Building in Public & Entrepreneurship

Why I’m taking a social media break (and what I’m doing instead)

I didn’t plan on taking a sabbatical from social media— but it's been incredibly valuable. Here's what I'm focusing on instead.
Elizabeth Butler 7 min read
Why I’m taking a social media break (and what I’m doing instead)
Table of Contents

If you follow me over on Twitter or Pinterest, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been very quiet lately. I’ve been checking in now and again, but for the most part I’ve been taking a bit of a social media sabbatical for the last while.

My social media journey & entrepreneurship: Where I started

Over the last few months, I’ve been reflecting on the role of social media in my business and my schedule. When I started out with Calmer Notes, I felt a good deal of pressure to be present on social media, because that’s just what indie hackers and entrepreneurs do. It didn’t really feel optional.

When I chose just to focus on Twitter and Pinterest at the start, I felt like I was being a bit of a minimalist already. I registered for Instagram and TikTok and YouTube, and explored them briefly, but quickly decided to double-down on just these two platforms.

Why I enjoy Twitter

I chose Twitter because I loved the community feel. As a writer, I also loved the text-first nature of Twitter. I have met some of the loveliest, kindest, most inspiring people in the personal knowledge management and indie hacking communities– I've met some great friends! I appreciated the community-centred, practical, thoughtful advice on using Twitter to be of service to others.

Why I enjoy Pinterest

I chose Pinterest because I found that I personally turned to it for visual inspiration. I knew that I had personally spent ages browsing through pinned images looking for inspiration on note taking and personal knowledge management, so figured it might be a good way for other people to come across the Calmer Notes method as well.

Why I’ve been quiet on social media these days

It all happened gradually. My absence from social media wasn’t an intentional choice at the start. I had a few busy weeks strung together— my offline life went through a particularly busy period, and I had very little margin to spend on Calmer Notes.

I wanted to make sure that I was strategic with the little time I did have available. I wanted to prioritize customer support, creating new content for my blog, expanding the Calmer Notes website, and updating the Calmer Notes course content. I wasn’t intentionally setting aside social media— it just kept falling to the bottom of my to do list. I didn’t plan on taking an official sabbatical from social media— it just eventually grew into one.

Entrepreneurship and making a difference without social media marketing

The fascinating part (from a business owners’ perspective) is that customers kept on finding Calmer Notes even when I wasn’t on social media. People kept buying the Calmer Notes course and joining my newsletter. I have received some lovely emails from people who found the Calmer Notes method helpful as they navigated grad school or a new job or parenthood or other new life challenges.

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It felt like magic— I was still able to make a difference in peoples’ lives without having to be present and constantly engaged in real time. The work I’d put in months ago was helping people right now. People who were looking for a streamlined, minimalist approach to personal knowledge management were still able to discover the Calmer Notes method— even at times when I wasn’t on social media at all.

I deliberately chose to make the Calmer Notes course self-paced, so it that it could fit into anyone’s schedule. But I was (and am still!) amazed that marketing Calmer Notes doesn’t require my own constant, frequent presence on social media, either.

How I’ve been staying connected without social media: going deeper with more nuance

Social media is intended to be all about community. And the longer that I’ve been away, the more I found that I did miss that warm sense of community on Twitter, especially.

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But after some reflection, I realised that I was still able to keep up with my favourite creators by checking in with their blogs, subscribing to their RSS feeds, reading their email newsletters, and listening to podcast interviews. And the best part is that I found this type of engagement far richer and more meaningful.

Social media updates, by their very nature, often have to be brief and superficial. It can be hard to go deep when you have short character limits. (It’s been interesting to see the popularity of Twitter threads and visual Twitter essays like Ship 30 for 30 give rise to the long-form content of Twitter Notes and other long-form Twitter content tools like Typeshare. Clearly I’m not alone in craving more depth.)

When I stepped away from social media but stayed connected to other writing and interviews from my favourite creators, I felt more inspired and engaged. Even though I was no longer engaging in real-time conversation with these creators, I felt like I was benefiting far more from their wisdom. When I read their blog posts, or listened to podcast interviews, I had the chance to go deeper. I could learn more, gain more useful insights, and understand nuances that just weren’t possible in briefer, more compressed formats.

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Do you like the idea of staying in touch in this relaxed, deeper way?

You can follow my RSS feed at https://elizabethbutlermd.com/blog/rss/ and sign up for my newsletter to stay in touch. 😊

People who are inspiring me to reconsider my relationship to social media marketing

Perhaps stumbling into an accidental social media sabbatical is how most people discover it. Social media can feel like such an essential, integral part of running an online business and being an entrepreneur that it hardly feels possible to step away. And yet— it turns out it is more than possible.

Meg Casebolt

Meg Casebolt of Love at First Search and the Social Slowdown podcast (thank you to the lovely Shawn Fink for pointing me in Meg’s direction!) had a similar experience. She unintentionally took an entire summer off of posting on social media… and realised it didn’t actually impact her business leads.

Ashley Gartland

Ashley Gartland of the Better than Big podcast still uses social media in her business, but has mindfully simplified and reduced her strategy for social media. I found Ashley through her interview with Meg Casebolt on the Social Slowdown podcast, and really appreciated her subtractive approach to marketing. I purchased her Do Less, Live More audio course, and highly recommend it-- I've listened to it on repeat.

Jenny Blake

Jenny Blake, ex-Googler and author of Pivot and Free Time, has recorded some lovely, insightful podcast episodes about running her business without social media and how she made the decision to quit social media.

What I'm doing instead: where I'm focusing for the moment

For the time being, I've decided to focus the limited time I have available for my business on:

  • Creating fresh content for my blog to help people learn about personal knowledge management, note taking, and mindful productivity
  • Sending more regular newsletter updates to my lovely subscribers
  • Updating and expanding the Calmer Notes course material for version 2.0 and drafting ideas for other courses and training

My goal during this season of my business is to build a library of useful content (both free content on my blog as well as paid courses) that can keep serving as a resource for people, even when I'm not myself available in real time. I've found myself very grateful for blog posts and courses that other people created months or years ago, that I can learn from right now, at the time that suits me best. I want to do the same– to focus on creating a valuable body of work– to help share knowledge with other people.

Will I come back to social media?

The short answer– yes, I imagine so! 😊 I do miss the conversations and lovely folks I've met on Twitter. (If you're someone I've chatted with on Twitter– I miss you! ❤️) But I'm not sure exactly when I'll be back in earnest, or if being "back" on social media might look different for me down the road. For the moment, I'm not going to be present on Twitter, as I don't have the margin to meaningfully engage with conversations and enjoy the community right now.

For now, I've set up Zapier to automatically share my latest blog posts on Twitter, since I know that's a convenient way for many people to get notified when I post a new article. I'm looking into setting up some automations on Zlappo to help re-surface some of my older blog content to help circulate and share information people might not have seen before. I'm also looking into Pinterest automations and outsourced management services to help share my blog archives more widely.

Staying in touch

If you'd like to get in touch, I'm always delighted to hear from people the old fashioned way, via email (ha ha, how did email become the old fashioned method? 😂).

If you'd like to get my latest blog posts, you can follow my RSS feed at https://elizabethbutlermd.com/blog/rss/ and sign up for my newsletter. Thanks for your interest! 😊

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