Blog | Jan 18, 2011 | 5 Comments

[unplugging: an experiment]

[with surprising results]

I just returned from a nine-day vacation. During that time, I vowed not to use the Internet. But the fact that I actually stuck to that pledge wasn’t the biggest surprise.

I’ll admit I was worried, but not for the reasons you might think.

In 2010, I became very active on the major social media sites as three “persona”–myself, my business (WagnerWrites), and as a community manager for The Working Chronicles. I now spend hours each week planning, writing, posting, tweeting/retweeting, reading,  commenting, and sharing. And then there’s email, which consumes even more time.

So I actually felt relieved about leaving it all behind to enjoy a real vacation. And aside from a couple of quick Facebook posts and emails at the airport, I stuck to my decision.

However, I was sure I’d lose a lot of followers and have to rebuild my reputation and connections.

This fear must be what drives a lot of people to stay online while on vacation, either posting live or through carefully scheduled updates. We’ve all had it drummed into our heads that without a constant presence, we won’t be relevant or popular.

I’ve built my communities slowly and deliberately, and I didn’t like the thought of losing ground.

But I wasn’t going to drag my laptop to the beach, and I don’t have an international plan for my iPhone. My other option was to write and schedule nine days’ worth of tweets and Facebook posts. Not only was I short on time, you could argue that most of the value of social media interaction is in sharing what’s happening in the moment. I’d just be passing on stale news anyway.

So all I did was write and schedule one blog post for my regular time slot, Tuesday morning, and schedule a few tweets with links. (The Facebook blog post link is generated automatically–one less thing to worry about.) It felt risky but it also seemed like it could be a valuable experiment.

(Drum roll, please.) The results are in: when I went dark, my numbers went up.

Yep, that’s right. More people liking my Facebook page. More @WagnerWrites followers on Twitter. More people naming me as a source on Amplify. Slightly more comments on my blog about social media vulnerability. Obviously, I didn’t get as many retweets and Twitter mentions but I did have a few, thanks to that blog.

What’s the lesson here?

A less cynical conclusion would be that posting a blog and promoting it is what really matters. People are searching for new, interesting content and if you build it, they will come.

Your turn: what do you think this all means?

P.S. About the photo. I spent most of the vacation at a yoga retreat center. There is wifi in one garden area, where you could find guests and staff using their smart phones and laptops just about any time of the day or night.

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Author: Claire Wagner

I'm a seasoned freelance writer/editor and an enthusiastic community manager. I'm passionate about developing and sharing good content.

5 Comments

Interestingly, I’ve been taking somewhat of a less marked (and enjoyable!) Social Media Sabbatical and my results are the same.

I agree with your conclusions and also think that all the A-lister talk about having to blog every single day, tweet in one’s sleep, and post fascinating questions that show how brilliant we are on LinkedIn are just a lot of… well… bloviation.

Prestige is an emotional trigger that involves a giving little less of something that’s really good. Tiffany’s is such a rush because you don’t get one of their signature blue boxes every day, if ever. They aren’t around every corner and maintain a level of exclusivity.

I’m learning to back off of so much people pleasing in the guise of being perpetually “accessible”in order to succeed. It’s baloney!!

[Reply]

Claire Wagner Reply:

Great insights, Lori, from a marketing perspective and personal perspective. I look up to you and so appreciate the validation. What you’ve said about Tiffany and people-pleasing is important. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about over-doing it on social media. This week, having a sprained wrist is an interesting coincidence, giving me another reason to pull back a little. In the end, we can’t overcome all the random noise just by making more of it. We have to somehow connect on a more personal level – for example, the way you first connected with me – and hope that some of these connections will turn into “evangelists” for us/our brands. We first need each other in small numbers in order to be successful.

[Reply]

Sometimes I can not figure it out. I will spend hours on one post and the reaction will be very little, or whip something else up in ten minutes and the reaction is huge. Same with Twitter and Facebook, it seems to go haywire when I am not there.

Well done for the cold Turkey BTW – I am not quite at that stage but would relish a day when I can go without switching on my laptop and not break out into sweats.

[Reply]

Claire Wagner Reply:

Thanks, Natalie. Social media is very random. I was surprised at the popularity of certain blogs and disappointed by others (many of them!) that were totally ignored. It’s hard to tell if it’s the topic, the day, the time, the whatever…And I was very surprised at how relieved I felt to be away from it all. I just heard a little story about someone who is a writer who found or bought an old laptop with no Internet connection so there would be no interruptions when he wrote. I’m thinking that would be a good idea for me. Even my favorite cafe has free wifi, of course, and that distraction is a concern for me.

[Reply]

Natalie

1/21/2011

Vicariously living through another is what reading of your pretty cold turkey un-technical vacation. I enjoyed the view.
As I just commented on Facebook about your post, I still email and Facebook while gone.
I might try to cold turkey it sometime. It sounds interesting.
Calla Gold

[Reply]

Calla Gold

1/22/2011

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