Caring about social sharing, more or less

I recently made a non-trivial change in how I share links to my work on social media, and I’ll bet you didn’t notice: I stopped touting my work on Tumblr and resumed sharing it on Google+.

Social-network icons

But why would you, when my Tumblr presence has seen so little (sorry, buzzword alert) engagement since I opened an account there in February 2012 basically to augment my social-media literacy?

I had no idea at the time that in less than two years Yahoo would have bought Tumblr and that I would begin writing for a Yahoo site that uses Tumblr as part of its editing system. In other words, so much for worrying about being Tumblr-illiterate.

I kept on sharing a link to each new story to my several dozen Tumblr followers anyway, but a few weeks ago, Yahoo Tech switched to a new editing workflow that required me to set up a new Tumblr account. Having to log in and out of accounts on the same site as I alternate between writing stories and sharing them makes for a lot more work.

At almost the same time, I got some professional advice that Tumblr is not the right place to market your work anyway: At a panel during the Online News Association’s conference, Mashable’s Ryan Lytle said less than 1 percent of Tumblr posts are link shares, making that site “not a traffic play.”

Meanwhile, I’ve realized that while Google+ isn’t going to threaten Facebook or Twitter anytime soon, it continues to function fairly wel as an off-site comments thread. It does, however, remain the last place I share my work, after my Facebook page and then Twitter: Not only is my audience there smaller than on Twitter, Google+ doesn’t give me any useful analytics about how many people saw a post and clicked on its link. Maybe I’ll ditch G+ too in six months?

That ONA panel reminded me that I could be doing a lot more to flack for myself online–notice my absence from Instagram and Snapchat and my pitiful Pinterest participation?–but my leading occupational hazard is online distraction. I’d like to think that limiting my social-media marketing gives me that much more time to participate in the oldest social network of all, e-mail, but we all know how behind I am at that.

 

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Journalists: Brand yourself before somebody else does

My old colleague Gene Weingarten is typically witty in Sunday’s Washington Post Magazine. In his column, he unloads on one of the more obnoxious forms of marketing-speak to invade the newsroom: “branding.” He leads off by recounting the question he got from an aspiring journalism student about how he’d built his “personal brand” and offers one possible answer to that query:

The best way to build a brand is to take a three-foot length of malleable iron and get one end red-hot. Then, apply it vigorously to the buttocks of the instructor who gave you this question. You want a nice, meaty sizzle.

And then he goes to town, denouncing the accelerating replacement of such traditional journalistic values as telling people what they need to know with the cheap pursuit of clicks on the Web by posting “happy, glitzy, ditzy stuff”–er, “content.” Gene declares that “We are slowly redefining our craft so it is no longer a calling but a commodity” and then returns to the original question:

Now, the first goal seems to be self-promotion — the fame part, the “brand.” That’s because we know that, in this frenetic fight for eyeballs at all costs, the attribute that is most rewarded is screeching ubiquity, not talent. It is why Snooki — who is quite possibly literally a moron — has a best-selling book. It is why the media superstars of today are no longer people such as Bob Woodward, who break big stories, but people like Bill O’Reilly, who yell about them.

(I would note that Bob Woodward is no slouch in the branding department, but that point has already been made.)

Read the whole column, and I hope you’ll agree that Gene makes some valid points about the state of journalism. And yet… I have to ask journalists reading this if they assume they’ll never work for any other news organization.

Back in the day, you could leave branding up to your paper, magazine or channel. They opened doors for you and persuaded hostile PR types to return your calls; having their name on your business card took care of much of your marketing work. Besides, it wasn’t like you could do a lot on your own, aside from the occasional TV spot and the sort of personal networking that yields “drinks with source” expense reports.

Now, however, you can be your own PR shop. And you should.

Twitter can be your public notebook, starting the conversation about a story before you even write it; a public Facebook page can serve as your personal billboard, pointing readers to your work and inviting them to talk back; Flickr gives you room for the photos that didn’t make your stories; LinkedIn lets readers see how you you got to your current job; an offsite blog provides a channel for shop talk about your work.

And if your position should vanish after many years, you get to keep those outlets and try to make them work for you. (Pro tip: Don’t pick a username that tie you to a particular employer.) As one example, LinkedIn has resulted in multiple job queries and one freelance assignment since I announced my departure from the Post.

Don’t let personal marketing get in the way of doing work that merits recognition–with rare exceptions, you can’t get famous on the Internet just for having a recognized name. But if you assume that your employer will take care of marketing you, you’re being an idiot.