The phrase "Weekend Update" makes you think of Facebook (not television), and you have two different Twitter apps on your iPhone--one that's not too CPU intensive and one that enables retweets and twitpic uploads. 

Today I'd like to talk to the rest of you, who might put on a brave face at times, but deep down are still pretty spooked by this whole trend. Sure, you're a fan of a couple of the more ironic Facebook pages, and technically you have a Twitter account--though you're pretty sure that one follower of yours isn't pretty as her picture (and you're even starting to suspect that "Peaches" might not be her real name). You may have even been known to put an (anonymous) comment on a particularly vexing TechCrunch Zune review. But there's a part of you that wants to run and hide at the mere mention of a coordinated social media plan, especially if it relates to your career or business.

In my work, I meet people like this all the time. They are certainly smart and savvy enough to make a social media program work. But something in them isn't allowing them to take full advantage of it. In short, they're suffering from a new syndrome that I will now dub social media phobia. There may need to be a new scientific term for this: something along the lines of "blogotweetoupdateophobia" perhaps? (Not as good as my personal all-time favorite, coulrophobia, but I digress...)

So you've dipped a toe into social media, but something stops you from diving into the deep end and splashing around.
Maybe you're afraid of making a mistake, and so hide in the shadows. Or maybe you're so overwhelmed by all of the possibilities that you find yourself paralyzed. Or hey, perhaps you're remembering that time in the seventh grade when Dougie Marcus told everyone to aim their spitballs at the back of your head, and all you want to do is duck out of the way.

Whatever the reason, your response is to play it safe. You keep your involvement to a minimum. And, what's wrong with that? You ask. There's no rule that says I've got to be some kind of web 2.0 maven. True, but the sad thing is that you're missing out on a rare opportunity at a remarkable time in history. Whatever you are trying to achieve in this life--meet new friends, get a better job, promote your home jewelry making business--chances are social media can help make it easier.

And I'm here to tell you that you can make it into a game that you can enjoy playing. Step one is to take a step. Lean out into the unknown. Start a blog. That's right, just go ahead and start one. You'll be surprised at how much it motivates you once you see the traffic start to build. Before you know it, your devious mind will start to wonder, how can I get more people interested in reading this brilliant, witty, wonderful blog of mine?

At which point, you'll suddenly remember Twitter. You laughed at it before--maybe even made a few "it's all about what people had for breakfast" quips. But now you're seeing it in a new light. You're noticing that a lot of people use it as a way to talk about blog posts they've read that they've enjoyed. That means they might talk about your blog post. But first you have to get to know these people--get into the flow of conversation. As you take each of the next steps that naturally lead from one to the other, you'll see results.

But wait, you say. I'm a busy person. How much time and energy will I really have to expend in order to have an effective presence online? Isn't this for slackers or people who blog for a living? (And what's really the difference?) Actually, you can put in as little as two hours a week and still see rewards for your social media efforts. Part of how to do this is to learn how to get people's attention, find a niche or target audience, and a few other tricks of the trade that I'll save for a later post.

The main thing is to break through your resistance and start experimenting. Let go of your need to do it perfectly the first time. Take note of the fact that everyone around you is also figuring this out as they go along. You may even enjoy yourself. And if nothing else, you finally got back at that Dougie Marcus guy--you've got 200 more Twitter followers than he does!

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