Cultivating Good Social Media Habits

The other day an author called me and asked a question I hear all the time, “Scott, I keep trying Twitter but it isn’t working for me. I think I’m going to close my account.”

“Let’s take a look at your account first…” I said.

When we did, it was apparent that the author had signed up for Twitter about 6 months ago, had used it for a few weeks, but then tapered off from 5-6 posts a day to maybe once or twice a week. Then, once a month, there would be a flurry of activity over 24 hours and the account would largely go silent again.

Sound familiar?

Whether it’s Twitter or any other social network, it’s not uncommon for authors (or anyone, really) to get excited about a new network, go all in, but then lose interest and stop using it. Rather than establishing a valuable presence and building meaningful relationships in a thriving online community, the account becomes a stale reminder of what could have been.

The solution? Better social media habits.

Here are 3 ways to cultivate better social media habits:

1. Watch and listen first, then dive in. When joining a new social media network, one’s first instinct is often to start using it right away. Next time, schedule 10-15 minutes a day to just read, watch, and learn. Before diving right in, see what other people who are established on that network are doing. What do you like or not like about what they’re doing? Also, look for people you know or whose work you respect. What do they do on that network?

2. Start slow and build. In our excitement, it’s natural to want to dive right in and use a new network like Twitter or YouTube as much as you can. But one of the most important things about establishing yourself on a social network is creating a consistent, recognizable presence. It’s more important to spend 5-10 minutes a day and post once a day or once a week than it is to block off hours at a time and post like crazy. Start with something small that you can commit to every day (on Twitter), every week (on your blog), or every month (on YouTube). Once you’ve stuck with that for a few months and you have a sense for what’s working, gradually increase your time commitment.

3. Value relationships. When we talk about social media, we talk about making connections and building relationships. It’s a lot like starting a new exercise routine offline—it can be hard to stick with it, and having someone else there can help motivate you. Social media often works in a similar way. When you first start using Twitter, or LinkedIn, or blogging, it can help immensely to cultivate one-on-one conversations or content-sharing partnerships with other users. Having someone else who is expecting to hear from you or who supports your content with shares or comments can be a huge boost in your opening stages of use. And treating your social media account as a communication tool from the start (rather than a broadcast tool) sets you up for long-term success.

Learn what works by watching, start slow and build from there, and create relationships early. These are all foundations for building great social media habits, no matter if you are starting out with a new network this year, or rebooting on an old one.