Episode 31 - Social Media


Jen: Hey Peter.

Peter: Hey Jen.

Jen: I would like to share with you a struggle that I'm having right now around something that most people engage with almost every single day. And that is -

Peter: - what is it?

Jen: Social media.

Peter: Ah, the old social media.

Jen: That's so funny, cause to you, you say "the old social media" and then me, different generation, "the new social media." In either case, I'd like to talk about it. This is The Long and The Short Of It.

Alright, so here's the deal. Last month, or maybe it was two months ago, whenever it was, we launched the new JenWaldman.com website, and five months of work had gone into this, and it's been really kind of amazing to have released it now and see that people are enjoying it. Anyway, the site was really phase one with my incredible designer, Tony Howell, and this phase two, which we're just about to enter, has two parts. One is that we're going to go live with the new back end of the website, and rolling out a new social media strategy, and that's the thing I really want to talk about.

Peter: Here we go.

Jen: Okay.

Peter: I just want to say, your new website looks great, JenWaldman.com for those who are interested.

Jen: Thanks, I'm pretty darn happy with it. I feel great about it. The social media stuff, I feel less great about, so that's where we're going to dig in right now, because it's been a complicated experience. On the one hand, I'm forty-three years old, so social media is something I have to actually put effort into. I did not grow up with it. It is not just, like, in my bones. So I'm open to suggestions, like, "You really need to consider this element of your social media presence." So I've, I've considered elements - anyway, Tony has such an incredible grasp on how to use these platforms to have the optimal experience, and what he did was lay out a comprehensive strategy and shared it with me last week.

Peter: And?

Jen: Well, once I realized that there is a difference between a theory and a practice, I had to ask myself some really, I think, challenging questions to figure out what I wanted to do. And what I have come to is that I'm not going to be increasing my social media presence.

Peter: Wow.

Jen: Because to do it - yeah, I know - to do it well and to do it thoughtfully and to do it consistently means I actually need to make it a part of my life. And when I was looking at what I'm working on right now, knowing that saying "yes" to one thing means saying "no" to something else, I realized that, in order to do this well, I need to say "no" to something I'm currently doing, and am I willing to say "no" to what I'm currently doing to do that instead? Like, for example, I know that every five additional minutes I spend on social media are five minutes that I'm not writing my book, and it's definitely going to be more than five minutes, you know what I mean?

Peter: Totally.

Jen: So the other thing that I started, sort of, grappling with was - at the end of my life when they are lowering me into the ground, is someone going to say, "Jen Waldman, she had great social media posts," or would I rather someone says, "Jen Waldman, she wrote that book that I read that meant a lot to me, and that I passed on to someone else." And I was like, looking at those, not that those are the two only possible scenarios for en-vision-jing -

Peter: Get it out.

Jen: What?

Peter: Get it out.

Jen: - en-vis-ion-ing -

Peter: There you go.

Jen: - my funeral, but those were the two that made it clear to me that my quality standards are very high -

Peter: Mmm.

Jen: - and the amount of time and energy I'm willing to devote is very low.

Peter: Yeah.

Jen: So I'm not going to do more than I'm doing now, which is not a lot.

Peter: Interesting. I like that, the quality standards. It seems like, I mean I could wrestle and throw around this idea of social media for a long time, cause I don't know how, I don't even know where I sit on it, but what I, one assertion I would make based on what you just said, and based on my idea of how social media works is, if you're going to half-ass it, don't bother. And I think that's the kind of the conclusion you've reached, is like, "Well, if I want to do this, I'm going to do it properly; and if I'm going to do it properly, it's going to take this amount of time, which means I'm not going to be over here doing this thing, writing this book." And I think it's an incredibly smart, well thought-out, intentional decision. What I think happens with most people, just to throw a blanket over everybody, but what I think happens with a lot of people is, we create these social media accounts, we spit them out when we start a new project or when we have a new idea or when we're launching a podcast or whatever. Well, it's just that we're living our life, and we get so excited by these new social media platforms, but we don't even stop to think about "What's it for?" and "Who's it for?" We don't even stop to think about what is it taking time away from, and we don't even stop to think about, "Am I going to do it well, or am I going to half-ass it?" Like, "What am I actually doing with this tool, this thing?"

Jen: Yeah. And honestly, after looking at his strategy and proposal, I realized that I was doing something that drives me crazy when other people do, which is assume that doing something well is easy. It's like, no, people who are great on social media actually think through everything they're doing. They, you know, they think about timing. They think about which content for which moment in time. It's like, "Duh." And so, I gotta tip, tip of the hat to Tony Howell, and say if anyone is really ready to make a commitment to being great on social media, I can't recommend him highly enough. Like, he is so smart. He's so thorough. And I'm so grateful, because had I worked with someone with less integrity and less vision in terms of how to bring something to life, it is very likely that I could have just spent too many hours of my precious time on something that ultimately I wasn't going to do well.

Peter: Yeah. Okay. I want to, I need to pick your brain on this some more. So one thing that I've been noodling on ever since we launched this podcast, for example, was, do we need a Long and The Short Of It Facebook page, do we need a The Long and The Short Of It Instagram account, do we need a, you know, like all of the social media platforms, do we need one, should we have one? Is it a good idea? And to date, I've reached the same conclusion of view of you, of like, no, because one of us is going to have to, or both of us are going to have to put into a buttload of effort, basically. And neither of us really have the capacity to do that, and the return for that effort is probably better spent just talking about the podcast with people in person, or just, you know, or focusing on one of our blog posts, or just recording another episode, like, and hoping it, and hoping that it grows organically. So I'm curious for your thoughts on, like, when, when is social media a good idea? Is it - and how do you determine whether it's something worth pursuing? I really fumbled through that, but hopefully my question is clear.

Jen: Well, look, I've had great success on social media, on certain platforms. On Facebook, my studio has a private page, where we have a very robust community that has a completely honest, open and supportive conversation going on twenty-four/seven - a group of artists in New York City, and actually around the country who are showing up for each other very, very generously. Without Facebook, I don't know where we would create that space. Like, I'm very aware that that online space is part of what really makes up the fabric of our studio community. I've also used Facebook - and again, forty-three, so that's why I keep saying "Facebook" - I've used Facebook to reach out to some people who I wanted to connect with through private messages; people whose work I admire to let them know I love their work. And I've struck up many a relationship using the private message feature on Facebook.

Peter: Wow.

Jen: Similarly- oh yes - some, some writers whose work I'm obsessed with, I've reached out, I've told them, "I think you're, the work you're doing is great. This is why, this is how I'm using it." And most of the time they write back.

Peter: Wow.

Jen: And sometimes they even write back and want to continue the conversation, and want to help, you know, help get more information to the actors who are interpreting their work. So that's really exciting. On, on LinkedIn, I have had quite a few interesting run-ins, one of which I spoke about on the show here a couple months ago, where people I didn't even know I wanted to meet pop up in the, you know, LinkedIn requests, and it's like, "Oh, of course I should connect with that person." So that's been great. Where I've had absolutely no success, and I honestly, I don't care to, is Twitter. I don't get it. I don't like it - enough. And the place where I have not yet explored because it is not intuitive, you have to really know something in order to use the platform, is Instagram, which probably sounds crazy to you because you're such a youngin, but for me, I can't figure out how to use it. So, I'm sorry. Uh, yeah, I know I could up my Instagram game, but again, like, do I really want to take the time to learn how to do it? Not at the moment. Like, I really would rather re-purpose that time for my book.

Peter: That's totally fair. I mean, yeah, I think Instagram's relatively straight-forward. I think you could figure it out if you actually wanted to.

Jen: Well, I guess, yes, the keyword is "want."

Peter: Yeah, "want," right. So, what's interesting about hearing you talk about this, versus, say, how I'm thinking about this, and I know how others think about this is - maybe I'll frame it as a question. Does the idea of spruiking yourself or posting on these platforms publicly, is that something that, like, makes you feel icky, or like, fearful, like FOPO, Fear of Other People's Opinion? Is that something that exists, or is it more just the effort and the time required to do this well that is preventing you from not going headline?

Jen: Hmm. Okay, yes. There are a couple of different answers here. One is, you know I like logic, you know I like research; logic and research tell me that these platforms are harmful if not used smartly. And I do not wish to be contributing to someone's digital addiction. That is not something I want to be contributing to. So the only time I really engage on Facebook anymore is in these private communities, or if I think I can crowdsource information, or if I can call out someone else's work that I want to shine a light on. What I don't want is to just be posting to be posting. Like, I want to be generous in those spaces. And the other thing that I learned from a friend of mine is that what you should be aiming to create is content worth sharing - that, rather than looking at how many likes, how many comments are you getting, how many shares? Have you - have you posted something that someone else felt was so valuable that they wanted someone else they care about to read it? So that's sort of what I have in mind when I'm posting, if I'm ever posting, which is really few and far between now. There used to be a time though, Peter, when I posted something every single day. I would batch them; I didn't write it every day, but I would write them all in one day. I would, you know, I like to collect quotes, so I would pick a theme, and I'd pick quotes for every day of that month based around that theme: courage, or community, or inclusion, or whatever. And I would post something every day. And those got a ton of engagement, but they were showing up in people's general feed, and once I read all of the research about how addictive the scroll feature is, I stopped posting those.

Peter: Well, it is very noble of you to have done that - that's interesting, yeah, cause, I mean I've, again, just to bring us back to say the podcast, for example, or the work that you do, or the work that I do, or the work that anyone does, I don't know if this is, I don't think this is unique to me, but something that stops me from, from posting on these platforms is, honestly, if I get to the root of it, it's FOPO. It's like the fear of what other people are going to think and say and judge about me and my work. So I've, I've, we talked about, in the Reflection Script episode that we did recently, of how we should seek to get this podcast to more people in, in ways that we can. And the first thing that came to my head, as a Gen Y was, I could post it on my Facebook, or I could post it on Instagram, or you, you know, you could get on Snapchat, or whatever, like, whatever the platform is. I thought that is a reasonable way for me to Spruik it. And the immediate response in my head was, like, "I don't want to do that. I don't want to be that guy that's like promoting his wares, and then people judge you and then say, 'Oh, Pete banging on about these podcasts again. I wish he would just shut up.'" And, like, that is, that is a real thing that goes through my head and I, I'm almost certain that it's not unique to me. So it's interesting to hear from your perspective as, like, it's less about that, and it's more just about, you know, the intention behind what social media is for, or the intention behind the work that you want to do. And honestly, if I'm honest with myself, honestly, if I'm honest with myself - be honest, Pete - is just sporadically posting about The Long and the Short of It is probably not that effective anyway. So like, back to the intention, like, what is my intention? What is my strategy to just, every second week go, "Oh, by the way, I've still got a pocast." Like that's, again, yeah, not that effective, really.

Jen: Well it's funny, I was just thinking about this this morning. I, I've noticed that when I write a blog post, there's a theme in terms of which blog posts I will find it important to post on my social media, and which ones just tend to go out to the people who are on the email list and in my private communities. And the theme that I've found is, if the post was written in order to stir the pot and get people riled up, I'll post it on my social media channels, because those are the things that are most likely to be shared, or things that are sort of like, insight, deep feelings. Um, so yeah.

Peter: I really like that - back to, like, is it, is it content that is worth sharing? I think that's a super useful frame when we think about posting on social media, is like, informative posts such as "Check out my new podcast," or, "Check out my new blog," are just not that interesting. But if you have a post or a blog or a thing that's worth sharing, reading, and then resharing, that is like a completely different frame. And also I think more productive for, you know, the engine of social media to be then displaying more content that people are actually interested in, not to your point, endless mindless scrolling and cat videos and whatnot.

Jen: It's funny, I'm just started, like, connecting some dots. I think if - I'll tell you the inspiration for this in a minute - I think that if you can - fill in the blank - like, "If you've ever felt 'blank,' then this post is for you"; as opposed to, "If you've ever wondered about me, this post is for you." I was walking with my daughter yesterday, and there's a new fitness studio that has opened up near our apartment called Nu Yu: N-U-Y-U. And their marketing went up this week. I've been sort of, like, wondering what is this place, and now when you walk by it says, and I'm like, "Oh they must be Seth Godin people, like, they must have read Seth's stuff." It says, "If you used to be in shape, or if you've never been in shape, now there's somewhere for you."

Peter: Ohh, that is good.

Jen: It's like, you know exactly what you're going to get, and thank you so much for creating a space. And I think, like, I want to be able to say that about all my posts. Like, "If you've ever felt x, then this is something for you." So maybe that's another possible, sort of, filter for should I hit publish, which I always like to remind myself equals, "published for all eternity."

Peter: Okay, and one final thing I'm just, like, noodling on now is this idea of sharing content worth sharing, which I imagine you're still going to do in some capacity on your Facebook or your - in fact, maybe in your LinkedIn, but usually on your Facebook - so the difference between sharing content that you think is worth sharing, versus, like, having a strategy which has a different, is it that it has a different purpose and that is to grow your following, so to speak, or like, like how do you, how do you wrestle with those two?

Jen: So I think the strategy comes from the idea of growing an awareness about your, your offerings, and growing a following of people.

Peter: Yes.

Jen: I don't necessarily - for the, huh, well this is interesting. I got to, like, really think this through, because I might be saying something I don't actually believe, but I'll say it, and then we'll decide if I believe it.

Peter: Alright.

Jen: I don't necessarily want to grow my business on Facebook, because my business and the people I serve here at the studio and in my coaching and in the speaking work that I do, those are much more personal relationships, and I want to be speaking directly to those people. So I think my social media presence is for the people with whom I work to tell other people. It's not for me to speak directly to the other people, but for me to speak through the people I know to the other people. Does that make any sense?

Peter: It makes perfect sense. Word-of-mouth is the strongest form of marketing. So you are creating content that's worth sharing so that you can create more word-of-mouth, also that other people can create more word-of-mouth for you, versus, I think this is the really important point that I just picked up on is, if your goal is growth of a following of a business of a number of likes, if that is your goal, then you need a strategy.

Jen: Absolutely.

Peter: Yeah. And if that's not your goal, then don't expect to become an influencer, don't expect to become someone with a million followers or sponsored ad posts and all of those various things that come along with that. So I think that's the, that's the clear line I'm seeing, is like, sometimes we post sporadically, like I joked about with The Long and the Short of It every two weeks, I can't do that and expect to all of a sudden get a hundred thousand downloads, and I'm not doing it for that reason. So, just being clear on that in my head I think is enough of a weight off my shoulders, to be honest, to be like, "Oh, okay. Yeah. I'm just, I can share content that's worth sharing if and when I feel appropriate so that other people could use it," as opposed to, "I'm trying to get to a million likes," or, "I'm trying to get to a million followers," or whatever that is.

Jen: So what the ultimate irony is, Peter, is that you and I have just backed ourselves into the two questions that we should have started our whole social media engagement with: "Who's it for?" and "What's it for?"

Peter: I know, I actually wrote it down at the top of my page, then we just, we just kept going.

Jen: But I mean, I think this is the point, the point I'm trying to make is, this is where we should have started when we made our Facebook accounts, when we made our Instagram accounts. "Who's it for?" "What's it for?"

Peter: Yes.

Jen: Because if we knew that when we signed up and weren't just conformists who are doing it because everyone else was doing it, then we might not even have to be having this conversation.

Peter: Yes. Wow. I think that is The Long and The Short Of It.