This is certainly quite a week for Amy Jo Martin.
The founder of the social media consultancy Digital Royalty has a new book out tomorrow, Oct. 2. On Sunday she was a guest of Melissa Harris-Perry’s on MSNBC, talking with other panelists about the influence of social media on politics, and the change-agent behind the sports and social media phenomenon covered in a Forbes article. And today (winking here) she’s making her second appearance on my blog. What a whirl!
As you know, I met Amy Jo at the BlogHer 12 conference in New York City. And here I must digress to tell you that I felt an immediate bond with her when she shared her experience of finding a lump in her breast the size of a golf ball. As a survivor of thyroid cancer, I’ve become hard-wired to relate on a deeper human level with those who have either had cancer or a cancer scare. As someone I admire once said, we become members of a club no one ever wanted to join. And it’s something of a paradox, because once admitted to the club, you want to remain a member in good standing, if you know what I mean. Amy Jo’s honesty—her fearlessness—in sharing her experience speaks to the very essence of what is so intrinsically valuable about social media: honesty. Being real. Or as Amy says in her book, “showing some skin.”
So I’m sitting in the Pathfinder session, listening to Amy discuss innovation, intention, ideas, influence, and inspiration—and writing as quickly as I can to take down what she is saying: “Coloring outside the lines without crossing the lines.” Sharing the corporate mission statement of Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh: “Be real and use your best judgment.” Explaining the value of “Random Acts of Shaqness.” (You must read this book. And yes, she’s referring to Shaquille O’Neal.)
In the midst of my flurried note-taking I had an epiphany: As a blogger, I’m ipso facto on social media. But I wasn’t really on social media. It was quickly becoming apparent that I had much to learn and I’d better get cracking. And that’s why I’m reading her excellent book, and why I want to tell you about it. I think that it’s a game changer for any public persona, corporation, brand, organization, or entity not yet on board with the new rules of the game. For those already using social media to enhance their relevancy, it will provide an entertaining and enlightening overview of where they have been. I suspect even they will learn things they didn’t already know.
On paper (in pixels?) it doesn’t seem as though I’d be such a social media newbie. I began writing content for Web 1.0 back in 1998 on behalf of Oberlin College. I was wired in for the advent of email, and only just slightly behind the curve on Facebook and LinkedIn, although I caught up fairly quickly. I did a bit of blogging and video interviews, and even composed tweets during our 2.0 phase. And yet I hovered there. It wasn’t until starting my own blog in August 2011 that I truly recognized the importance of communicating regularly and with intention across diverse social media platforms. I’m sure one reason is because I’m now working for myself, and so I feel a sense of urgency. But I am also a writer who blogs. And like every other writer who blogs, I want people to read me. How does a blogger find readers? On social media. Duh.
And so I advanced on the board from Facebook and LinkedIn until I reached Twitter. I opened my own account (kind of feeling the way I did when I first opened a checking account); passed “Go,” and in a year attracted more than 400 followers. (This is more than double what I had before the BlogHer conference, which shows you how much I learned in a very short time). These past weeks I’ve slowly begun to build my presence on Pinterest and Google+. This weekend I wrote my bio for Huffington Post and figured out how to upload a video to YouTube and connect it to what you’re reading now. Just today I sent out my first Instagram. (It’s fitting, on many levels, that it was a photo of Amy Jo’s appearance on the Melissa Harris-Perry show.)
When you start a blog, and hope for it to be meaningful and authentic and actually read by people, it soon becomes apparent that it’s not enough just to hit “publish.” Bloggers control their own distribution. Those who take what they do seriously are not just members of the media, they are also the means of the media—the studios and the control rooms and the printing presses and the distribution houses. It’s exhausting, quite frankly—especially if you’re a team of one. Even a renegade team of one. Even a renegade team of one with an awesome husband to help with things like shooting the video you’re about to see.
This is why Amy Jo’s book is important to me. As a team of one, I have to think about economies of scale. If I spend three hours writing a blog post and only 30 people see it, I’ve just poured four minutes of my life for each of those 30 people. If 300 people see it, I’m starting to get some traction and make some impact for the time I’ve invested. If 3,000 people see it, well, you can do the math. The greatest impression one of my post’s has had was last November, when WordPress featured an essay of mine on ‘Freshly Pressed’ and more than 5,000 people read it over a two-day period. That truly felt relevant. That’s what a writer hopes for.
Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying here. Every one of my readers is valuable to me. Whether 30 people visit a post or 3,000—each reader means something to me. Each has invested his or her own time in reading what I had to write. Economies of scale work both ways, after all. That’s why I hope I’m providing interesting, informative, and entertaining content for you.
Time is money, as they say. And I’m as busy as the next person—I also run a business and freelance. So these things inevitably begin to matter, especially if your blog is part of the foundation of your livelihood.
Amy Jo learned something early on about the time factor, and she has shared the anecdote widely—in a TEDx talk, at conferences, and in her book. Her former boss, who wasn’t wild about all of this social media business, challenged her by sliding a sheet of paper across her desk. On it were written three words:
Work. Family. Self.
“Choose,” her boss told her. “You can’t have all three.”
Since Amy ultimately left that employer and formed her own business, I naturally wondered if she ever did have to end up choosing. I asked her about it, and she replied via email:
“Since founding Digital Royalty a few years ago, I have been able to design my own day, whether that means working late at night while on the elliptical machine, or taking a conference call from a mountaintop. Through creating Digital Royalty, and especially Digital Royalty University, I have been able to find my Royal Bliss. That’s what balance is to me. It’s not a perfect equilibrium. It’s finding that sweet spot, where your purpose, passion, and skill collide.”
Related Article: “Who Wants to be a Renegade? Enter to Win this Free Book!”
A note about the contest: The winner was drawn from the Facebook fans of The Midlife Second Wife. A drawing held Friday evening, Sept. 28, did not yield a winner because I was unable to reach the person whose name was drawn despite two attempts via Facebook. A subsequent drawing, represented in the above video, was held Sunday afternoon, Sept. 30. Out of fairness to my fans, members of my family were excluded from this drawing. I should also note that I received a signed galley copy of Renegades Write the Rules for the giveaway, as well as a free download for my Kindle. Other than that, I received no compensation to write about the book.
If you would like to like the Midlife Second Wife on Facebook, click the embedded link at the start of this note. You can also follow me on Twitter: @midlife2wife. Thank you for your support!