Here’s the situation: I want to expand the audience for my books and games. Marketing is an essential function of being a writer and publisher in the 21st century. This means getting better at social media. For tabletop roleplaying games, it also includes participation in groups and forums. While this appears to be conventional wisdom, I question the objective validity that this approach is a necessary task.
Going to forums and groups also fills me with dread. While long ago and far away I participated in several online communities, the world has changed and I have changed. There’s a lot of pointless drama and hate out there. My time is valuable, and I need to be frugal with how I spend it. There are also issues of introversion and anxiety disorders that I have to account for.
This one’s going to be in three parts, because I realized I was getting two separate lines of thinking tangled together. I need to sort these out individually before I can even assess whether there’s any value to examining whether the overlap has any significance. Welcome to how my brain works.
Fear the Forums – Part 1: Deep Work
Recently I started reading Cal Newport’s book Deep Work. The subtitle is “Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World“, which is a good a description of what the book is about. I first encountered Newport on YouTube, in a TED Talk about why you should quit social media. This becomes relevant to my struggles to market my work to a wider audience in a number of ways.
As I have always had a problematic relationship to social media, Newport’s assessments seem relevant. While I don’t agree with all of his points, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to periodically evaluate why you do what you do. This ties into my own minimalist mantra of getting rid of the things that you don’t need to make more space for the things you not only do need but actually want.
There are two good reasons to do anything. Well, three, but I’m not counting “because it’s been imposed upon you” in this, because I’m self-employed and don’t have a boss making demands on my process. You do things, foremost, because they’re effective. They get you the results you’re looking for. Anecdotally, I have never gotten a lot of business from groups and forums. Newport argues that there’s not a lot of data to support the conventional wisdom that a strong social media presence automatically equals success, or that success in the 21st century is impossible without a strong social media presence.
Because I can tag and track links to see where customers came from, I do have some limited data that shows that I do not get significant traffic or sales from social media. The question is whether that’s because social media itself is not effective, or I am not using it effectively. This leads me to want to follow the latter assumption, to see if I can improve performance there.
The second reason to do something is because it makes you happy. I used to enjoy interactions on social media and on forums. I am trying to find my way back to that, but that requires me finding my own terms. I can’t follow some “do it this way” formula, because it typically ends in tears and misery. I have a low threshold of tolerance for pointless drama and hatefulness. There’s also my general introversion, which has reached a point where even online interactions can be draining. I’ve got anxiety issues, so internet drama becomes incredibly counterproductive if it gets me wound up.
A very basic cost/benefit analysis drives me away from groups and forums. I am not only my productive, but am far happier sitting quietly in my kitchen writing without interruption. The business that I have gotten from spending time on social media, groups, and forums does not justify the cost in terms of my time and the drain it puts on me physically and emotionally. This makes me question whether investing in “doing it better” will actually have any value.
This of course leads to the question of why I still feel drawn toward online interactions, which is a separate question that will be explored in Part 2: Tribes.