The precipitous slide into obscurity

Staying on top of social media and engaging with online communities — be it Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest — is turning us all into creatures driven by compulsion. Like sharks which must keep moving to survive, the moment we stop making noise online is the moment we start to suffocate and drown. Call it a struggle for relevance, if you wish.

The calculus of maintaining a Twitter presence is very simple indeed. The moment you stop tweeting, you become a little more forgotten. Stop for a little longer and you are all but gone. If you are already on Twitter (and statistically speaking you are), you don’t want to be easily forgotten. You want to be remain fresh and at the top of the pile.

Blogs are just the same. Once a particularly good (or merely controversial) write up of yours goes to the first page of Hacker News, you get the traffic fix that you so badly crave. New followers and commenters stream in. The grapevine is suddenly aflutter with your latest piece of insight, and an hour ago, you didn’t even think it was all that good. Oh, man.

And then invariably it happens. The passions cool off and the interest in your brilliant write up naught. And then it’s just you and Twitter or WordPress or Whatever prompt again. How do you keep them from leaving? How to save yourself from that inevitable slide into obscurity?

How does one generate lasting interest and keep themselves fresh? Well, you ought to start with these five things.

Maintain

Any good long-lasting relationship requires maintenance. You need to work at it. Once you are relatable, interesting, and fleetingly familiar to someone, you need to draw them in. I don’t mean it in a manipulative, douchey way. I mean you need to offer a little bit more and to open up. Give your personality some dimension.

Give thanks

Thank people for liking you. Be humble about your 15 seconds of fame, and if you are lucky, you’ll make it to 30 seconds. Nobody ever complained for being thanked too much. Moreover, it’s a great conversation starter. It gets you noticed in a whole new way. Just make sure it’s genuine.

Entertain

Humor is a universal social lubricant (alcohol is too, but that’s hard to manage online). If you are a blogger and you write about startups and technology, you are likely not writing about war and famine. Granted those are important topics, keep it light if you can afford it. And if you started writing to have fun, be sure to make it seem like you are.

Agree to Disagree

Most people have gotten past the fact that most of the world disagrees with what they think. I moderate all comments on my blog, and I have never denied someone for being negative or even for trashing my writing. Even if I disagree, I still make it a point to comment and (often) to concede their point.

Don’t Despair

Perseverance is a hard sell. It’s the kind of virtue that is hard to believe in and hard to exercise for a short time to see if it’s really worth the effort. Relationships take time – at least the kinds of relationships that matter.

Did I miss anything? Feel free to agree or disagree. Violently or non-violently is fine. I promise to let all the comments through.

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