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My First Stumbling Block to Getting Started with Social Networking

August 27th, 2008 by Bob Bly

OK. I joined Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace, and already it isn’t working for me.

Here’s why: when you join, you get e-mails every day from people saying they have found you on one of these networks … and asking to be added to your list or be allowed to follow you or whatever you call it.

These e-mails interrupt my busy day, and so I don’t reply when I get them: It would destroy my productivity and take me away from the pressing writing deadlines at hand.

But I don’t reply to them LATER, either … because — well, because I am busy, and I have more important things to do, whatever time of day or day of the week it is.

And that’s the barrier: I ALWAYS have paid writing, publishing, or consulting projects to do … and they are ALWAYS more important than banal chatting or socializing on networks.

So, my question to you is: if you are active in social media, how on Earth do you manage to find time for it?

I honestly cannot imagine how Robert Scoble or any other crushingly busy person — as so many of us solopreneurs our — can possibly justify the time required to invest in social media participation.

Nor can I imagine, if you ARE already crushingly busy with paying work, how time spent noodling around on social networks can give a better ROI than doing the work you already have.

So I am stuck on square one of “getting started in social media” — and don’t see a way to move to square two.

Any advice, thoughts, or suggestions?


This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 27th, 2008 at 12:06 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

46 responses about “My First Stumbling Block to Getting Started with Social Networking”

  1. Kristi Holl said:

    I LOVE this post. It is the same problem I have with it–the time factor. And I don’t want to have five thousand “friends.” You really need to have a purpose for your social networking, like writing for teens and connecting with readers on Facebook or people looking for speakers for teen events, for example. But without a clearcut business purpose, I can’t justify the time spent. I would so much rather curl up with a book if there’s a spare minute!
    Writer’s First Aid

  2. Angie said:

    Sounds more like a time management issue to me, but that’s just my 2 cents.

    Personally, I don’t follow ANYONE on twitter – it’s more of a venting and random thought tool for me. I don’t use Facebook though I have an account (or 2). I only get an email once a month from LinkedIn, and every so often someone will ask to be connected. Not that big a deal. And I hate myspace with a passion (though I have an account, which I only opened so I could see someone else’s info – that whole idea is dumb to me but obviously something is working).

    As for *when* I “do” any of these things… it’s usually after hours. You know, when I’m done with work and happen to have a spare minute. You do get off work at some point don’t you Bob? 🙂

    All kidding aside, this stuff is at a very low priority for me in the grand scheme of things. Like you, I do have better things to do. This social media stuff, for me, is an area between work and play, both of which I do way more than Twitter… or post comments on blogs (which is not all that different really).

  3. Audrey said:

    I use Facebook to keep up with my daughter who is overseas. I don’t use MySpace at all anymore. Twitter is fun. It takes 10 minutes of my day twice a day. For me it’s fun, not work.

  4. dianacacy said:

    See, I don’t have this problem, because I’m starting it before too many people know me. where you get loads of people wanting to add you, I get one or two a day. No biggee.

    For someone well-known, this sounds to me like a perfect opportunity to outsource to a PR rep. I think it would fall under the same lines as having someone sort out your fan email.

    If someone else manages it for you, then you can hand in small posts and links to update your pages with, and just use your own time (as you see fit) for surfing those who have connected to you.

    I still think it’s a good resource for gaining exposure for a new product or service. I’m small time, and just adding twitter and facebook to my social networking in the last week has really gained me some website traffic.

    (And a few new subscribers to my newsletter too.)

  5. Joel Heffner said:

    If you use Twitter, the only emails you may get tell you that someone is now following you. No need to reply at all.

    I use Twitter in a way that it was not intended. Instead of using it as a social network I provide writing tips ( So far, about 50 people follow the tips. I only “follow” only 2. Some of my followers end up visiting my site.

    Not everything one does has a bottom line, Bob. It’s OK to have some fun…especially if it only takes about a minute every couple of days.

  6. Bob Bly said:

    Joel: the problem is that I don’t find social networking the least bit fun. I’d much rather read the newspaper, play with the dog, or meet friends for a drink. To me, Twitter, Facebook, and the like are a thundering bore. But I realize others like it, though I don’t see the appeal.

    Dianacacy: I cannot imagine wasting my money to outsource my social networking to a PR firm. Not doing it at all seems a more cost-effective option to me.

  7. Michael Martine, Blog Consultant said:

    It’s interesting to see you give it a try and recount your experiences for us. Social media isn’t for everyone, and there is so much variety within it that most people prefer some avenues and avoid others.

    I do not have a Facebook account. Nothing seemed like a bigger waste of time to me than having a walled-off microcosm of everything I was already doing reflected back at me upside down in an echo chamber.

    However, I get a lot of exposure and value out of Twitter, which is like one continuous online watercooler/soapbox/party.

    Scoble has built a brand around his social media presence. He wouldn’t be Scoble if he didn’t do it. He has reach and influence because of it. It’s not about “work” to him.

    Social media interactions spread you around, expose you, help create connections through which can come opportunities.

    It’s good SEO, too.

  8. dianacacy said:


    If you don’t need the social networking, then I don’t think it would hurt you in the least to not do it. Your name’s already established and you’re well known, so there may not be enough benefits in it for you. Especially since you don’t like it.

    What are we in this for anyway? To do what we love. Makes no sense to do something we don’t like after making the journey.

  9. Steve Kayser said:

    Dear Bob:

    It’s overwhelming and annoying at the beginning, but can be managed if your head doesn’t explode first. Have you tried It updates/pulls from most of those sites (43) sites at one time I think) with one click.

    The emails can be irksome. But I get 300-600 per day right now anyway (nowhere near what Scoble gets. I heard him say he gets over 2,000 some days) so I’ve learned to process them. And how I process them – and how many others like me are being forced to process them – actually plays to a valuable strength of yours. What you’re well known for.

    Great writing.

    The best writing will get through. The best, most eye-catching subject line. It’s the 3-30-3 adage. You have 3 seconds to attract my dim-witted brain via the subject line. If that works then you have 30 seconds to EARN 3 minutes of my time. Not that my time is especially valuable. But if you’re emailing me? My time is valuable. Price of admission (or advertising) is great writing. I think you might find it to be a veritable gold mine for business development.

    Good writing is hard. And hard to find. It should be traded on the precious commodities market.


    I’ve found Twitter to be incredibly useful tool for learning about and keeping up with the latest developments and research in tech and business – and connecting with the tech media. The Guy I think is best at using Twitter for business also happens to be named Guy — Guy Kawasaki. He’s funny, helpful, useful, unique and responds to meaningful questions with meaningful answers. He’s approachable, pleasant and eminently likable. Sure he uses it to help build his new ALLTOP site – and his personal brand – but he does it with panache & maybe just a little prestidigitation.

    Robert Scoble – I saw him speak at a conference a couple months ago. Seemed like a genuinely nice person. But (BUT!) he made 90% of the people’s heads in the room swell & explode. Why? Because he demo’ed all those products you’re talking about – plus a bunch of others – on stage. Live. At the same time. It was like only wanting a sip of water – and getting a firehose stuck in your mouth.


    And Scoble had at the time, like 18,000 followers/friends. Wow – I don’t even like the friends I have (triple digits of course – if you count each digit once).


    In the Tech/Pr/SocialMedia Twitter “space” – whatever “space” means, there seem to be a lot of cognescenti. Analysts, researchers, commentators, high tech media, etc. But there’s a whole buncha obnoxious-centi as well. Obnoxious know it alls who claim to be “A”listers (some are) but they quickly get tuned out. Obnoxious is boring – no matter how smart or rich they are.


    There are some pretty interesting and cool people on Twitter. People that I would have never really met or sometimes even known about except for Twitter. For example: Paulo Coelho –
    author of ‘The Alchemist.”

    A couple others you might want to check out –

    Guy Kawasaki -

    Tim O’Reilly

    Dion Hinchcliff (only for the serious tech folks – he’s great tech analyst.)

    New Media Jim
    Interesting fellow. Even Tweeted from the White House a couple weeks ago.

    Gerd Leonhard – author, speaker, etc. Has some pretty cool web 2.0 presentations – from Switzerland

    Xeni Jardin –
    Over the Pond – Europe

    Jeremiah Owyang -
    Forester Social Media Analyst

    Duct Tape Marketing – John Jantsch

    Charlene Li ( Groundswell author)

    Mark Glaser – PBS –

    John Blossom – Shore Communications – John has a couple great e-zines, letters and is almost done with a book called Content Nation

    LAST – but not least – there’s George at the White House —


    I don’t use Facebook. But my boys do. One of them was in Istanbul a couple weeks ago when terrorists bombings shook the city and killed quite a few. Injured over 400 I think. My other son, who was traveling with me, happened to check his MOBILE FACEBOOK app as we were driving through Tennesee heading up over the mountain towards the Cherokee Reservation(17 miles up – 18 miles down, nothing but forest). He got a ding On his Facebook Mobile app – in the middle of the frigging national forest. It was a message from my other son. “Tell Dad I’m okay. Two big bombs just went off here. No one knows what’s happening. Windows broke. Me and my friends and most of the Americans here are holing up in our hotel til we find out what’s going on.”

    This was before it even came over the news wire.

    So – I don’t use Facebook, but I am eternally grateful for it.

    Anyway – a quick riff, tiff, whiff and I’m off.


    Steve Kayser

  10. Stacey said:

    Bob, you may be so past this, professionally speaking. For business owners, I believe social networking is for those who need to network, either to build their businesses, via, strategic partnerships and to get leads, or for behemoth companies like The Gap, who use (or will be using) sites like Facebook and myspace to attract the tween and teen markets. However, if you decide to fit it into your schedule, do what I do: (a) Assign one day a month to seriously spend an hour or two optimizing your presence for the purpose of finding leads and strategic partnerships or to find people to barter with, (b) Spend another day a month to send your own invites and cull or accept the ones sent to you.

    So you’ve taken 2 days out of month purely for marketing continuity, which we all could use once in a while even if only to remind folks that we’re still here (to stay in front of them) like any successful business person does. It’s just another marketing tool. This advice is only for Bob and people in his situation. As for the rest of us: keep plugging away at it, but do it methodically and with a fruitful purpose in mind, not just because the pundits say it’s THE thing to be doing. Have a reason, be it monetary, charitable or social, but have a reason.

  11. Bob Bly said:

    Stacey, your plan sounds pretty sensible. However, for me, the flaw is this: 2 days a month is a LOT of my time! For instance, September this year has 22 days. Therefore, 2 days is 9% of your billable time. Assuming a hypothetical income of, say, $200,000 a year, or $16,667 a month, those two days cost you about $1,500 a month in lost income. I agree that for someone starting out, that’s an extremely reasonable marketing budget, assuming it generates results. For me, though, it doesn’t work. I have to focus on marketing that’s more time-effective. But again, your plan as you outline is well thought out and sensible.

  12. reese blyth said:

    I’ve just had the displeasure of perusing, no “glimpse” your newsletter.archive.

    My Complaint is : there is so much TALK about the “downturn” in the Economy, which we usa citizens, “BLEAT” loud & long about daily, (we’re abunch of bleeding haemophiliacs)

    Take “LOOK” @ Bob Bly’s layout ???
    He ecomises by placing his content to one side of the page……LEAVING 3/4 of the page wasting
    in cyberspace !!!

    You don’t need to look too far,to see double standards.

  13. reese blyth said:

    I’ve just had the displeasure of perusing, no “glimpse” your newsletter.archive.

    My Complaint is : there is so much TALK about the “downturn” in the Economy, which we usa citizens, “BLEAT” loud & long about daily, (we’re abunch of bleeding haemophiliacs)

    Take a “LOOK” @ Bob Bly’s layout ???
    He econimises by placing his content to one side of the page……LEAVING 3/4 of the page wasting in cyberspace !!!

    You don’t need to look too far,to see double standards these days,even the supposed “know.alls” DONT know it all !!!

  14. Sean said:

    Facebook was smart to only open to college students at first- they’re the ones who have the time to build up the network.

    I think its simple, if your market base is on those sites- you would be happy to spend the time ‘networking’, if not, then its just a useless chore.

    Write a book for young writers and/or college-age entrepreneurs, and it would make sense.

    Write an information product on B2B selling, then blogs and white papers make sense.

    Personally I do have a Facebook account. I made it in college and I use it now because of my industry (real estate). I need to keep in touch with old friends and even if it doesn’t make me any money- I still enjoy it.

  15. DonnaB said:

    I started a Facebook account to keep in touch with the youth from our church. Only later did I see merit that is business related. Small scale, but then so is my business at this point. I check it once a week, about 20 minutes of my time. I send clips to it from RSS feeds to keep it fresh. I get traffic and insights about the youths in our ministry. More than one reason for these blogs.
    I detest myspace but it was the only way to connect with a disenfranchised nephew and help him see a brighter world. There too it is not a business priority, more a personal one.

    I was blown away by Twitter and could not imagine how it was useful. Still not sure.

    I do like FridayTrafficReport that Jack Humphreys got rolling at ning. It gives me a way to pull them all together in just about 30 minutes a week.

  16. Fiona Fell - The Profit Maximising Web Geek said:

    I have a Facebook account that I have used with great success to find and re-establish connections with friends from my school years.

    I publish a RSS feed into my Facebook profile to keep these same people posted with what I am upto. Some care, others don’t.

    But I do not actively use Facebook to generate business leads or to try and solicate work.

  17. Steve Rainwater said:

    Hi Bob,

    Finally, someone making sense out there! You’re actually way ahead of me as my web site is stone age and I haven’t even started a blog – although I take a few minutes each week to read a few. I joined Linked-in because of several invites, but I now take forever to process those e-mails. I am a solo copywriter like you – and busy, I also have 5 kids. After a day of heads down writing, I barely can get in all the conversations and activities I want to / should have with family – let alone with everyone else out there who might “connect.” Like you, I would much prefer to meet with a few close friends, and my wife and I love to take in a movie. Certainly there is always more billable work to be done as well.

    I would bag the whole idea of social networking if not for the fact that I am writing my first book – hopefully one of many (for now in the creative non-fiction genre, I plan to self publish), and I would like to have commercial success. I understand that I am an unknown author, and that viral marketing, social networking, etc. will be one of the best ways to open doors and create a community that could on some level become readers of my work. So, to address this issue, I have an initial plan.

    During the middle of the week, i.e. Tues-Thurs, the kids are making it to bed around 930-10, during the school year. So I have dubbed the hours of 10pm-12am, “communication time” on those three days. This is the time I answer non business related or non time sensitive e-mails, social e-mails, etc. (For example, this week I have been working on planning a 25th anniversary reception with my college graduating class as I was class president, so the alumni association gets after me to do this.) During this 10-12 time I plan to blog, and foray into the other roads of social networking to see where it takes me. To ease the pain and not overwork my already tired desk chair, I take my computer to the living room and turn on the news, or a program I have recorded. So it is a low key time, but may gradually get the social networking covered. I figure if I make it happen two out of those three nights it has been a productive week – at least it’s a start.

  18. Bob Bly said:

    I don’t acually think social networking is worthless. But on my list of the 100 most important things I have to do this year, I’d have to list social networking at #972, above getting a pedicure but not above much else.

  19. Paul J. Krupin said:


    Your experience parallels mine and that of many tens of my clients over the past year. It’s not just a time investment issue.

    Marketing and PR require a return on investment. To get that REI we invest time, effort and expertise into designing messages and reaching out and meaningfully communicating that message to the right people. The actions they take in response to that messaging is what we are after.

    It’s rare for social marketing messages to achieve that. I’ve yet to really see procedures and methods that reliably reach the right audiences, and produce a documented response.

    People who have created their own national name recognition can generate huge social audiences and do quite well informing them of new products and selling opportunities.

    But to unknowns or startups, the audience doesn’t exist and the ROI isn’t there. So these tools may not be as readily utilized to produce interest in what someone has to offer. The original ice has yet to be broken. The product or the person has yet to get known as special and worthy. The more traditional means of business and product design and target marketing and pr have to be used to lay the foundation and create a viable base.

  20. The Low-Tech Times » Blog Archive » Facebook Criticized said:

    […] Bly wrote an interesting piece on whether using social networks, including Facebook, is a good use of his time: …when you […]

  21. Susan Greene said:

    I’m on several social networks. The one I enjoy most is Facebook. Although, like many of you, I do find it a challenge to make time to keep up with it, here are the benefits I’ve found:

    1. Posting my URL on social networks increased my search engine ranking, which then increased my website traffic.

    2. I have obtained a couple of new clients who found me via social networks. And I’ve had some of the people I met on social networks refer my services to their friends.

    3. I met two top-notch vendors whose services I now use regularly.

    4. I have received some excellent book recommendations from friends on my social networks.

    5. I’ve become “friends” with several authors whose books I love and have enjoyed hearing about the projects they’re currently working on. As an avid reader, corresponding with some of my favorite authors is comparable to how many people would feel about talking to their favorite movie star.

    6. I’ve learned a lot from watching how some of the marketing gurus do product launches and networking on sites like Facebook.

    7. I’ve stayed connected and reconnected with many old friends, colleagues and relatives, including some who live overseas. Using Facebook, I’m able to keep them abreast of my work activities and my family. I’ve even shared my vacation photos with them by posting the pictures on my Facebook profile and have enjoyed looking at pictures of their adventures and their families as well.

    8. I believe social media will grow as a marketing tool in the coming years. The only way to really understand it and to be able to incorporate it into the marketing services that I provide my clients is to be a part of it. I need to know how to “work it” before I can preach its virtues to my clients.

    Whew! Went on for quite a bit longer than I meant to. Guess I like social networking!


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