• Paul D. Wilke

My Social Media Blitz Peeters Out

After an 18-month hiatus from social media, I made the reluctant decision to return back in mid-July (2020). The plan was to drum up some traffic for what had become a pristinely unread blog. At the time, I believed a blog without social media ends up invisible to all but the few friends and family who stop by every now and then to read something. No one else would know it exists except Google's algorithms, those distant AI gods who decide what we see or don't see.

That's what I thought to begin with. Since then, I've learned that getting Search Engine Optimization (SEO) right can be an excellent way for people to find my posts through Google searches. In other words, I have to pay homage to those AI gods and pray for their favor. My new religion is beginning to bear fruit. The gods favor me! At the moment, about 80% of my traffic now comes from Google searches. This is a good thing, more consistent, and requires less effort than promoting myself on social media, which I'm terrible at. That makes social media less critical going forward.

I go back and forth on this. This may sound odd, but I actually don't want that much attention on my blog, especially from co-workers who would be perplexed to find that I actually had a personality with a range of thoughts and feelings (...of an almost human nature...this will not do!) beyond the forgettable gray person they work with every day. 

My quasi-anonymity was rocked last year for a few frightening days after one of my more debate-sparking posts, "Is the U.S. Military Socialist?" got some traction on Facebook. I found that I didn't like all the attention. Nope, not at all. Still, I write in the hope that something resonates with someone somewhere sometime. Why in the world do I want to put a limit on that?

I don't know, I guess one gets used to the quiet.

Most likely, my readership will never grow beyond a few regulars. That's okay. They are - so to speak - enough water for this cactus. After all, I'm an unknown writer who blogs about things that put most people to sleep. Deeper reading - i.e., reading that takes time and concentration - is a dying skill set in this Age of Twitter. As I recently wrote in "Reflections on Deep Reading in the Age of the Pancake People," I'm writing on a digital medium that encourages the consumption of shallow content like Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter. That's hard to compete with.

Nevertheless, I continue to find writing therapeutic, so much so that I'd continue doing it even if no one was reading. And trust me, for most of the first three years of this blog, that was the case.

My original plan was to try social media for 90 days, or until the end of October, and then reassess. The idea was to dive in and join as many blogging groups as I could find on Facebook and Twitter. I'd then promote my blog like crazy to whoever would be willing to read it, and then see what happens. It worked, at least for a little while. My web traffic for August, September, and most of October was much higher than it had ever been before.

But, man! It was work I found less and less appealing. I didn't like all the time spent on Twitter and FB trying to promote the blog. Yes, more people were finding steelsnowflake.org and actually reading it, which is most certainly what I wanted.

But I was spending too much time on social media platforms that I still firmly believe are toxic to well-being. The reasons I quit social media haven't changed. I was happier without it. Whatever temptations social media may have held before, I don't feel them anymore.

Anyway, around early October, I finally burned out working the social media hustle. Instead, I've concentrated on writing posts about topics that interest me and, I hope, will interest others as well. I've focused more on making those posts searchable on Google and Bing (SEO). That seems to be the best way to A) drive traffic to the blog, and B) minimize my exposure to social media.

I suppose this will be my new equilibrium. I'm not going to delete my social media accounts again. They are here to stay, but I'm going to do less social media blog promoting from now on. I'll do it occasionally, but that's not going to be the main axis of my effort.

This will give me more time to focus on the writing, which I enjoy the most anyway. One tweak will be to focus more on humanities topics rather than free-wheeling posts like this one. That was something I've taken away from my interactions with other bloggers: the need to carve out a well-defined niche.

That took some reflection, but I finally settled on describing this as a humanities blog. Looking back at everything I've written so far, that's a pretty good label, broad enough to capture all of my interests while specific enough to distinguish me from the rest of the blogosphere.

As an interesting aside, this seems to be a niche of one. In other words, I think I just made up a blogging niche, making this a wide-open market for me to expand into.

Or maybe it's wide-open because no one else is interested in reading about Tolstoy's suicidal depression or a 12-minute dirge on the decline of deep reading.

Perhaps, but I don't believe so.

I'll see if I can grow my readership more organically on this path. If I can make someone slow down and see the world from another angle, from another perspective, then I'll have done my job.

Last, the crippling doubts of the blog's early days are (mostly) gone. Don't get me wrong, I'm not Willy Shakespeare, but I get just enough positive feedback from complete strangers to keep worrying that I'm only pouring out garbage. Again, that's more than enough water for this cactus to thrive on.

We'll see where it goes.

As always, thanks for reading!

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