Participating in a Hashtag Community

Recently, we looked at participating in Facebook communities as part of our learning network. Other social media platforms are important to building your learning network, too, but not all of them offer a way to gather together easily. That’s where hashtags often come in. It’s easier to gather people on Twitter and Instagram around an event- or interest-related hashtag, and there are communities that make great use of them.

I’m part of a couple of hashtag communities on Instagram. One of them is led by a user with a crazy awesome level of understanding of how hashtags work and how to make them work. The overall community has a hashtag, and then each weekly challenge has a hashtag related to the community hashtag. So through the first, we can find everyone’s post in the community, and through the second we can find everyone’s posts related to a challenge. It’s great!

Another of these hashtag communities…has all but left Instagram for a Facebook community over the last year. (And it’s funny to watch those who recently joined the Facebook community start discussing moving over to Instagram.) The community centers around a series of daily challenges, organized by month, where the challenge’s name is the hashtag. At first, things went well. But then people who were practicing a similar craft, but didn’t understand that particular hashtag went to a particular activity, started using the hashtag. And they did it on all of their posts, regardless of what that picture was.  So the community altered their hashtag slightly in an effort to make the hashtag’s intended audience clear, but the same people jumped on that hashtag as well. The hashtag has effectively been ruined on Instagram by people who couldn’t be bothered to learn what a hashtag is, or what hashtags were relevant (or in this case, off limits) to their own work.

If you’ve read my Facebook post, you already know where this is going.

When you use an event- or interest-related hashtag for posts that have nothing to do with the event or interest, you’re hijacking the hashtag. And hijacking hashtags doesn’t help anybody, the hijacker least of all. Some hashtag hijackers are just trolls, out to ruin other people’s fun because they have no skills or interests to focus their time on. But others do it because they’ve decided the best way to show off their skills is to blast it out to anyone who might have even the tiniest possible interest in their work. I can think of people I will never follow (and in some cases have blocked) on Twitter and Instagram because they engaged in hashtag hijacking trying to get their posts more widely seen. I’ve even been known to mark posts as spam because they hijacked a hashtag.

So…if you are thinking about using a hashtag (and used correctly, they’re a great tool for meeting and interacting with people…or for just getting your snark on), research the hashtag first. Make sure your post will contribute to the discussion going on in that hashtag, or fit in with whatever is being showcased. Don’t just throw on a hashtag in the hopes you’ll gain exposure, because you will gain the wrong kind of exposure and might find yourself shut out or ignored.


Participating in a Facebook Community

One of the things I like to talk about around here (when I talk at all *wink*) is the importance of communities of practice. These are groups that come together to learn, practice, and share information around a given topic or skill. And one of the easier ways to accomplish this is to join related Facebook groups (unless you’re one of those who has decided Facebook is not for them, and that’s perfectly fine. You may not gain much from this post.) I’ve been joining a fair few groups lately, some related to my professional interests, some related to personal interests. Meeting a new group of like-minded people can be pretty exciting, but there are some things to be aware of to make the experience smoother.

Communities have the ability to lay out guidelines, and many of them take advantage of this feature. On the website, these guidelines will be in a box in the sidebar or on the About tab. On the app, there will be a link to them just below the cover image. Some communities prefer to use a Pinned post, so look at the top of the community. It’s your responsibility to find and familiarize yourself with the community’s rules. Some communities have little to no tolerance for those who cannot be bothered to read the rules and abide by them.

Once you’ve read the guidelines, take a few minutes to skim the group and see what people typically post. If the majority of posts are of one type (text, for example), do not think you are being clever posting a different type because you want to stand out. It’s quite possible the community makes the type of posts it does for a reason. If you see no self-promotion posts, do not think you will be clever for doing it first. There’s probably a reason why you aren’t seeing those posts (possibly laid out in the guidelines? *wink wink*).

If you don’t see any “Thanks for adding me” posts, do not think you will be clever by being the first. If you really, truly are incapable of stopping yourself from writing a nonsubstantive “Thanks for adding me” post, see if the community has an Introduction thread. Many do in an attempt to curb those pointless posts, and your comment will cause the post to pop up in the community, allowing existing members to know you’re there and what you have to offer as a member of the group. (Also, seek help…and maybe three or four hobbies. Because, honey, if you are that desperate to be seen and think it’s acceptable to only be seen by taking up space pointlessly, you have issues.)

Once you’ve read the guidelines and familiarized yourself with the content expected from community members, it’s time to write your first post. Think about why you joined the group, what you’re hoping to gain from the group, and then write a post that reflects that. In other words, add value to the group. Make sure your post conforms with the community guidelines, and ask yourself if your post is relevant. If it fails either condition, maybe don’t write the post. And if you’re posting just to post in a community, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Facebook communities can be a great asset to your learning and skill development, but it’s important to do your part to be an asset to the community.

Marketing Audiobooks Through Product Photography

A while back, I admitted that I’ve starting playing around with Instagram. It started off as a collection of random photos of my life, that then incorporated a handwriting challenge (I think mine’s gotten worse. Oops.), and has stretched to incorporate favorite quotes and shots of the outdoors to help break up all of the handwriting posts.

In between, however, I’ve started creating pictures featuring my voiceover work that I like to call “Audio Fiction in the Wild“. (Pinterest board. Also available on deviantArt.)

Among the Instagram accounts I like to spy on, there are a fair number of publishers, book nerds, and tea houses. I followed them in part because their pictures are cool, but I also followed them to see how they use Instagram to promote their own (or favorite) products. What I noticed was that they promote their wares with a photo that features the product in an attractive setting.

And I became curious. Could I do the same thing for my audio fiction projects?

I’ve been working on the Audio Fiction in the Wild project for a couple of months now, and the short answer is, “Yes.” Not enough to fill up an Instagram account frequently enough to be interesting. (See my other account for proof of this.) But people who see the photos do seem to like them, and I have seen the smallest shift in how well my audiobooks are doing. (It is a very tiny shift, and it mostly centers around books that don’t have their own In the Wild shot.)

So, let’s get into how I’m doing things for the moment (because this is a work in progress). While I’m working on a project, I make notes on aspects of my character or the story that might make for an interesting shot. Once I have the cover art (which is fairly early on for my own projects, but has to wait until release day for projects I work on for other people), I download it to my phone and plug in my headphones. Then, I take my notes and build a scene around my phone (displaying the cover art on the screen), and shoot several pictures (because I’m compulsive like that).

When the project is released (-ish, depending on how long it took me to get everything together), I upload the picture and caption it, complete with hashtags, to Instagram, Pinterest, goodreads, and deviantArt.

As I said, I don’t know that these pictures are having a direct influence on my sales. I don’t have access to those numbers. But I do know I’ve seen the tiniest increase in audiobook sales, and more importantly, I know that none of the publishers I work for have given me the boot over these photos. So, I’d like to think they’re serving some purpose beyond really fun photography practice.

One of the best benefits of working on this project is that I’m gaining practical experience in product photography – thinking about staging and context. And I think that’s a pretty big benefit.

Anyway, that’s how Audio Fiction in the Wild got started, and why I will probably continue working on it as long as my schedule allows.

Learning to Play With Instagram

I’ve had an Instagram account as long as I’ve had my smartphone, and just really never known what to do with it. In fact, I kind of forgot I even had it for a while. But I dragged it back out a few months ago to follow a couple of now-closed accounts that sounded cool, and discovered Instagram is more than just photos of life and landscape. After stealing some great ideas from other Instagram users, bloggers, and social media marketers, I thought I’d pay it forward with a post on how I’m using Instagram these days in case someone else finds any of it interesting enough to steal.

When I first started using Instagram, it was to capture moments of living here in San Antonio. And I still do that to some extent, although my interests have become more focused on my gorgeous rustic backyard and nature-related discoveries traveling around town and the surrounding area. I’m just going to put this out there: The Texas Hill Country is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. No bias. *wink*

But a couple of months ago, I was getting bored with my own images and with the general lack of knowing what to do with Instagram, so I started combing favorite geek and design blogs looking for inspiration. I ended up jumping down the Bullet Journaling rabbit hole and joined the #rockyourhandwriting monthly challenge. It’s been fun, and I’ve connected with some interesting people. I may join other challenges as time permits, but for now I like this one.

While perusing those geek and design blogs, I started noticing how different accounts (especially book publishers) were using Instagram to showcase work. So, I’ve recently started experimenting with creating promotional shots of my audiobooks and audio dramas, and they’re doing all right. Instagram doesn’t allow active links in their captions, which presents its own challenges, but I think it’s going to be far more challenging to figure out how to stage some of these shots. I’m looking forward to it!

I’m also playing with taking favorite or inspiring quotes and brief notes and turning them into cards that post to the studio’s account. (I post the promotional shots to my deviantArt account, and am considering posting both the promotional shots and the quotes to Pinterest, but I haven’t decided yet.)

But these are just the tip of the iceberg. Moving forward, I may create promotional cards that feature a favorite non-spoilery line from the audiobook or audio drama I’m promoting. I’m also considering posting the occasional behind-the-scenes picture, but my workspace will need a lot of work before that can happen. And who knows what other crazy uses I’ll come up with between here and there!

Working with Instagram has been a really good lesson in not getting locked down into expectations. If I had, I wouldn’t be playing with all of these ideas, developing my visual communication skills, and having fun. If you’ve avoided Instagram because you’re just not sure what you can do with it, look around, play around, and just find ways to be visual.

Using deviantArt as a Writer and Voice Actor

I’ve used deviantArt over the years, constantly trying to figure out how to best use it for my various creative interests. It hasn’t always been easy, and I’ve reinvented that account probably close to half a dozen times over the last ten years just trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted from the site and then again trying to figure out how to use it to show off and highlight the creative directions my life has taken.

deviantArt is a site dedicated primarily to visual artists. Photographers, sketchers, painters, sculptors, costume and jewelry designers – They can all find a home on deviantArt. There is also a corner set aside for writers and poets, but vocal artists have to be a little more creative.

Being a writer on deviantArt is really the easier part. While deviantArt isn’t necessarily geared toward writers, especially those who write chaptered or serialized stories,  it does offer a space to play and get feedback. I like to post stories, vignettes, and even scraps of an idea I was playing with that I can’t find a good home for among my more serious work. Sometimes, it’s the only writing I get done in a week (or a month, as has been the case more recently), and sometimes those bits of story become the basis for voiceover and sound design practices. (I’ll post the audio to SoundCloud and then link the two together so someone finding one can check out the other.) I also like to back up writing from classes and other sites, just in case.

I also find the Journal a useful place to share posts on writing-specific topics from my blog along with craft-agnostic productivity and creativity topics. (You may have noticed I’m currently on a bit of a transdisciplinary kick. How unusual, right?)

One of my better ideas, though, came when I had to start creating covers for my stories and audiobooks. I’ve read so many books and articles on how to create a brilliant book cover, but I find it’s almost always more telling to get them out in front of people and see what the actual reaction is. So, I’ve taken to sharing covers for completed projects, giving them their own gallery so I can see my own progress (and catch any ticks I may be relying on). It’s one of the few ways a voice actor can really use deviantArt, even when she forgets to post the track covers she designs for projects headed to SoundCloud, and it’s a great way to get in some graphic design practice.

My other favorite way to use deviantArt as a voice actor, and I’ve only just started doing this recently, is to create promotional shots for my audiobooks and the audio dramas I perform in. These have really taken off on Instagram, but I back them up to a gallery in deviantArt, again so I can see my progress in developing these and to make sure I’m not getting stuck in ruts. Plus, it’s a great way to get in some photography practice.

What makes deviantArt a great place to store all of these stories and images is that you never know when some random deviant will come by and offer just the right piece of advice or well-timed supportive word on your work.

Building a Learning Platform on Pinterest

Disclaimer: I do not use Pinterest in the full sense. For reasons that will become clear in the post, I no longer use the main feed, topics, or subtopics.

A while back, I did a post on how to incorporate YouTube into your personal learning environment. I also wanted to cover Pinterest, which has a lot to offer the motivated self-directed learner.

Pinterest is, for all intents and purposes, a social visual bookmarking platform. Each post is called a “Pin”, and you collect them by saving them to a group called a Board. You can also upload your own Pins or save them from websites that allow pinning. Your boards can be public or private, and you can invite other people to pin to your Boards. You can also Like pins, which adds them to a special area without adding them to your boards. Your Likes are always public.

Pinterest offers many ways for users to find new Pins to save. The site offers a keyword-based search engine and encourages users to file their boards under a set of predefined categories you can surf.  You can follow friends, family, and coworkers, allowing you to see what they pin, or you can follow people and groups who post Pins you enjoy. You can subscribe to the person themself or just the boards you’re interested in. Pinterest also allows businesses to pay to promote Pins, so sometimes you’ll see clearly label Promotoed Pins in your feed. When you see a Pin you like, you can save it to your own boards. Over time, Pinterest’s algorithm will get a feel for what you’re likely to Pin and try to tailor your main screen to show you what it thinks you like. (Fair warning: The algorithm is poorly programmed.)

Last year, the site implemented topics and subtopics that you could follow, meaning pins that were identified as being related to the topic would show up in your main feed. This is where my troubles with Pinterest started. The algorithm believes that if you interact with a Pin, regardless of the reason, that means you want to see more Pins like the one you interacted with. Shortly after I subscribed to a relatively harmless subtopic last year, I had to flag a couple of pins from that subtopic that violated Pinterest’s terms of service. But to flag a Pin, you have to interact with it, so the algorithm dutifully served me more Pins like the ones I flagged until my main feed was no longer interesting or useful. Even better, Pinterest blamed me for flagging the offending Pins. (I have a business account. I was not amused and left the site for several months over it.) Moral of the story: Don’t subscribe to topics or subtopics, especially if you use Pinterest in an area where young children play.

Using Pinterest to get things done is pretty easy. You can curate a board on a favorite topic, be it a hobby, an interest, a skill set, recipes or patterns, or a favorite book or movie. You might gather ideas to help yourself plan an upcoming project or event. You might gather resources while learning a new skill. You might create a mood or inspiration board, gathering images, quotes, music, and color chips that speak to you on some level. You can create a wish list. You might create a board dedicated to your work, be it as a portfolio or as a product marketing tool. You can do this uploading your own pins, or pinning your work from around the web. Thanks to the map tool, you can even create travel albums, travel planners, tour guides, city guides, and location-based stories.

So, the possibilities for incorporating Pinterest into your PLE as a personal organization or professional development tool are vast and flexible enough to support any project you may have going. It’s a great bookmarking system. It’s an easy way to create motivational triggers. It’s a creative way to show off what you know, your interests, and your professional and personal focuses. It’s pretty easy to keep professional, personal, and planning efforts relevant, and because of the Public/Private board set up you can keep the right things facing out while still getting to use the same space to get things done.

I said at the beginning that I don’t fully use Pinterest. I stopped using it all together for about six months after Pinterest dismissed my complaint about the algorithm. And then I realized I could just use the boards, which I have ever since. Many of my projects have secret boards with all kinds of articles, tips, and inspirations to help me through. My audiobooks and audio dramas have their own boards, as do different skills I’m learning. I don’t even look at the main screen anymore, and I don’t receive notifications. It works well, and I get a lot done.

Give it a try, but be mindful of what you’re potentially inviting onto your main screen.

A Writer’s Guide to deviantArt Community Features

Continuing on from our previous discussion, deviantArt is not just for showing off what you can do. It’s also a great place to share what you know and connect with other artists from all over. Again, where appropriate, I’ll be linking to the relevant section of my own deviantArt account so anyone interested can poke around.

deviantArt offers a couple of familiar spaces to just say what’s on your mind. If you’re of a blogging mindset, deviantArt offers a Journal. It lacks some of the basic blog features (like categories and tags), but it offers some fun add-ons. (I like to share the strange things I watch and read through the advanced features.) Your journal entries count as deviations in the stats widget, even though they’re a different type of post.

If you’re more of a social media type, deviantArt now offers a status update (listed on the profile page under “Activity”) where you can post quick thoughts, project and event updates, and share links to interesting things you’ve found and want to share with people. While status posts don’t count toward your deviations, your followers are notified of both journal posts and status updates.

If you’re in love with Pinterest, deviantArt offers the ability to Favorite deviations you love, and just in the last year or so deviants have been given the ability to organize their Favorites into collections, much the same way you organize your Pins into boards. (I actually tend to Pin deviations that I’ve favorited to try to get the artists more exposure. There are some talented people hiding out on deviantArt who deserve to be seen. And deviantArt has a Pin button that includes the deviation’s name, the deviant’s name, and a link back to the original deviation. It’s quite nice.)

deviantArt also offers a variety of ways to connect with other deviants. (I no longer engage in either of these, so this is going to be based on observation and limited experience.) There are forums where you can discuss things with other deviants. There are Groups, which are basically artists banded together and sharing art on a related theme, be it topic, property, etc. Some of theses groups are excellent; some are really poorly run. But you can check out a group before you join.

The other way to connect is through Communities, which are deviants brought together by a common interest. While there are tons of these communities on the site, there aren’t many aimed at deviants who write. There is the official community, but they have never proven to be the friendliest people on the planet, often mistaking the group for the halls of the high school where they weren’t popular. (One of their leadership actually got a site award for this behavior a few years ago.) Just keep searching; hopefully, you’ll have better luck than I have.

All right. I think that covers all of deviantArt. It really is a very robust site with a lot of potential for the intrepid writer who wants to explore using it.

A Writer’s Guide to Using deviantArt

If you’re a writer who’s looked at deviantArt, you know that the site was never meant to accommodate writers. And the site has never shown much interest in developing features to help the growing writer community there. But there are just some things you can’t do on wattpad that you might really want to do, and deviantArt is actually a good way to do those things if you’re willing to put in a little effort.

deviantArt has several areas that allow you to either share your work or connect with readers and the deviantArt community: the Gallery, Scraps, the Journal, a status post feature, Communities, and Groups. Users of wattpad and some other favorite writing sites will be familiar with some of these, but we’re going to spend a couple of posts looking at these features and what they can mean for writers.

I’m going to be using a pair of site-specific terms as we move through this. deviantArt calls its users “deviants”. (If it bothers you to be called a deviant, then deviantArt is not the right site for you. It’s okay.) It calls each post made to the Gallery and Journal “deviations”. (It’s a theme. Get it? *wink*) Where relevant, I’m also going to be linking each of these sections in my own account for those who want to see how that area actually looks and works.

The main feature of deviantArt is the Gallery. It’s great for sharing standalone stories (and poetry, if that’s your thing). It’s a bit more challenging if you want to post a serial story. deviantArt has no internal mechanism for linking related deviations, so you have to be willing to create your own breadcrumbs to help readers move through your story. Each deviation has a space for creator’s notes, where you can share a summary of the story or chapter (although it posts below the deviation) or your process in creating that story. If it’s part of another project (even if that project is off deviantArt), you can link out to the original or larger project.

The site also offers a folder system in the gallery, so you can group stories together by type, genre, story world, character, etc, and a deviation can be in multiple folders. If you’re writing a serial story, you can add all of the parts into a folder, and then tell the folder to organize itself oldest to newest to keep the parts in order. Readers can then use the built-in navigation tools to move through the story. (To see this in motion, check out my serial project Chasing Normal. You can also see how I handled the breadcrumbs for people who encountered the story outside the folder.)

Because deviantArt is home to all manner of artistic deviants, you’re not just limited to sharing your stories. If you’re an illustrator or design book covers, you can share those, too. You might choose to use them on your stories. (Again, see Chasing Normal to see how this works.) Or you might choose to organize them into a folder of their own to show off for comment.

(I maintain a folder for my story and audiobook covers. You’ll notice that, where appropriate, I’ve linked to the projects I made the covers for. If I had a premium account, I could set up the folder so that story covers were separate from audiobook covers, but that’s really more than I need.)

If you want to share a work in progress, or maybe you create a little bit of story that you don’t want to lose, deviantArt has a special gallery called Scraps. These deviations don’t get shared with your followers, but they’re publicly available to anyone surfing your account. If you have a work in progress or a scrap you want to keep tack of without sharing it with the world, then there’s (accessible through the green Submit button for logged-in users). What makes really cool is that you can work on stories there privately, but it also gives you a link if you want to share it with a select group of people. When you’re finished, there’s a button to publish directly to deviantArt (gallery or scraps).

The feature has one other cool use. For obvious reasons, writers can’t benefit from deviantArt’s Print shop, but they can use the Premium Content feature, which allows deviants to attach a high-quality file to an existing deviation. People wanting to access that file pay to download it. (I haven’t used it yet, but I have some ideas I’d like to play with.)

This is a lot of information, and we haven’t even covered the community-facing features of the site. Those will be covered in the next part.

Controlling Shared Media

Sometimes, you want to share your work online, but you don’t necessarily want the entire world to see it. Maybe you’re worried about giving up your right of first publication, or you talked about something you didn’t want to announce widely yet or about someone you don’t want to hear it. Just as there are many valid reasons you’d want to share something on the internet, there are many valid reasons why you would want to control who sees what you share.

Some platforms offer a Members Only setting, so that only registered members of the site can see each other’s posts. Some platforms offer a setting that makes it relatively easy to control who sees what you share. (Keep in mind that in all of these cases, they don’t control what that person does after that. All three of these can be shared by someone with the appropriate information. Also, this is not a valid way to share copyrighted material that isn’t yours to share. Practice common sense.)

So, who is offering this setting, and how do you use it?

  • On YouTube: When you upload a video, select Unlisted from the drop down. You can also change a video’s privacy level on the video’s Edit page. The video will show up in your Video Manager and your channel page when you’re logged in, but it won’t show up for your subscribers or on your channel’s public page. To share the video, send the link to the person/people you want to share that video with.
  • On SoundCloud: When you upload a track, select Private as the privacy level. Once the file is uploaded, it will offer you a link to share. If you want to share the track after that, go the track’s page and click Share. The secret link will appear.
  • On deviantArt: Upload your content to On the page, the link to share will be right below the deviation. On the deviation’s stash page, the link is in the upper right corner. (If you’re unfamiliar with and Writer, they are great spaces for working on drafts and for keeping track of deviations you’re planning to release.)

Now that we know where we can do and how to do it, let’s talk about why someone would want to use this nifty feature. I noted above two common reasons creators are leery of posting their work online: Some industries are still trying to wrap their mind around digital content, and will ignore work already posted online because it’s not exclusive. (It’s good to keep up on your industry if for no other reason than to find out where the industry currently stands on posting to the internet.) Some creators haven’t developed their thick skin yet, and are scared of people hating their work (or even worse, people liking their work. Fear of success is a real thing that benefits no one. Get over it and get out there. Feel free to remind me I said this. *wink*)

Being able to control who sees your content has some other great uses. It can often be an easy way to share content with people you trust and want to get feedback from. (Email attachments are still stuck in 2010.) It can be an easy way to share content with friends, family, or groups. Having this private-yet-shareable content also gives you something to offer subscribers and supporters as a perk or reward. Some YouTube channels have used these Unlisted videos to help boost their subscriptions. (Again, there is that concern subscribers will share the link with friends and family, but there are also stories of channels that gained new subscribers who saw that perk content and subscribed to see what else the channel had to offer.

In terms of clever content use specifically on YouTube, channels have used these Unlisted videos to share bonus content like blooper reels, behind the scenes videos, and side videos that might be of interest to the channel’s subscribers. Some very enterprising channels have used the Unlisted video to create branched stories. The first video is Public, and the remaining videos are accessible only through links provided throughout the story. The storytelling possibilities are endless.

What does this mean for the users of one of these sites? Well, it means you can play around and develop your own uses for this setting. You could build your portfolio from this hidden content, targeting or updating your portfolio by simply updating the links to the hidden content. If you create instructional content, you can use hidden content to scaffold your lessons. Make the first lesson in the sequence public, and then post the remaining videos as Unlisted and provide the link to the next lesson at the end of the current video.

I know this has been a little long, but the hidden content capabilities really open the doors to creating interesting experiences online. I’m only just starting to explore it, and I’d love to hear how you end up using it.

Lessons Learned While Developing a Social Landscape

There’s a tip given to transmedia/crossmedia producers: Start your story in the Profile, and then flesh out different parts of it on different platforms. It’s a good approach to transmedia/crossmedia projects, but it can also help you build an interesting social landscape. For the purposes of this conversation, I’m using the term “social landscape” to refer to blogging, social media, and any social spaces dedicated to posting creative media.

After several months of neglecting everything, I’ve been slowly working on my own social landscape over the last couple of months, trying to shake things up in some ways and smooth them out in others. Because I’ve been at this for a while, I have a lot of spaces and a lot of content online. Trying to process everything has been quite an experience, and an adventurous walk down memory lane. It’s also caused me to question how I ended up managing so many social media and creative repository accounts, but strangely didn’t inspire me to close any of them. Instead, I’m now working on rebuilding each space with a purpose in mind.

If you aren’t a social media manager (working or aspiring) and you don’t want to spend your life on social media (although I honestly don’t spend much time on social media when I’m not cleaning up a space), then I have a few tips on how to build your own social landscape without it becoming a cluttered mess.

  1. Pick a handful of spaces that suit your style and your needs. In this day and age, you probably already have a number of social media accounts. And you probably joined each one because your friends wanted to check it out, so you joined them. Maybe you’re more active on one or two. Maybe you’ve forgotten you ever set up an account. (If you’re a Google user, you may not realize that you automatically have a Google+ account.)For now, focus on the ones you’re actually active on. These are the spaces that appeal to you because you have a community, you feel comfortable posting, and it allows you to share what you want to share. Just keep doing what made it a comfortable, friendly space for you. If you’re looking for a new space, then try to find a space that suits your needs in terms of community, comfort, and usability. You’ll be more likely to keep using those spaces.
  2. For each platform you decide you want to post to and engage with, figure out the strengths and features, and then figure out how to use them to your advantage. As an example, one of my favorite platforms to hang out on is YouTube. Even though I have limited video production skills, I use the Watch Later and Playlists features to organize and keep up with my learning plans. I used to have a similar relationship with Pinterest, but I recently had to rethink my relationship with that site.
  3. Many blogging, social media, and creative repository platforms are being designed to interact with each other, allowing you to do something on one platform and have it push out to other platforms automatically. This is great for you time-wise, but it can lead to having all of your sites saying the exact same thing. If that’s what you’re going for, then you’re good. But if you interact with different groups of people on different sites, you might not want to show each group the same posts. Before you start connecting accounts and pushing content out across all of them, think about who really needs to see what, and build your connections thoughtfully.
  4. If you feel like you’re drowning trying to keep up with everything or find yourself neglecting a space you used to visit and post to all the time, that’s a good sign that the space is no longer fulfilling your needs. In fact, feeling like you’re drowning often leads to avoiding spaces where you feel like you’re drowning. When you realize this is happening, find a way to gracefully remove yourself from the platform. This isn’t the space for dramatic exits. Since you’ve already left mentally, just let your account fade away quietly.

There you go. Four tips to help you build a manageable social landscape. Try them out. See how they work for you.