Social Media & Branding: Why I’m Over It

Social media is a great tool for promotion. One’s presence on social media can mean the difference between successfully selling a product versus not selling it at all. With platforms such as Twitter and Facebook fan pages, branding is accessible and attainable for every day people. Unlike a decade ago where artists’ teams worked on their branding/image, Twitter has served as the sort of do-it yourself tool for professionals, celebrities, musicians, writers and authors to “sell” the public on whatever it is they’re trying to promote.

Anyone oblivious to Twitter’s power can look no further than Tony A. Gaskins Jr. or the pleasantries guy. Gaskins with a following of 106,247 has plateaued his success as an author, motivational speaker and consultant. Both have reached turned their patriarchal advice and tips (mostly directed at women) into lucrative opportunities. Ask any new author whether or not Twitter and Facebook numbers matter. Many will reluctantly reveal that once their manuscripts were read, the editor was sold on the idea of the book, they wanted to know what the inspiring author’s numbers were. Do you have a blog? How many hits do you receive? How many Twitter followers? How many FB “likes” do you have? Chances are if you didn’t have the numbers, you weren’t getting your book signed to a major publishing house. Of course there are exceptions to this rule. But exceptions are never the standard.

For writers, social media has been a great avenue to reach an audience that may otherwise have never heard of them. Every writer uses Twitter differently; but those who are authors or journalists typically tweet and post their articles, press mentions and book signing events to their followers. Awareness is key. If people have no clue who you are the chances of them being familiar with, let alone supporting your work, are slim.

Not everyone uses Twitter to promote their own projects. People like dream hampton use Twitter to exchange and share ideas (in all fairness she does tweet links to her work, both old and new). One of the things she has repeatedly said she loves about Twitter is the engagement. After all, there are real people behind the Avatars and screen names. At the Brooklyn Book Festival Terry McMillan read from her next book that she’s currently writing. During the Q&A session someone asked all of the authors about social media. McMillan was the only one to say she loved it and added, “I don’t use Twitter to promote anything I do.” The point here is that writers use social media in various ways that suit their needs.

Although dream and Ms. McMillan have the luxury of not using Twitter to “brand” themselves (obviously their names are already well known), new writers do not. Having an effective presence on Twitter and Facebook is a must. As one editor told me, “Your biggest goal right now should be creating a name for yourself.”

I’ve been on Twitter since May of 2009. My recollection for Facebook is a tad bit grey, but I believe I joined when you needed an .edu email to join. Facebook has been around much longer, but was never in the same realm as Twitter in the sense of promotion until recently. It was always more personal– a way to keep up with old friends and family. But FB is catching up to Twitter in the sense that it too has become a platform for individuals and businesses to reach massive numbers of people. When I first joined Twitter I had no clue what I was doing. I only joined because I was interning at VIBE and my boss said, “By Monday you better have a Twitter account.” I joined that day. By not really knowing how Twitter worked I would just tweet my thoughts with absolutely no filter. I’d curse, I’d talk about the lunch I had and occasionally tweet about my internship. Back then there was no blog to promote. I definitely hadn’t written for any publications.

As time went on I got the hang of Twitter. I used Danyel Smith (@danamo) as an example. She seldom promoted anything of her own because she hadn’t started The Smithian yet. The most you’d get about her personal life was what she cooked for dinner or her favorite “BK bound.”  She followed all the news and magazine sites. She followed well known journalists and writers. I did the same. DSW pretty much used Twitter to share links to a myriad of articles.

Sometimes I struggled with Twitter. Figuring out what was acceptable to tweet, learning how to keep certain opinions to myself, learning to not respond to every asshole who attacked my opinion, it all became a process. Who knew social media had to be so strategic.

Two and a half years later it took my best friend’s birthday weekend for me to decide I’d been putting it off long enough. It was long overdue. I finally deactivated my Facebook account, cleaned up my Twitter page and got off of social media. If you could deactivate your Twitter account and reactivate without losing any followers I would have done so. Originally I wasn’t concerned about how long I’d do it, but rather what I wanted to accomplish before getting back on. Four months sounded reasonable since by then it’d be my birthday and my new year. Without question I knew my blog numbers would suffer.

The top three traffic drivers to my site are Google, Facebook and Twitter. By not tweeting my blog posts or posting links to FB, ultimately less people are aware that I’m writing daily, which equates to less visitors. I was never in the habit of blogging daily so my readers aren’t accustomed to checking the blog every day for new posts. On the flipside I enjoy the freedom of writing for myself.

Another adjustment I’ve had to get used to is no longer finding out about breaking news from Twitter. I learned of Heavy D’s death from the radio. Just like the ol’ days. Watching TV shows with my Twitter followers also became a weekly normalcy. Those were hilarious moments. When I meet new people who want to connect on FB they won’t  find me there since my page isn’t activated. Others don’t understand why with 22K tweets my Twitter page is private. And more so, as a writer whose work is very public, people expect you to be using social media daily.

Publications also hope their writers will tweet the articles they write because it brings traffic to their site. The interview I just did with Tamar Braxton for VIBE.com was not tweeted. I haven’t been able to share with anyone outside of my close circle that I’m in December’s issue of ESSENCE on the contributor’s page. I also have a two page story on couples who’ve made marriage work. And the funny thing is that under my bio on the contributor’s page of ESSENCE it sends people to my Twitter, which is locked and I’m not tweeting. This is horrible brand building at its finest. But I am enjoying life to the fullest. Now that Twitter apps are no longer on my phone I enjoy events and outings with my friends. Instead of tweeting about the things I’m doing I’m enjoying the company I’m with. I’m fully listening or observing because I’m not worried about tweeting what celeb I just interviewed. My productivity has multiplied by a trillion. Social media was a huge time drain. The amount of time I’d put into tweeting was slowing down my actual hustle. The hours I spent on social media could’ve been hours I spent blogging or pitching ideas.

One of the biggest truths is that I believe a lot of people use social media as escapism. Many people use social media to escape from their own life and create a whole world of cyber friends, having to know what’s going in and what people are saying. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the cliques on Twitter. It’s like high school reincarnated. You have the cool kids. The nerds. The eccentric. The bourgeoisie. The Posers. I always wondered if the same people were on tweeting day and night or every time I’d log in, how are they living their own life? When you are truly living social media becomes an after thought. For me, the energy being exhausted into it and some of the energy coming from it was not conducive with what I’m trying to do at the moment. And that’s be my best self and live my best life.

I’ll continue to be anti-social media for as long as I need to, even with losing followers daily. Yes, I know this is happening. I know my line of work goes hand in hand with the whole cyber world, which is why I still regularly update my Writing While Black FB page. Will it hurt the brand? Probably. Will my numbers continue to decrease? Maybe. Is it a sacrifice I’m willing to take? Yep.

Social media is probably more powerful than any of us ever thought it’d be. Too bad it’s so powerful that we’ve come to rely on it for promotion and brand building. Sometimes your brain doesn’t want to strategize how to effectively use social media. The work should speak for itself. That’s all I ever wanted anyway.

  • omg Bene, I agree a 100%! I started notice how the internet is not as fun for consumers, corporations have found there way into it and every move a strategy now!

    No longer is it about posting articles or vlogging about topics/events what you love or hate which would be an extension of yourself.

    It’s “wht is your brand? who do you target? how many UV’s do you have?” which is draining and makes this space a little less appealing for those of us who basked in the venture and freedom it offered circa 2008.

    I really agree and I how the fun has been sucked out of social media! And when i am at an event it takes a lot of your attention away from what’s happen to tweet updates! Especially when service is sketchy and a tweet will not go through, you waste 20min tapping at the app trying to give a timely tweet! Thumbs down!


  • Crystal T. Ash

    “One of the biggest truths is that I believe a lot of people use social media as escapism” << THIS!!!

    Ok, so first, I noticed you "missing" from Twitter LOL. I commented on your appearance on the Essence's contributor page as well as that great article. Kudos!!

    I wholeheartedly agree with you in the usage of social media. In its newness, social media was a shiny new toy that most of us couldn't stay away from. I will often question the purpose of social media even as I engage in it on a daily basis. My FB is solely used to send inspirational message each day to young people (branding? hmmm I don't even know anymore.) My twitter account started out as an outlet to express my random thoughts with a hint of encouragement and inspiration to others when the spirit hit me to do so. Now, it really don't know what I'm using it for. It is like I have an audience and I don't know who the target is. What thoughts to share? What thoughts not to share? Am I offending anyone? ughhhh!!! Tooo much. I don't tweet as much as I use to but I do use it to engage with others on various topics in between work and grad school or if I get a stream of thoughts that I feel the need to share. 

    It's all really confusing at times, I just wish I knew what the true purpose of social media was for but I suppose that varies from person to person.

    *shamefully raises hand* I was guilty of only checking your blog page when a link was tweeted.( I got here from a FB link smh lol) I will now be coming over to check out your page just for the amazing writing

    Oh yeah, here's the tweet about your article. Keep shining!!
    @WrittenbyBene Awesome interviewing, reporting, and writing in the Dec. issue of Essence!! Writing is your gift. The pen your instrument.

  • Ladybleu1920

    I was wondering what happened to you on twitter.  I must admit I was introduced to your work through twitter (via a belle in bk) and I am happy that I did- how ironic?!  I do check your blog everyday because I wholeheartedly appreciate your work.  Recently I read that facebook is the “devil’s workshop.” I think the whole social media thing is the devil’s workshop.  I deactivated my facebook acct months ago because as happy as I was to reconnect with people from grade 1 (I grew up in the Caribbean) these ppl don’t matter to me now.  I figure the time I spend on twitter and fb, I could use it to finish the 6 books that I started reading.  I do plan to follow your work and hope you continue to blog.  Congrats on your Essence article, great read!

  • Anonymous

    @twitter-94399281:disqus “And when i am at an event it takes a lot of your attention away from
    what’s happen to tweet updates! Especially when service is sketchy and a
    tweet will not go through, you waste 20min tapping at the app trying to
    give a timely tweet!” Girl…tell me about it. You know how many times that scenario has been my life? LOL. And you get mad b/c the tweet won’t go through. You literally will keep at it until it does. We’re sad. LOL. I think that Twitter is a great platform in so many ways, but where it starts becoming a problem is when you start oversharing, judging your life based on other people’s, wishing you had or were doing what you perceive the people you admire are doing, worrying about who follows you and who doesn’t, etc. etc. It can become unhealthy really fast.

    @934c9c10d4d7b496fec7920719bdc878:disqus :Thanks so much for the shoutout and compliment. I really appreciate your encouraging words. Always. Those same questions you’re asking yourself are things I’ve definitely asked. It’s like why does so much thought have to go behind a tweet? I don’t think people are being truly honest either with their habbit/addiction to Twitter. As I stated in the post, I definitely think people are using it as an escape. I think people’s tweets sometimes show the level of folks’ misery. When you see how critical people are of everything or how truly unhappy some people are. I have to check myself constantly with what I say and what information & energy I’m allowing into my life via social media. This makes it sound way too deep, but it can be. This is a medium we’re spending hours on weekly. What we read/digest seeps into our conscious. We’re doing tweet ups and sometimes making friendships from Twitter. The flipside is we judge people we’ve never met based on Twitter. I know there’s some people I never met a day in my life, but from Twitter I’m like “I don’t like him/her.” See, that’s doing way too much. Just typing all of this is giving me a headache. LOL. With that said, I’m good on social media for a while.

    @04d1be20e02560c711f2670bc1c82588:disqus : Big up to D for the traffic & readers I’ve gained because of her. She’s dope. I’m glad you found me. In that way social media is great. I’ve found so many writers who are now some of my faves through Twitter. Sharing information is definitely one of the pros. You’re so blunt: “…These people don’t matter to me now.” Ha! I’m not mad at that. Thank you so much for reading and the compliments. 🙂

  • As a social media manager I hear and feel you.  I work on my clients social media everyday so that they don’t have to, it’s something I enjoy.  But.. Personally if I get on FB or Twitter to say anything.  It’s only when I am inspired to share something. I never tweet on my phone and only occasionally will I use FB to share something while I am out, now texting that’s a whole other story.  It really comes down to discipline and truly being engaged in a quality experience. My humble and simple advice… hire someone to Tweet your own horn, and share your successes and recent blog posts on FB.  Allowing your “Brand/Reputation” to suffer because you just don’t feel like it cannot be an excuse. I Love the Blog and will continue to share it with the world! (which is social media by the way LOL!)

    • Anonymous

      LOL. Girl, I am not big time. No where near as successful as I’m going to be to have someone running my social media pages. Maybe an intern. Ha! When I think of people who have hired someone to run their social media pages it’s either corporations, celebrities or pseudo celebrities. But…you are right: “Allowing your “Brand/Reputation” to suffer because you just don’t feel like it cannot be an excuse.” *sigh* I know. I was just thinking today that I have to be on at least Twitter or FB. And this “hiatus” although good for me mentally and spiritually is not great for business. Thanks for reading, sharing and keeping it real. 🙂

  • Oh, snap! I just sent you a tweet, but I’ll make that an e-mail now!

  • Steve

    Wonderful article! As an IT professional/aspiring writer, I was thinking how would I use twitter/FB from here on. Around this time last year, I was twittering/posting articles on FB every chance I got; at the store, club, events, and (even though it was frowned upon) at my job. I wanted to create an audience for some short stories, ideas, etc. But it got out of hand. I became a MONSTER (not in a complementary way) and lost focus of what I wanted to do. I stopped my writing/reading regimen due to my desire to post the most updated articles/tweets of the day. So I had to fall back to save myself. I deactivated my accounts for a couple of months, and got back to socializing and networking the old fashioned way…Talking with people face to face. Now don’t get me wrong I believe there’s a lot of good with social media, but due to the convenience and anonymity of FB/Twitter (I can say what I want, AAAAND I don’t have to use my govt name, or show my face on my avatar!) a lot of folks are creating an “alter ego”, losing their soul to an online presence. Social media is an effective tool for promotion/branding, but (just like anything else) it can be addictive to the point that you abuse the power, and forget the common goal on using it in a proactive manner. 

  • Adjoa

    I just found your blog and I love everything I have read so far! I especially needed to read this article. Using social media was definitely an escape for me! I just deactivated my Twitter yesterday after realizing so many problems that it was causing. I was following celebrities I did not know and a lot of friends and family. I felt like I actually knew them for some reason. I understand that Twitter is a good way to interact promote and advertise, but my experience became way too personal. I became so addicted that whenever I woke up, the first thing I would do was check my Twitter (pitiful, I know lol). Whenever I was off the site, I would ask myself, well what do I do now? I think I have realized that I am missing out on things in life. I even deleted the social media apps off my phone, which I’m still getting used to because I checked my Twitter every five minutes. I think this is a huge step because I am now finding meaningful things to do and care about my life and what I am doing, instead of read about other people’s lives. 

  • Brenda

    I just found your blog through twitter (also through ABIB, lol) and as I was reading some of your posts, I saw this and actually sent you a request to follow. And since you’re private on twitter, I’m not even sure if you’re actively tweeting still (four months later). I agree with you on this post wholeheartedly. I was completely against Twitter and only joined because I’m working on my novel and realize that I have no following. Like you mentioned above, the numbers do count in addition to any talent. Whether you are on twitter, facebook, or whatever I now know where to find you. Because I definitely believe that if you are truly a fan of someone/something, you support. Until the next post…