I gave up social media for Lent.
(Hello, Silence, my old friend.)
I didn't miss it much (at least not as much as I thought I would) and when I ended my fast on Easter Monday, I downloaded the Instagram app, my favorite of all the social media fare, back onto my phone. I wanted to hop online and see all the pretty pictures I had missed during my forty days in the desert. Instead, when I opened the app, I was met with about 500 requests from people I follow to turn on post notifications.
(I guess Instagram changed their algorithms so unless you regularly interact--liking or commenting on posts-- with those accounts you most enjoy, there's a good chance you won't see them.)
Sigh. So much for pretty pictures.
On my first day back to social media, I was met with somewhat frantic requests to like the work of others so that work wouldn't get lost in the fold.
On the one hand, I understand the plight.
My artistic colleagues spend a lot of time developing their craft--photography, handmade products, articles, websites, blog posts, etc. and they want their work to be recognized.
On the other hand, however, I find the constant requests to follow and subscribe exhausting.
(Perhaps it's just me?)
I find the constant, "Look! Do you see what I'm doing now? I'm writing a new book and I have a new underwater crocheting business and it's all so very amazing! Like my stuff, will you?" overdone and too much.
I'm a writer in the Catholic online world and I would be a fool to think building a platform and audience doesn't matter; It does. (Every editor I've ever had has encouraged me to grow my audience as much as I can so that my message meets more people. Also, the amount writers are paid is often tied to the size of your audience. You want mo' money as an author? You need mo' readers. Those are the facts, friends.)
If I want editors to take me seriously as a professional, I need to work like a professional: I need to identify and build a brand, maintain a website, interact on social media, etc. Those responsibilities are part and parcel of the entire writing business as it is today. If I want to be published (and I do) then I need to demonstrate I'm willing to participate in the game.
But how do I play the social media game (maintain a brand, produce good content, interact on social media) without having the game overtake my life? How do I participate in social media without making the media all about me (perhaps the biggest problem I see in Catholic social media circles today)?
Clearly, I'm not an expert. My own blog is followed by a small, but faithful group of readers who have been with me for a long time. (You people know who you are and you are definitely the best out there!) I'm not an influencer or social media guru, but here are some imperfect tips I've stumbled upon along the way to give me peace about my place in this world of social media and blogging:
1. It's Not About The Numbers:
I once listened to an interview from
where she admitted she never checked her stats on her extremely popular website
. She said the number of people who visited her site didn't matter. What mattered to her was doing God's will. Did I mention she's a New York Times best selling author? She is.
I imagine Voskamp's website, should she desire to monetize it, would allow her family to live comfortably on the earnings from the site alone. But she's never checked her stats; She doesn't know how many readers she has because for her, it's not about the numbers. In fact, readers are unable to comment on her posts because she doesn't want to get sidetracked. She wants to keep her work and her message focused on Christ.
I frequently reflect on the fact Jesus called twelve men to assist him in his work of spreading the Christian message. Jesus had twelve imperfect brand ambassadors. Twelve. That's it. Apparently, that's all he needed.
As an artist or writer or entrepreneur, are you worried about the numbers? Stop. The numbers don't matter, but souls do.
Once --many years ago--when I was in a full throttle meltdown about whether or not I should shut down my blog (talk about wrestling with my ego, ego, ego), an old friend wrote and told me my blog had encouraged her to go back to church and to start teaching her own children about God. The timing was unmistakable, yet I still lamented that I wasn't "reaching" more people.
But did more
If my friend was the only person who ever read my stupid diatribes and if she was the only one who was ever inspired to return to Sunday mass with her family, wasn't that one readership enough?
Isn't our goal as Catholic writers or bloggers or entrepreneurs ultimately be to bring people to Christ, not attain a million subscribers? In the end, the numbers don't matter, but souls? In the end, the souls are the only thing that count.
2. Use the 80/20 rule
. My friend,
, educated me about this helpful idea and boy, is she on to something.
Don't want to be a social media hog?
Tweet the good work you see other people doing, post about your favorite Instagram accounts, encourage others in their good work before you talk about your own.
is an expert at this and she definitely leads by example. Admittedly, I have a ways to go before I've honed this skill as well as she has, however, in the short time I've implemented her suggestion, I've seen the fruits of it's effect. When I started using the 80/20 rule, I noticed a steady growth in my own small social media accounts.
3. Trust God Will Guide The Souls To You
: My writing friend,
, and I were strategizing about branding and building platforms recently. I was lamenting about my lack of interest in this arena coupled with my lack of time and talent.
"How am I supposed to do all I'm supposed to do--wife, mother, and write-- and promote myself on Twitter, my blog, Instagram and all the rest of it?" I asked her.
About an hour later, Rhonda texted me the best advice she could have given regarding growing readership. She wrote:
"Thought: God is great. He will-will-show you the platform path. Focus on praying, focus on where the souls are who need to read your work. Because it's not Colleen's Manifesto, ultimately. Who are those souls? How does He want you to find them? Pray on that and I will join you in prayer."
My work is not supposed to be about me; it never is. It's about how God wants to use my words to
e help another hungry pilgrim like me flailing around in the dark on our search for Jesus.
4. Practise and have fun
! Do you have three readers, but simply love to blog? Great! Keep going! You don't have to have the most popular Catholic website out there to be gaining valuable skills, insights and experience.
Hone your writing craft.
Blog daily or as much as you can.
Rack up word counts and posts.
Who knows? Great things might one day happen with those daily word goals. With all that practice, one day you might have written yourself a book.
It's important your hobby be something you enjoy doing; not something stressful and full of pressure. If your blog or website or emerging business is a source of unhappiness in your life, examine and readjust your practice, presence, and presentation.