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Why There’s So Much Conflicting Advice About Social Media

Social media advice

It’s been one year since I started freelancing full time. The good news is that it’s going well. The bad news is that the financial complexities are exceeding my entrepreneurial experience. So I decided to enlist the services of a financial planner to analyze my situation and make recommendations.

The first step in the process is data discovery and collection. I spent all day Saturday—nearly a full eight hours—gathering paperwork and preparing estimates. Some of it is pure number crunching, but there’s also an aspect I didn’t anticipate: a lengthy questionnaire about my behaviors, attitudes, and knowledge about money.

I’ll be blunt: When it comes to personal finance, I know nothing. In a question asking what publications I read to stay informed about financial news and concerns, I couldn’t confirm having read a single one. On a full page of questions about financial management, I had to answer “Not Sure” for all.

I felt slightly better when my partner completed that page in exactly the same manner.

Cut to another entirely different scene—

I’m on a message board where I spot the very frequent question: Should I start a Facebook author page? I get asked this question at every single conference I attend, even when I’m not speaking on social media. And I find it an impossible question to answer in a roomful of people.

And that sparked a realization about the financial questionnaire: It wasn’t a test. I wasn’t supposed to be embarrassed by my lack of knowledge. Rather, it was a way to understand what kind of plan will work for me. The plan has to meet me where I am right now, and what I am capable of right now—while also addressing where I want to end up in one year, five years, ten years.

Financial planning advice is not one-size-fits-all; if the financial plan doesn’t take into account your unique situation and how you behave around money, it’s not going to succeed.

Same is true of social media. I need to know your own behaviors, attitudes, and knowledge about Facebook—not to mention social media, online marketing, and platform building—before I can offer advice that even begins to adequately answer the question of whether you should have an author page. (If you want my starting, big-picture thoughts, read my post on Facebook for authors [1].)

Occasionally authors hire me for platform consults, and to help facilitate the process, I also created a questionnaire. It’s exhaustive, and in addition to asking for the numbers, it asks about emotions, attitudes, and goals. That information is often more important than the numbers. If your best opportunity would be pursuing Twitter, but you abhor it, then it’s not in anyone’s interest to attempt a strategy focused on it.

I also find that some people can’t fully complete the questionnaire because they don’t understand what I’m asking for. That, in itself, speaks volumes—just as my “Not Sure” finance responses tells my planner that she should avoid suggestions that require a high level of existing knowledge or expertise to manage.

This explains much of the contradictory advice you’ll find related to online marketing and social media—why there’s so much disagreement over something as simple as “Should I start a Facebook author page?” or “Should I blog?” These issues aren’t black-and-white, and well-meaning people can end up giving bad advice to people who are at very different stages of their careers, with different goals, and different attitudes when it comes to online engagement.

The good news: You can trust yourself to make many decisions, even if you’re not so experienced. Pay attention to how you feel about your actions and the results. Be self-aware about what’s building your energy versus depleting it. And if and when you want to approach it with a more professional or strategic eye, hire someone to help you that’s focused on your attitudes, strengths, and assets—so they can make recommendations that fit your personality.

What general social media advice has worked for you? Do you follow any big-picture principles to guide your strategy?

About Jane Friedman [2]

Jane Friedman [3] has more than 20 years in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media and the future of authorship. She's the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet [4], the essential industry newsletter for authors. You can find out more about her consulting services and online classes at her website, JaneFriedman.com [3].