A funny thing happened  with this blog yesterday – people showed up in droves.

I’ve been writing pretty consistently here for almost two years. I don’t post every single day. Sometimes I’ll even go four or five days without a post. That’s just how my mind works. I’ve either got it in my head or I don’t. I am not the type of blogger that has 9 or 10 posts on the back burner in draft form, waiting to be meticulously scheduled for a certain date and time.

I’m the type of blogger that gets an idea in my head, and then I just have to write about it. Guess that’s why I have the word “muse” in my name. Sometimes, like for my last post on small town social networks, I spend a few days mulling it over in my head. I don’t write notes (usually). I DO do research (when necessary to get my facts straight) and I do ask for input from others if I need it (oftentimes it’s my very clever and smart husband). But mostly, I just write. Like I am now.

Late, late last night Chris Brogan put up a post on his blog about his disdain for Twitter auto-responders – if you’re a Twitter user, you know the kind. You follow someone, and immediately receive a Direct Message (a private message from one Twitter user to another) with some sort of canned response and of course, a spammy link to their online sales pitch. I’m not going to elaborate on my opinion of this practice. Go read his post. It’s way more articulate and polite than what I’d write.

Anyway, the post got me thinking…there are plenty of people out there who still don’t really have great social skills when it comes to social networks. Let’s put the auto-responder into an in-person context. I go to a party, or conference, or event of any kind. I walk into a room, and people start to come over to me to say hi. Instead of engaging on a personal level with each person, I auto-respond, “Hi. Thanks for coming over here. Please check out my web site at www.shillsalot.com, and tell everyone you know.” Something tells me I wouldn’t be too popular.

Now, of course, the average person with reasonable social skills wouldn’t pull something like this in a million years. What shocks me is that the people who have anti-social behaviour in social networks are, in my experience, pretty socially savvy in person. So why would they sabotage their social status in this way? It’s pretty mind boggling to me.

Now, I don’t claim to be any sort of expert in how to gain success using social media. But I feel as if I have been able to figure things out over the past couple of years since I’ve been involved in this space. I’ve learned a ton of it by watching and observing and asking questions and the like, but I’ve learned an awful lot of other things by just exploring and experimenting on my own terms too.

Yesterday I posted about the small town experience I had over the holidays, and how it relates to online communities. Much to my surprise, the post was picked up and linked around by a whole bunch of people, resulting in many comments, a record number of hits (for me), and a bunch of new Twitter followers and blog subscribers (all of which I am infinitely grateful for!)

So, want to know the secret to success with social media? It’s a tricky one…you ready?

Be Real.

I didn’t write that post because it was full of Google juice, or plenty of links to popular blogs, or because I wanted to come across as being a social media “expert”. I wrote it because I experienced something that gave me some new ideas and I wanted to explore those ideas. I wrote it because I love to write. To be honest, I wasn’t really too concerned about who read it or who re-tweeted it or linked it off their blog. Was I pleasantly surprised when I saw how many hits I was getting? Of course! Was I happy to have so many new people introducing themselves to me? I was thrilled! But it was not my raison d’etre.

Social media only really, truly works if you are 100% yourself at all times. And it doesn’t matter whether you are an individual or a huge corporation. You need to just be real. Do not hide behind this technology. By all means embrace it, use it, experiment with it. I write plenty of posts that are only read by my Mom and my close friends. But I’m just as proud of those posts as I am about the ones that get lots of eyeballs, because at all times what I write here is  genuinely me.

For the new year, let’s all make a resolution – that we’re going to take down the walls we’re hiding behind, give up the ulterior motives and start just being real people around here.

What do you think?

11 Responses

  1. And that’s why we like you so much! You tell it straight up!

    I have fun trying to find my own comfort level with using social media to help promote my business, but really, I like it much better if people just go check me out on their own, read all about me and then find me themselves. I am really not a salesperson!
    So the few times that I have tried to self-promote, it feels uncomfortable, and just wrong.
    Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to tell folks what I am doing, extrapolate on my passions, and can go on for hours about anything I am doing, if people actually ask me! But I always feel a bit put off if I try to “sell” myself.

    Fortunately these attempts to become a salesperson only come in small doses and are usually offset by some “community oriented” promoting that I can feel happy doing!

    Thanks for the reminder to just be ourselves!

    Halyma’s last blog post..Happy Holidays from Us to you!

  2. There are so many people who do not fully get the concept of social networks and how to be real in what passes for todays “social” networking sites. I have never read your blogs before but I found yours today and I like what I have read.

    While some think one has to self-promote themesleves and others do not, I find its a bit of a catch-22. If you do not self-promote you could be lost in the blogosphere.Conversely, if you do self-promote you can be viewed as trying to sell yourself and that is frowned upon. I like what you said about being real because I keep it real 100% of the time. I am not out for fame but like you I would not mind getting more followers on twitter lol. I have a business but I do not put that first on my social networking pages. Most people today do not care about being viewed as anti-social or salesy. Its more about how many hits you get or how many followers you have on twitter that creates the illusion of popularity.

  3. I think it all depends on what you want from twitter. For someone like me, I use it to find good blogs to read (like this one!) or to follow advertising/design trends. I’ve only been using it for a few days now, but I’m hooked, and have been nagging all my friends to join.

    However, if I was out of work and looking for web design work, I would likely be quite a bit less real. If I’m trying to market myself, I don’t think I’m going to be impressing any of my clients by posting my insomniatic reflections to Buffy the Vampire Slayer reruns at 3 AM.

    My dad uses twitter for his small business, and he’s only planning on updating it every few days with specials. He runs a small business, and he has only one goal for his twitter account: to get customers into his store.

    You’re gonna hate me for this next part…

    I didn’t know about the auto-reply feature, but I think it actually makes sense for someone like my dad to use it. I’ve already got this idea of including a link to a coupon that they can bring into his store (or just mention, for that matter) for a discount. After all, anyone who starts following the twitter page of a local business is probably interested in specials, right?

    I dunno, I’m really, really new to this whole twitter thing. What do you think? Is he just going to alienate people?

  4. Hey Suze,

    Bravo! Well done! Booyah!

    I’ve only been blogging for about 8 months and it has done wonders for my ability to tell the truth.

    You can hide behind the badly veiled sales pitch but anyone with more than a handful of brain cells can see right through it.

    This topic seems to be making its way nicely through the blogosphere – it must be the reason I’ve written about it lately as well.

    It was only a matter of time that the spammers would feel it necessary to invade.

    You are real – that’s why I read your stuff. Keep it up!!


    Kneale Mann’s last blog post..Why Do You Follow? Why Are We Friends?

  5. You know, if someone were to ask me how I get high Google ranks for certain long tail topics, like “Worst Christmas Gifts of 2008” (#1 out of 11.9 Million), I couldn’t tel you. I could tell you what I THINK I did, but I can’t know for sure.

    Being real has certainly brought me a bunch of regular readers, but as far as hitting those spikes, I have not a clue. (I use Google Analytics, but it doesn’t tell me a thing about reader psychology).

  6. @Andrew – I wouldn’t worry too much about what a potential employer would think of your “insomniac reflections on Buffy”! After all, that’s part of who you are.

    I talk all the time about my family, my feeble attempts at being a musician, my cats and dogs, and all that real stuff that makes up my life, aside from work. As an employer, the FIRST thing I do when i’m going to hire someone nowadays is Google them out, find out if they blog or Twitter or Facebook, then start getting to know who they are. It’s a good thing!

    As for the auto-responders, that’s an interesting take with regards to what your Dad wants to do – but perhaps another approach might be to have your Dad converse a bit with people, get to know some, then offer them the coupon because he appreciates the relationship. It might take more time – but it’s ALL about the personal connections in this space.

    Thanks for your comment – you have a valuable contribution to make!

  7. This is why I finally merged my two blogs…I found myself wanting to “be real” and write about anything on my marketing/business/social media blog – rather than be all business – all the time.
    So now, I write about life in general, my kids, twitter, social media and YoGabbaGabba. Whatever, takes hold.
    From Twitter to Toys.

    Michelle Kostya’s last blog post..Merry Christmas

  8. Goods morning, Suze.

    I agree with your position on being real.

    Years ago, as a young consultant, I tried being “professional.”

    Now, decades later, I’m more or less an open book and I’m seeing results from it. Not necessarily in terms of more business or higher income, but certainly in terms of meeting interesting people who share my interests.

    As a result, I find it easier to just be me and not to concern myself about how I come across.

    There are still things I don’t know about social networking and I probably make my share of gaffes, but I’m enjoying it and trying to learn as I go.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

    Act on your dream!


    John Dilbeck’s last blog post..Is Squidoo a part of your marketing mix?

  9. I also think authenticity is the key to inspiring others. And as you point out you just never know what will be the thing that inspires people to share what you wrote with others. I truly believe that if you just keep being real your tribe will find you/you will find your tribe (even though right now I am going on faith alone in the social media space!)

    Until now I’ve been dabbling in the space posting comments to other peoples blogs and using twitter. Just put my first blog post up and am finally ready to tell people about it. Following people like you gave me the courage to risk being known in a world where even the illusion of control cannot persist.

    Thanks for providing me with the inspiration to keep putting myself out there and of the necessity of keeping it real no matter how strong the pull is to try to do it right or prove myself.

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