March 23, 2015 by Paula Reed Nancarrow
This is my final post in what has become a series on how bloggers use hashtag days on Twitter.
The series arose out of a survey I ran from February 27 to March 8, 2015, to which 189 bloggers active on Twitter responded. I wrote a bit about the results of the survey here and here. (If you don’t know what a hashtag is, or you don’t know what a hashtag day specifically devoted to blogging is, start here.)
Last week’s post was on how I increased page views and grew my own blog audience using Twitter hashtags days. Increased page views, however, are not the only reason bloggers are on Twitter. Nor is audience growth the only reason for participating in hashtag days.
Hashtag days are a wonderful way to get out of your own little niche, meet other bloggers and build a creative community.
Often people have these two goals – audience growth and building community – simultaneously. Nothing wrong with that. The problem comes from expecting the same social media strategies to foster both.
I have written before about Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist at the University of Oxford, who has done research that suggests that 150, more or less, is the largest group of people one person can have close, stable relationships with. There are other numbers Dunbar talks about that define different groups, but I suspect that when bloggers talk about the community they have found through Twitter, they mean a community of practice – fellow bloggers – who support and encourage them.
Writing can be a lonely business.
A lot of us are introverts, and we have a need to be alone a lot to analyze and reflect. As a writer of memoir, I can attest to this. Fiction writers also need time alone to develop characters with depth and complexity. They need to build convincing worlds – realistic or fantastic – for those characters to inhabit. Other types of writing also demand quiet and focus.
That doesn’t mean writers don’t need to socialize; it’s just not compatible with the work. Writing in a coffee shop surrounded by other people may seem to contradict this, but it really doesn’t. What a writer is looking for in such an atmosphere is not conversation but the energy and focus that comes from being around other people who are working.
Twitter is essentially a discovery tool, however, not a place to cultivate relationships.
You can have interesting conversations on Twitter, even in 140 characters. There are communities that grow through the use of chats and hashtag days, and the phenomenon of double screening, in which people live tweet their reactions to television shows. But though it bills itself as a social network, Twitter is really more of an information stream. And that stream moves fast. As a blogger, I am always trying to direct the deeper conversation elsewhere.
Here are three strategies I’ve started using to cultivate relationships within my community of practice:
1. I have a “Friends and Colleagues” list on Twitter.
It includes everyone who has commented on my blog whose Twitter handle I can identify. On days that are not hashtag days, I try to spend some time inside that list, having conversations, re-sharing posts, or reading posts I didn’t have time to read earlier. This is a great way to filter out noise and spend extra time with those people whose interactions you most value.
2. I set a goal to read and comment on five blog posts for each hashtag day I participate in.
That might not seem like a lot, but it’s what I’ve found I can manage. Depending on my workload and other commitments, I do not always make that goal, but it’s what I strive for. Generally three of those posts are people on my Friends and Colleagues list, and two are new discoveries. In the course of a month I try to rotate through my Friends and Colleagues list.
3. I have different goals for audience growth and community building.
My goal for audience growth for the coming year, based on the growth I had in 2014, is an average of 2000 page views a month, and average daily page views of 100 a year by the end of 2015. When I’ve reached that target, or managed to get ahead of it, I know I can slow down and give myself more time for reflection, for research, and for craft – things that make blogging a meaningful creative act for me.
I want my community, however, to be “Dunbar-friendly.” So if my Friends and Colleagues list gets more than ten percent beyond my Dunbar number – 150 people – I’ll remove people who have not commented recently. If there’s renewed interaction later, I can always add them back. But the point is to have a lens through which to focus on closer and more meaningful interactions.
I can’t tell you how well my strategies are working yet.
They’re relatively new. Do you have your own? Are you satisfied with them?