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Social Media for Moms 101: Avoid Online Monkey Mind

This is me, blogging from Bonnaroo, and attempting to avoid monkey mind distractions

There’s a concept in Buddhism called “monkey mind,” and translated roughly, it sounds a bit like some kind of philosophical ADHD. Here’s one definition of monkey mind that I found (online, of course): “The monkey mind (kapicitta) is a term sometimes used by the Buddha to describe the agitated, easily distracted and incessantly moving behaviour of ordinary human consciousness…the Buddha said that a person with uncontrolled craving ‘jumps from here to there like a monkey searching for fruit in the forest’”

When it comes to blogging and building a social media brand (yes, I use the word “brand” unapologetically when talking about my online work around my personal blog), monkey mind refers to the tendency to fire off in too many directions, and to become too easily distracted by the latest bright shiny social media platform or activity.

In order to conquer social media monkey mind when you are getting started as a blogger, here’s your mantra: first things first. In other words, when it comes to building an engaged (that’s social media-speak which in the simplest terms means how regularly people comment on/about what you write) audience for your blogging and other social media activity, do one thing, and do it REALLY well before even CONSIDERING doing a single other thing. The reason I bring this issue up is that I see a lot of start-up/early stage mombloggers who are firing off in too many directions to get full benefit of any of them.

Let’s use an imaginary mommyblogger as our case study. We’ll call her Blogger X.

So Blogger X is in the first year or so of blogging, and she’s set a goal for herself to be chosen as one of Babble’s Top 50 Mombloggers for the year ahead, and to be able to pitch her blog to paying sponsors soon after that. Thus, she wants to be sure that potential readers, other bloggers and advertisers notice her and her blog in a positive way. So far, she isn’t getting much traffic to her blog, and even among the readers she has, not many of them are commenting on her posts. She’s frustrated, and decides to take action.

First, she adds a message board community functionality to her blog, something like BlogFrog, that she thinks might encourage readers to stick around and talk about her content. She also launches a Facebook fan page and Twitter feed, and she’s updating both as often as possible in an effort to drive traffic and conversation back to her actual blog. She’s also working a blog-branded You Tube channel and a Flickr feed,and she’s checking in at Foursquare many times each week.

But after a few months, she notices that she’s so busy trying to do all of these different things online that she doesn’t have enough time to actually blog. And the less she blogs, the fewer comments she gets on her blog posts. Plus, remember that message board she set up on her blog for people to talk about her writing and to each other? Well, it’s deader than a doornail. Nada, nuthin’

This, my bloggy pals, is what social media monkey mind looks like. With all the best intentions in the world, Blogger X is actually working against her goal of growing her readership and engagement rate from readers because instead of focusing on the fundamentals first, she’s got so many things going on that she isn’t getting the full benefit of any of them.

In comparison to the monkey mind approach that newbie Blogger X is attempting, consider how Heather Armstrong (AKA Dooce) does things.  If you take a look at where Heather is active online, you will notice that she doesn’t appear to be too worried about being present and active on every single social media platform that exists. In Heather’s case, she clearly devotes most of her time and energy to creating great content for her own social media platform – her blog – through both the blog posts she writes and also those she creates through her distinctive photography. And while there are definitely some specific things that bloggers can do to encourage readers to leave a comments on their blog posts (look for me to address that topic in an upcoming post here at MomCrunch), the simple fact is that the number one way to make people want to comment on a blog post is for that blog post to be so well written or provocative or funny or fascinating that readers are just compelled to say something about it. So the very first thing Blogger X needs to focus on – before anything else – is writing the kinds of blog posts that people notice simply by virtue of their quality. If trying to spread herself too thin across all kinds of other online spaces is preventing her from having the time to create that kind of content, then she’s working against her own best interests.

As for adding an online community or message board to her blog, well, I would advise Blogger X that this is something that only a few bloggers manage to turn into a real asset for their personal blogs. Creating an online community from scratch is a notoriously difficult feat, even for major brands paying big bucks to some digital agency to make it happen for them. So if Blogger X isn’t yet getting very many comments on her actual blog posts, the solution isn’t to dilute the conversation that IS taking place in her comments by sending potential commenters to some other area of her site to log in and talk amongst themselves. Again, using Heather Armstrong as an example, she does now have her own, very successful Dooce-branded online community as part of her blog, but she’d already been up and running for about eight years and had gazillions of dedicated, highly engaged readers when she took that big step.

As far as Twitter and Facebook go, I definitely believe that all bloggers hoping to build a strong audience of engaged readers need to be using one or the other of these two very different platforms on a regular basis. But in my observation, few bloggers do both equally well (Ree Drummond of Pioneer Woman is one of those who does).  Heather Armstrong has well over 1 million Twitter followers, but she barely uses Facebook as part of her social media activity. Instead, she’s focused on one platform over time, consistently using it in a smart, relevant way, and as a result she’s getting full value (and then some) from Twitter.

In my own case, I actually do use both Facebook and Twitter in building readership for my blog. But I don’t have a Facebook fan page. I just have a regular Facebook page, and I definitely use it to build my blog’s audience, but I also use it just like non-bloggers use Facebook – to connect with friends and family. I am also active on Twitter, but I find myself primarily using Twitter to connect and network with other mombloggers and social media professionals (since I work in digital marketing for my actual job).

But back to Blogger X, at this point in her blog’s development, I would advise Blogger X to pick either Facebook or Twitter, and really focus on building relationships and learning what works for her on whichever platform she chooses. I definitely would not launch a Facebook fan page for a blog that hasn’t really gotten traction yet because, let’s just be honest here, Blogger X’s online brand and her blog don’t yet have very many fans. While I’ve seen newer bloggers have success by focusing on Facebook, I think that Blogger X would find that focusing on  Twitter  would offer the best way for her to develop relationships with other mombloggers who will A – become her friends, and B – become the kinds of professional colleagues who help each other out by promoting one another’s work. So I’d say Blogger X should further declutter her social media monkey mind by going with Twitter. She should ditch the Facebook fan page altogether at this point, and focus on meeting and connecting with the really successful mombloggers who are already using Twitter very effectively. She should watch what they do, and learn how “the pros” connect Twitter activity with blog success. Then she should jump in and give it a go herself.

As time goes on, and Blogger X’s readership begins to grow and become more engaged, then she might consider adding other social media activity to the mix of what she’s doing. In my own case, I’ve just started using You Tube regularly as part of my overall blogging mix in the past year, and I am sort of addicted to Instagram as of just the past few months. But any time I find that I am firing off in too many directions and leaving my blog itself to languish, I notice a drop in my blog traffic and comments, and it reminds me to quiet my monkey mind and get back to basics.

Got any questions about my point of view on this? Want to share what your own experience has been with social media monkey mind as you’ve tried to gain blog readers and comments? Tell me below. (Please be patient with me if I’m not able to respond to your comment in the same day. I try, but it doesn’t always happen ;-)  )

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