I realise that I may be unusual in this, but I’m not a massive fan of social media. I’m a ‘baby boomer’ with two kids of the ‘millennial’ generation and one who is ‘Generation Z’. I’m cool with email and the world wide web; I can’t see the point of Facebook and Twitter, let alone Instagram, Pinterest and all of the others. The generally accepted wisdom is that engaging with these platforms is essential to business success. I can’t tell if that is recycled wisdom, passed on without thought rather than tested, or if it’s true.
Business and Pleasure
When I was in business, we paid some people to ‘handle’ social media for us. We were never able to prove one way or another that it was a sound investment. Just writing about it makes me feel slightly unwell. Some people use social media for the pleasure of it, with no profit motive whatsoever! That’s nice; whatever floats your boat, but the mixing of these two worlds – the commercial and the social – creates problems for me. It’s impossible to avoid hordes of extremely prolific sellers of goods and services, or political messages, which means that time gets devoured by sorting out the wheat from the chaff.
“Hypocrite!” I hear you say. It’s true; I have a Twitter and Facebook account. I have a blog. Sometimes I even post stuff to them. It all started when I decided to write my book; I needed to build an audience to spread the word. There is a particular set of skills involved with building an audience – skills I don’t possess – which is why a whole industry has bloomed addressing this issue. Over the years, I have occasionally used the odd hashtag and liked the odd post, but not in the consistent and voluminous way required to gain momentum. My heart just isn’t in it.
Niche Within a Niche
Let’s face it; the readers of my book are a niche within a niche. Popular though beekeeping may be, it’s practitioners are a tiny portion of the wider population. Furthermore, my book targets more experienced beekeepers who are bored of reading the many tomes given to beginners of the noble art. Most beekeeping books are for beginners, suggesting that it is a more fertile market than the harsher ground of beekeeping ‘old-timers’.
Anyway, as the first flurry of book sales subsided, and the holiday season approached, I decided to try to be more active on the social media front. After doing my research, I went with something called Sprout Social. They offer a free trial for a month, after which a paid monthly subscription secures future use. At first, I went about my social media duties with gusto; it requires an hour or two each day to be worthwhile. Sure enough, the number of comments, likes and followers grew. Only by a little, but it’s one of those momentum things. If I kept it up for six months, who knows how popular I might be?!
Sadly my heart isn’t in it. As the trial comes to an end, I know that I cannot justify the cost of continuing with the paid subscription. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a great tool – but $149 per month for the platform, combined with at least an hour a day of my time, just ain’t worth it for me. I’m going back to my very occasional visits to Facebook and Twitter, and I’m continuing with my blog because I enjoy it. Blogging gives some structure to my week and generates a sense of purpose. It turns out that writing a few words each week, mostly about beekeeping, is not about selling my book at all. It’s part of what keeps me sane during troubled times, and it forces me to read and think and study.
The process of writing this piece has answered the question posed in the title. Sprout is excellent, but not for me. Like the green vegetable balls of the same name, it’s a once a year thing only. That reminds me, in Brussels, the government has kept open shops specialising in selling chocolate and beer. Those things are apparently essential to life in Belgium, pandemic or not. I don’t drink alcohol and would rather munch away on some Haribo than chocolate, but each to their own. Perhaps I’m a pleb.
Shifting gears slightly, I have started to read ‘Sixty Years with Bees‘ by Donald Sims, and so far I love it. He had a rich and varied life amongst bees, learning from and sharing with some legendary beekeepers of the twentieth century. I’m amazed that it has taken me so long to get around to it. Perhaps the reason is that it’s not available as an e-book, which is how I do most of my reading (on my iPad, in bed).
Plans for 2021
Today I went through my 2020 beekeeping notes to see which queens might suit as breeders in 2021. Nothing really blew me away. I have two ‘green dot’ queens that I grafted from this year and which look to be my best bet for next year too. I’ll see if my ancient ‘yellow dot’ queen is still alive and if so I’ll graft from her. She’s been a grand old dame, and her daughters are generally lovely. I will have to wait and see how good my ‘blue dot’ queens are – if something exceptional emerges, I’ll put her in a nuc and hopefully keep her going for years.
Another thing has become clear from looking at my notes. Two of my apiaries are good for honey production. The third is, and always has been, pretty hopeless. I wish I knew why. Luckily I don’t need tons of honey; I’ll use that site for raising nucs for sale.
Happy New Year!
Thus endeth the last post of 2020. Wishing love and best wishes to anyone who read this far 🙂