When you have nothing to say – beating the social media blahs

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It happens to us all – that sudden feeling that you’ve just got nothing much to say to the blogosphere, or the Twittersphere or whatever. It often coincides with that sinking feeling that everyone else seems to have endless ideas, inspiration, energy and motivation. How do you tackle it?

First of all, try to understand the problem – is it one of motivation? (‘Why am I doing this?’) Or finding the time? (‘I have too many other important things to do’) Or confidence? (‘No-one’s going to be interested in what I think’) Or even your general state of health & happiness? You may be physically or mentally exhausted, for example. We lead busy and complicated lives.

It’s crucial to be kind to yourself – nothing really terrible will happen if you don’t tweet for a week or blog for a month. If you need a break, take a break.

If you’ve started to build a social web presence and have found enjoyment from it, and if you still believe it’s something worth doing, there are things you can try that might help shake off the blahs and get you back to bouncing social media health.

‘Why am I doing this?’

Remind yourself it’s a slow process.

I often get told ‘I’m posting regularly to my blog and yet no-one comments.’ Or ‘If I post something to my Facebook Page and nobody comments or ‘likes’ it feels like a waste of time.’

We all need the positive affirmations that comments, likes and shares give us. But not everything you post will produce a visible effect. The vast majority of people using social media only comment on a tiny fraction of the updates they read, only read a fraction of what they see, and only see a fraction of what gets posted. It’s a big old iceberg out there, and it’s growing bigger all the time.

Rather than stressing about numbers of comments, likes etc (or lack of) remind yourself that you’re building your own social network one person at a time. Put your energies into that, and it will feel more rewarding. Reach out to other people on an individual level – add value to someone’s blog post with a good quality comment, thank someone for a link they posted on Twitter to an article you found useful, enrich your Facebook Page into a resource you’re proud to send people to when appropriate, don’t let it be just another promotional channel. Ask interesting questions, invite an expert to guest post on your blog.

‘I have too many other things to do’

I read two very interesting articles recently about this. One was quoting a study which found that people are happiest when they are focusing on one task only, and not letting their minds wander. It has nothing to do with how pleasurable the task is – you could be paying bills or making love. In today’s multi-tasking world it’s an interesting idea.

In another piece of research, it was found that having a ‘time scarcity’ mindset was crippling not only to our ability to think creatively, but also to how we are able to utilise effectively what little time we do have.  (A ‘time scarcity’ mindset means the feeling of being perpetually behind with things, general overwhelm, too many things needing our attention.) In other words, when we’re in that ‘I don’t have the time/I’m too busy’ zone, we’re less able to focus on the task at hand, so we can’t get as much done as we’d like, and it becomes a vicious circle. When we’re in this state (say the researchers) we tend to give a lower priority to things that aren’t urgent, to the detriment of our health, family, relationships and other long-term aspects of our lives.

Social media can seem to function at a frenetic pace. If you feel you’re struggling to keep up with people’s updates, or read all the blogs you’d like to, let alone do any posting or tweeting yourself, it’s worth reminding yourself that there are tools and tricks to help you manage your social media time, whether it’s having an editorial calendar for your blog, using an organising dashboard like Hootsuite, or installing an app to limit your time on social sites. And it’s better for body and soul to do one thing well, and slowly, than juggle five things because they’re all important.

‘Nobody is interested in what I think.’

This is a big one to unpack. First of all, you’d be surprised how many people are interested in what you think, what you say and how you say it. You’re a writer, so that gives you a head start: you know how to communicate. I’m not saying you just need to talk about what you had for dinner, although the fact that this has become such a cliche shows that plenty of people DO tweet about this and MANY of them have happy followers.

There are all kinds of social media guidelines about what to say or not to say, topics to avoid, how to entice people into following you or befriending you with great content or whatever. I’ve written a few myself! But they are only guidelines. We’re all making this up as we go along. There are examples everywhere of people breaking the ‘rules’ and chugging along very happily. Although the word ‘authentic’ has fallen from favour, I still believe it should be at the heart of any social media presence – which you are building one person at a time – so why expend energy on trying to create ‘ideal’ updates or worrying whether what you say won’t entertain or excite people every time. It’s your day-to-day life, not show business.

Sometimes it can be dispiriting to read about other people’s book deals, competition wins or successes. It’s as if everyone else is more successful AND they’re rubbing it in your face. But that’s a feeling we all have to deal with. I thought this piece on the subject was really helpful – How to Enjoy (and Not Envy) the Success of Others – especially the advice ‘don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides’. Indeed!

Every now and then someone will tell you how much they enjoy your blog posts or your Twitter updates or your Facebook Page and it will make your day. Keep on keeping on!

Writer & fledgling poet. Social comms mentor & trainer. RSA Fellow. Walked the online talk for 15yrs with the blisters to prove it. Author 'Blogging for Writers' (Ilex, 2014)

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