Social media and sustainability

This is not some wild-eyed screed about saving Mother Earth by harnessing the networking power of Twitter or Facebook. No, I’m talking here about another kind of sustainability: the care and feeding of your social media presence.

In most of the presentations I’ve given about developing and maintaining a social media presence (like, for example, this one), I discuss four elements that I* believe lead to success:

1. Have a plan
2. Beware the bandwagon
3. Understand your audience
4. Feed your creation

It’s this last one that I want to talk about today.

Now usually when I talk about the “creation,” I’m talking about a particular online presence: a Facebook page, Twitter account, or institutional or personal blog. But it’s more than that. It’s your online persona. And that persona is not created by you alone. It’s created by all the other loosely joined pieces you connect with online. That is to say, other people.

And the hungry beast of your creation wants to be fed.

You probably know at least someone who once blogged faithfully but then fell off the wagon. Or maybe it was the frantic uber-tweeter who has suddenly clammed up. Hey, the occasional dry spell happens to the best of us. Everybody needs a break once in a while. But if you’re an athlete in a slump, you don’t quit the game. You keep on playing until you get your groove back.

There’s a person I follow on Twitter whose bio includes the phrase “obsessive blogger.” The trouble is, this person doesn’t really blog obsessively anymore. It’s too bad, really. I miss that part of this person’s persona.

The issue boils down to sustainability. If you’re going to extend your brand — personal or otherwise — into the social media sphere, be sure you have a plan to keep it sustainable. That may mean limiting your online presence to something you know you can manage while you dabble in one or two other social media tools. (As for me, I dabble in Foursquare and Facebook, mostly ignore LinkedIn, definitely ignore MySpace, Digg and Delicious, while I pour my energies into Twitter and blogging. I’m probably not quite the blogging fanatic that Chris Brogan is, but I do love this communication form.)

So, think sustainability in your social media presence. And remember: Earth Day is just around the corner, so don’t forget about that other type of sustainability, either.

* I shouldn’t take all the credit, as I’ve ripped off borrowed many of these ideas from other people.

Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

5 thoughts on “Social media and sustainability”

  1. Excellent post, and really good advice. I think you’ve nailed it with your advice to commit to something that you can sustain and limiting your presence on a limited number of tools. I try to do that, as well, with the occasional foray into the new shiny object.

  2. Good post. Social media changes so fast. The 2009 ECAR report shows a significant decline in blogging. People writing, reading and commenting steadily declining, especially for the traditional aged college and high school students. I just finished a study that supported these findings. I think we’re going to see many more of the blog personas drop…

  3. Joe – I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with playing with new toys every now and then. Where we go wrong is when we attempt to extend our brand personae before we’ve really decided whether it’s feasible. (Which is one reason I’ve shied away from Posterous, a tool you and others are managing quite well.)

    Chris – I’d be interested in seeing your study. Will it be posted/published anywhere? It isn’t just blogging personae that will drop. With the latest news that more than half of Facebook’s members are age 50 or older, it’s pretty clear that institutions putting all their eggs into that social media basket just to reach a youth market are missing the mark, too. What happens then?

  4. Good points. I’m going to share the URL of this posting with two workshop audiences in Europe this week, because it gives sound advice on setting realistic expectations for higher ed staff members just starting out with online tools. They are often tempted to do everything, and that’s not…sustainable.

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