Settling the Score in 2012

Photo: D Sharon Pruit

Like lots of writers, I’m goal-driven. Each December I reflect on what I’ve accomplished the past year and what I still want to achieve. I’m not talking New Year’s Resolutions here; my WordServe colleague covered that quite brilliantly here. I’m talking about taking a good hard look at where I currently stack up against where I want to be.

When I started writing, I decided if I did one thing—no matter how small—every day to move toward my goal, I was doing okay. That worked for a while. I sold a couple of novels, completed several new manuscripts and got an agent—all aspirations I’d set out to achieve. Then something changed. People were measuring success in the social media space in a quantifiable, new way.

I knew social media was important for author promotion, so I increased my focus there. I expanded my social networking channels, reached out to make new contacts and endeavored to add relevant content wherever I participated. Eventually, I fell into a nice rhythm, and I’d thought I reached some moderate success.

Until, I discovered Klout.

I understand the importance of measuring the benefit of action against the time (or money) spent taking that action. Klout measures influence based on ability to drive action through social networks. As authors, we want people to engage with us, and we want them to read our books. So, off I went to Klout, armed with the warm-fuzzy I was already doing okay. I signed into my various latest-and-greatest social networks, then eagerly awaited my score.

It came back: twenty. Let me put that into perspective. An average score for someone dabbling in social media at that time was around 22. I had spent the year ramping up my social media presence and was still decidedly below average. The cat-lady next door probably had a higher Klout score than mine. Dismal didn’t begin to describe how I felt.

Being goal-oriented, I’m not one to wallow in my misery, so I looked up people with Klout scores I admired and tried to emulate them. Ten+ tweets a day? Eesh, but if it will make a difference, okay. Post more Facebook content people are likely to like, comment on or share? Let me just dust off my crystal ball…check. I can do that! Get more mentions on Twitter? No clue, but maybe if I tweet more it will help. And it couldn’t hurt to blog more…micro-blog more…get more followers…make more friends…post better content…be more interesting…put more out there…respond more to other people’s stuff…who said less is more? More is more!

I adjusted my program, then went back to check my score. It was now a bright, shiny…24? Still not good enough. I continued to make tweaks and check to see if anything I did made a difference. When someone reblogged my content, what did that do to my score? When they commented on my links, how did that help? What if I un-followed a bunch of inactive Twitter accounts, did that do anything? One day I thought I’d hit on something when my Klout score jumped to the high-thirties, but then I figured out they changed their algorithms and lots of scores had gone up by 10 or more without any outside effort whatsoever.

Then it dawned on me, if Klout can tweak their so-called measuring stick, why can’t I? Who really cared about my score anyway? Would an editor not buy my novel if my score wasn’t high enough? Would my agent drop me if my True Reach wasn’t up to snuff? Would my Yahoo groups cringe to be seen with me? Would my Tumblr pals run away like one of their clever little gifs? Would I never sell another book again?

I’m guessing the answer to most of the above is ‘no’ with the exception of that last one, because if I didn’t stop obsessing about moving my Klout score, I was never going to make time to finish another book again. Ever.

As I look forward to 2012 and set some writerly-type goals, I’ll continue to include author promotion among them, but I’ll be careful what I use to measure my success. Even though Klout is interesting and a great validation for some, I already know it’ll no longer be my personal yardstick.

The only numbers I want to obsess over this year are word count, the number of pages I’ve edited, and possibly the number of adverbs I remove from my first drafts. I may even go back to my old adage: what have I done today to further my writing career? I’ll stretch myself to improve my writing—to dig deeper for character development, to toss out clichés and to make my dialogue sing. I’ll remember why I joined social media to begin with: to interact with friends, readers and other writers.

And when I look back this time next year, I hope I’ll be able to carve another notch in the old doorframe and celebrate 2012 knowing how much I’ve really grown.

What about you? How are you measuring success against your goals?