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Guest

The Social Media Balance: How Do You Find It?

By: Guest | January 24, 2011 | 
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Tony Hastings is the man behind the Top 10 Blog.

So what do I mean by balance?

That really depends on your reasons for using social media and what your aims are with your blogging, tweeting, and ‘socialising’.

To my mind there are three types of social media users and the concept of balance will be different for each group.

  • Business users. Many businesses and business owners, large and small, use many aspects of social media with one clear aim, which is to promote their product or service.  This may be designed to sell on line direct to the customer or perhaps to raise the profile of the business on a national or global basis.  For a small business providing a local service, for example a restaurant, they may use the medium of Twitter or Facebook to keep in touch with customers who actually frequent their premises.  Whatever the reason it is usually very clear what the purpose of the activity is and the question of balance may not be at the forefront of the mind for the business or their readers/followers.
  • Personal users. Writing your own blog for pleasure and connecting with others with similar interests, or maybe just sharing your passion without really caring if anyone reads your output is really common.  Maybe you just want to connect with other people on Twitter of Facebook, perhaps your aim is to collect as many followers/friends as you can without any clear reason for wanting to do so (and what’s the point in that?).  Personal users of this type have no desire to earn any income form their activity, they just do what they do for the love of it so again the question of balance doesn’t generally arise.
  • The rest of us! I find myself in this group, let me explain why.  I started to blog for pleasure but always with the thought at the back of my mind that I might just be able to earn a small income from my activity at some time in the future.  I opened accounts with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, FriendFeed and Quora as it felt like the right thing to do at the time.  I set up a Facebook page for the blog and joined Networked Blogs, all well and good but this is where the question of balance comes in for me and for people like me.

I really enjoy running the blog, it gives me enormous pleasure and more satisfaction than I could ever have imagined but there is definitely a balance to be struck as the blog grows.  The question I am asking myself all the time is how to maintain the integrity of the blog and my related social media activity while at the same time adding features to generate income.  Let me break that down further.

  • The Blog. There seem to be many ways to generate income from running a blog and I don’t intend to list them all here but what I would say that treading the thin line between personal and business is really hard.  Many of us will have been down the same route by adding a few Adsense ads to dip your toe in the water, followed maybe by an Amazon affiliate link, maybe adding a few more affiliate ads and links just to see if they work.  I am guilty of all of that and of course I have come to the inevitable conclusion that it’s not that easy.  The big problem is keeping the look of the blog right, how many ads is too many?  We all know of blogs which are drowned by adverts and pop ups, personally I tend to avoid them so I have to be really aware of what I am doing and the effect it might have on my readers.  My own philosophy is to stay on the personal side of the line until I can find the right blend.  If I never make any money so be it, I still get a buzz out of it.
  • Sharing. It’s not only the ads that clutter a blog, it can also be the share and subscribe options that you offer to your readers.  So many options, so many plug ins. Where to put them – Top? Bottom? Side? Floating? What to add – Twitter? Facebook Like? Facebook Share? Digg? Stumble? Delicious? What works and what doesn’t?  I have tried all sorts and it’s only after looking at many other blogs and reading, reading, reading that I have settled on the present set up, does it work? I guess my readers will be the judge of that.
  • Subscribers. I keep reading that e-mail subscribers are the key but this where I find the balance quite difficult.  I like having e-mail subscribers and Feed subscribers, they are good people who have made some kind of commitment to me and who have my posts delivered to them, I love them for that.  But do I want to abuse that relationship by sending them newsletters with ads in?  Is it abusing that relationship or am I being too sensitive, come on you lovely subscribers let me know, put me out of my misery so I can move on
  • Twitter. I love Twitter but it’s my use of Twitter that has led me to reflect on the way I use social media and to write this post.  I feel that I am getting away from the way I initially used Twitter to connect and to ‘meet’ new people.  It’s not that I am becoming too ‘spammy’ with my Tweets, I really work hard to avoid that, but I feel that I am not giving as much attention to the people I connect with as I used to.  I no longer seem to see my early friends as much as I used to, am I neglecting them?  Have I drifted away from them and if so why, is it something I am doing or is it just the nature of the beast?  Having reflected I think it is me, I need to use those darn Twitter lists better and start talking to people again. The balance feels wrong, quality not quantity, that will be my watchword! Is this something you have found happening and if so what did you do about it?
  • Facebook. I am really not sure about Facebook, I can see the way it works on a personal basis but for promoting the blog, I don’t know.  I have a page for the blog and have connected it to Networked Blogs so all my posts appear automatically on both places.  But I am reluctant to do any more than that on Facebook, I never share on my personal page as it feels that I am spamming my friends.  I am comfortable with that but do you think I am missing a trick?  Have I got that balance right?
  • StumbleUpon. I like Stumbleupon but I know I have got the balance wrong there, I am in the habit of adding my own posts but seldom other peoples.  How fair is that and what does my Stumbleupon page look like to visitors?  Work to do there.
  • Quora. I don’t feel that I have got any balance on Quora, I have registered, I am following lots of people and have got lots of followers, I have even asked and answered some questions.  But I still don’t feel that I know why I am there, how to use it, how to enjoy it?  I need to find that balance, any suggestions?

So having looked at myself and what I am doing with my social media activity I have to conclude that I haven’t got the balance right and that I have work to do.  There is no doubt in my mind that achieving that balance is vital to succeed but that it’s an ever moving target that just can’t be ignored.

Please let me know what you think, do you have social media balance and if so how did you achieve it.  If you don’t, what action do you need to take to get ‘balanced?

Tony Hastings is the man behind the Top 10 Blog, a place where you will find regular Top Twitter People lists, amazing guest articles on all sorts of topics, some of his own writings about his social media journey, fun interviews, and more.

38 comments
NatalieSisson
NatalieSisson

Hi Tony

I think you do an incredible job of keeping in touch with people on Twitter and beyond. But I too have found my relationship with this awesome social network as change and I too don't feel I'm making as deep a connection with people.

That's the price you pay for growing popularity ;)

Plus were you ever able to deeply connect in 140 characters or less? I think the power is that you are making regular little connects with people who are new to your community as well as deeper connections (often offline) with those loyal advocates.

I also hear you on the blog front. In my mind, looking back I took way too long to view my blog as a business. I think if you have goals from the get go and consistent provide great content and value for free then it's fine to look at ways to earn money for the hours of sweat, blood and love you pour into your blog.

Natalie

Griddy
Griddy

Hey Tony,
What an incredible breakdown you've done here. Thank you for that and for sharing with us how you use Social Media.

As for me, I'm somewhere between the personal users and the rest of us. I blog because I love to write and I enjoy the engagement and conversations I have with like-minded individuals and others.

When I first began blogging I didn't think about the income I could make for I had no clue as to the power and influence that bloggers could have, the rankings they could achieve, the opportunities it could open for them, the considerable amount of money they could make, the interaction that they do...this list goes on and on - but I won't haha.

After a little while - I started to learn more about the Social Media hype - and I enjoyed it. And now I'm thinking it would be great to earn a little income from my blog (it's not monetized at the present time) but I still want to make sure that my content and appearance won't be affected by plastering ads. Whether I could make money or not will not change the fact that I do what I do because I truly enjoy it. I spend hours at it.

Like you, I recently joined Quora (I think you and I joined around the same time) - but have been online twice. For some reason - I haven't been hooked yet. I was curious to see what the hype was about and that was that. I should maybe give it another look as I may actually learn a few things from the Q&A's.

Twitter is by far the tool I use the most. The first day I signed up I thought - what the hell is this? My God this guy has 23,000 people following him and he's not a celebrity. Do I have to follow this kid everyone is talking about called Biebs or something? Why are my friends tweeting what country they're in - I already know!

And then I got to discover the true power of Twitter. And I've been hooked ever since.

I check Facebook everyday - but I mostly use it for personal stuff. At least I did before I created a group for my blog. Now, if I'm using Facebook - I'll be on my page. And once in a while - I'm sending out bday messages by PM. But I do think it's a fantastic tool for all the obvious reasons.

StumbleUpon - I stumble upon in once in a blue moon. Not sure why - cause I know it's a great source of traffic for many.

Sharing icons - a few will be gone with my new design. Overkill! Some are pretty but that's that. I will only include those that I use and that I see others use most - such as: Twitter, FB, SERPd, Digg (although rarely), SU (even more rarely) and maybe Reddit (cause he's cute lol).

In all honestly - if I had a balance, it would only include Twitter and Facebook right now. I think those two are the ones I would want to concentrate on more. But I'll admit to using Twitter - for many reasons - a hell of a lot more. I think it's fantastic and I've met the most incredible people on there - including you.

I've never met anyone on Facebook - and I don't intend to though my personal account (I'll only engage on my Group page but not on my personal account).

Damn, I was so set on keeping this comment shortER! Fail!

This is excellent food for thought Tony. I would obviously continue but...

Cheers
PS - I know this comment may not add life changing insight lol - just my own SM uses.

ThePaulSutton
ThePaulSutton

Fantastic post, Tony, and something we could probably all do with thinking about from time to time. Like you, I've looked at Quora, but more because I 'need to know' than have an interest. I don't yet see much of a benefit over and above Twitter.

Quick point with regard to Facebook and spamming friends: there's a very simple way to avoid this and use your Facebook profile for both personal and business purposes. It involves creating lists and hiding people from updates, and I outlined it recently on my own blog, here: http://www.thesocialweb.co.uk/2010/10/how-to-combine-your-facebook-profile.html Have a read - I hope it's useful to you.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Hi Tony

Damn this is a headful! LOL I like your breakdown. I personally like Facebook just for my personal social life. I have Liked @Griddy s Fan Page and also the Arment-Deitrich page. But I see so few updates its really hit or miss if I see a post. I actually saw this post from Ingrid posting on Facebook. I think since your blog is the important landing place everything should drive people to your Blog. If they Fan your Blog Fan page on Facebook you would think they would subscribe anyway.

As for Twitter that is a tough one. I myself check in on Facebook and I live on Twitter. Part discovery, part networking, a bit promoting my business blog, part business trying to connect with potential clients, part educational, part social with the friends I have made. I run a Twitter account for a client who have a more promotional angle that is very conversational. It is hard to balance my time these days with all the multitasking.

My biggest question is if the balance you seek is focused on success of your blog (ie higher readership) I would be careful not to spread yourself across too many platforms. Figure out what has you successful the most in 2 or 3 and try to use those to your advantage. Cheers

JonHearty
JonHearty

Hi Tony,

A great post! I think you are in the same boat as most people; because of how new social media is, we're all still connecting the dots and finding our personal balance. Like a liger or a jackalope, I am definitely a hybrid when it comes to why I use social media. It started for business reasons - to promote my website 420list.org and share its content with the community.

But once I became comfortable with everything, I began seeing things a little differently. I started noticing how people communicated on Twitter, namely, and the difference between talking AT people and talking WITH them.

Add to the mix a community management internship at @livefyre (that's how I found this amazing post!) where I am lucky enough to see tons of different blogs by various social-media regulars, and the personal motivation to communicate with social media becomes clearer. I see social media as much more of a community than a broadcast medium, and I think my use is to build a network of like-minded individuals, who will benefit me both on a business level and a personal one.

Thanks for a great article that encourages us to not take our social media networking for granted!

Rick_LaPoint
Rick_LaPoint

Hi Tony,

I enjoyed this post because I think you nailed the questions many of us have.

And the ideas here beg the question of whether it's better to have balance or to have focus.

We can't be all things to all people. Sometimes we have to turn customers away because we can't help them, other times because the Cost/Benefit for doing so simply isn't there.

There are so many Social Media avenues to pursue. I don't utilize many, if not most, of them. Instead I attempt to get the biggest bang from where I invest my resources. It's the old game strategy of Pick Your Spot, I would rather spend time conquering one thing at a time than dilute my efforts with too many activities I am unable to do "correctly."

Lot's of food for thought here, and you have prompted me to reexamine my current strategies.

Thanks again!

Rick

TonyH
TonyH

@NatalieSisson
Thanks for taking the time to leave your comment Natalie, I take your points about Twitter on board. It is hard to maintain contact with people as the numbers increase but I do feel that I can do more by using lists to keep in touch with the people I value the most.

You are right about the 'little contacts' combined with using other methods such as e mail or Skype to keep in touch with the stronger connections. Twitter for all it's imperfections has been the basis of the growth of my blog so my balance will always be tipped towards using it, that clearly won't work for everyone.

I understand what you mean about earning money from the blog, maybe I am too cautious, I will continue to push the boundaries a little to find the balance that works for me.

Tony

TonyH
TonyH

@Griddy

Thanks for your concise (by your standards!) reply Ingrid. It's really interesting to see your thoughts on the different social media platforms and it looks like your journey has been much the same as mine.

Bieber?? Had to ask my kids who he is and even they weren't too sure, must be an American thing but it does go to show how unpredictable Twitter can be in the trends that pop up and persist, I must admit that much of it just passes me by, if it doesn't catch the interest straight away I tend not to delve any further, my loss sometimes.

So, as with you it's Twitter first, Facebook second and the rest I am still not sure, Stumbleupon seems to generate traffic but I really do need to analyse traffic sources more to achieve the perfect balance.

As to income I agree that I would do it anyway just for the satisfaction of blogging and connecting with good people like you! Good luck with finding that balance with ads on the blog, that is the one I really find hard, so far so good I think, no doubt you will let me know if you think I have turned the blog into a Billboard!

Cheers Ingrid, I really appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment.

Tony

TonyH
TonyH

@ThePaulSutton

Thanks for the link Paul, will check that out to see if I can improve my Facebook performance.

I am prepared to give Quora a chance as in fairness I have spent little time there to date. As with all these things you have to get involved to get more out of it, so come on all you Quora lovers, let me know what I am missing.

Thanks for the comment Paul.

Tony

TonyH
TonyH

@HowieG @Griddy

Thanks Howie, yours is the second comment that has mentioned the word focus and I do see that I need to change my 'scatter gun' approach to concentrate on the platforms that are most effective.

I too spend a lot of time on Twitter and I think it's the immediacy of the response there that is appealing. Sometimes a post on Facebook seems to provoke little reaction however you have proved the benefit of having some prescence there by finding me via Ingrid's post. I do tend to look at the number of RT's rather than the Facebook Likes and Shares so maybe I am undervaluing the relevance of Facebook.

I shall take your advice and focus on the areas that are most successful while keeping in mind that all important (to me) balance between promoting and enjoying.

Tony

TonyH
TonyH

@JonHearty @livefyre Thanks for your comment Jon. You are so right about talking with and not at people and there is no doubt that this is not only more effective but also more satisfying.

A medium like Twitter lends itself to building a community to support your aims but watch out if you get that balance wrong, the community will evaporate rapidly if your chat turns into a sales pitch.

Many thanks for your kind words and your thoughtful comment.

Tony

TonyH
TonyH

@Rick_LaPoint Hi Rick, many thanks for stopping by to add your comment.

I see what you mean about focus and I do think I need to review the methods I use as I attempt to monetise and promote the blog so that they are more efficient and effective. Having said that, whatever the methods, there is still that balance to be struck to avoid going 'over the top'.

So a clearer focus yes but with balance as they are not mutually exclusive.

Your comment has set me thinking about my own focus in the way I use those many Social Media avenues so thanks for that.

Tony