Thursday 7 June 2018

Are You Taking Social Media Breaks?

At the moment, there’s a lot of talk in the media about those who choose to give up their mobile phones; and a couple of days ago I heard about the new Apple digital detox initiative, where the goal is to help Apple users monitor and limit time spent on iPhones and iPads. There's more info in this article via The Evening Standard.

I don’t need to tell you that authors and bloggers need to use social media to be effective, and publishers expect authors to have a social media presence; plus if you're an indie author, being on social media is a great way to raise your profile.

But sometimes, doesn’t it all get a bit much? 

The smart phone really has made life easier. When I first set up my neetswriter blog and social media accounts back in 2011, I used to spend hours at my computer updating everything and ended up with back and neck ache. Then I got an iPad and loved it so much, I got an iPhone not long after that. This meant I could do some of my social media stuff while sitting in a comfy chair, rather than at my desk, or at the kitchen counter while waiting for things to cook, in the car while waiting for the kids to come out of school etc.

Having an iPhone meant I could leave the house and reply to notifications, plus keep up with important emails. But I've always left my phone in the kitchen in the evening-when sitting in the living room or upstairs-although I do still check it when loading the dishwasher or making a cup of tea. At night, my phone remains downstairs. One habit which is not good for you, I've heard, during a talk I attended last year about screen use and social media for teenagers-is to use your phone as an alarm in the morning

I still love my iPhone, but I keep myself aware (or rather my right hand does) of how much I’m using it. There may be occasional days when I’m using my phone almost continuously because there's a lot going on, and my right wrist begins to ache, as well as my brain. That’s when I remind myself to stay off it more.

But this post isn't just about phone use. Social media is available on our computers and tablets too. And sometimes there seems to be no escape.

Why take social media breaks?

You’re not enjoying it: 
Social media should be fun; that's my view. On my courses and with clients, my aim is to find a way for writers, authors and bloggers to enjoy using social media. There can be days or short periods where there is a lot of negativity due to events in the news, or because some of the friends in your network are not getting on. A key reason for not enjoying social media is because it’s not working-i.e., you’re getting little or no engagement on what you post (see below-Using the break to try something new or come up with a new strategy).

It makes you feel drained and irritable:
This can happen when you reach for your phone as soon as you wake up, and you're attached to it at times when once you might have spent time thinking or reading: on the train, in the waiting room at the dentist, if you arrive somewhere early and you’re sitting outside in the car. I’ve recently started a new regime of walking to the local shop in the mornings at 7am to get the paper, and milk when I’ve forgotten to buy it (often), while waiting for the kids to come down for breakfast. Who knows how long this will last?-but it means checking my phone isn't the first thing I do when I get downstairs.

It’s stopping you from writing:
Sometimes the only way to get the book finished or the edits/re-write done is to take time off from social media. It's OK to do this-as long as you don’t have a book coming out in the near future-in which case, scheduling can help, and a date in the diary for a break when things calm down.

You can incorporate social media breaks into your daily life or week, and/or you can take longer breaks. I try to do both when I can.

Daily Life:

Finding a way to switch off the phone or put it away during parts of the day can be helpful.

One reason I love yoga classes is because I’m getting away from my phone.

I recently started taking a book to hairdresser appointments-just like in the old days, and put my phone in my bag. I used to sit there skimming through my phone, feeling irritable afterwards. See my neetswriter post, Not Wanting the Book to End, inspired by Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

Longer Breaks: a few days, a week, a month:

If the time is right-i.e., you don’t have anything important going on, it’s worth taking a longer break, and you’re likely to return to social media with renewed enthusiasm, refreshed and ready to go again.

I take longer breaks during school hols. Going to a place where there is no phone reception and WiFi’s only available in one place in town is always nice.

Southwold, where my phone rarely works
Using the break to learn something new or come up with a new strategy:
My longer breaks help to clear my head. During these times, I often still think about the way I use social media and teach myself how to do something new. At half term, I taught myself how to make an iMovie with the help of my kids (ha!), and I’ve been playing around with video in general and Instagram Stories. This keeps your social media interesting and less predictable. 

If you’re getting little or no engagement on your tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram posts and stories-ask yourself why. What can you do differently when you return?

Pancake video for Instagram Story

A kind of break:
During my longer breaks I still post on Instagram (which is undemanding), as I’m usually out and about doing lots of lovely things like visiting country houses and eating cake; and I keep an eye on Twitter and Facebook, checking once a day or so. I can’t miss a big discussion in the media about a book prize, a viral article about commercial fiction versus literary fiction, a new publisher with a different business model, a big change to Twitter etc. Because I’m teaching and training clients on social media in the book world, I need to stay up-to-date with this stuff. I still mostly take a break from managing notifications (as I'm not posting on Twitter and Facebook), which I like to keep a close eye on when I’ve fully active on social media. Sometimes (well, usually!), someone will tag me in a Facebook group when I'm away, asking a question about Twitter or something. In that case, I reply quickly and get back to my break.

If you really can't take a break, try scheduling tweets (I use Tweetdeck) and Facebook Page posts. This helps to take the pressure off, and you can then check notifications at certain points during the day. 

You may disagree about taking longer breaks:
But I think it’s better to take a break from something than to abandon it altogether. I’ve seen a few authors disappear from social media and blogging completely because they’ve had enough.

Returning to social media after a longer break:
Do bear in mind that if you take a longer break, when you return, it can take a bit of time to build up engagement again-tweets on your first day back for example might not get much attention. Those in your network have got used to you not being there, and if you haven’t been supporting others in your network during your break, you'll need to start doing that again.

Are you planning on taking a social media break this summer? It may be just what you need.

Other posts:
11 Ways to Promote a Blog Post

neetswriter posts:
What’s Your #amwriting Journey? (about being a finalist in The Write Stuff at London Book Fair 2018)
Not Wanting the Book to End (about Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine)

My recent guest post, via Emma Darwin:

About me (Anita Chapman):

I'm a freelance social media manager with clients in the world of books. I run my own one day social media courses for writers in London and York (next course London, 6 October 2018), and I'm a tutor at Richmond and Hillcroft Adult Community College (Surrey, UK), where I run Social Media for Writers and Bloggers courses (next course due to start in September 2018). I also draft social media plans for author clients and do training over the phone and Skype. Find out more with course booking info via my website. You can follow me on Twitter @neetsmarketing, Instagram @neetswriter, and my neetsmarketing Facebook page is here.

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