There are self-centric and reader-centric ways to use social media. “Self-centric” = an approach that serves you the author best, “Reader-centric” = an approach that serves your readers best. Some examples:
The frequency of blog posts: Self-centric bloggers blog whenever they feel the inspiration, the reader-centric blogs at traffic-maximizing optimal levels (usually once a day).
Method for sharing links: Almost daily, Tyler Cowen posts “Assorted Links” which is a series of interesting links posted in a numbered form. Steve Silberman does the same on Twitter — he posts tons of interesting links. Tyler and Steve are being reader centric — the link is published in an easily viewable, common format that readers enjoy. But, it does almost nothing for Tyler and Steve. It is very hard to search through and access these links in the future. By contrast, I rarely do link dumps on my blog, and instead have categorized over 6,000 web pages on delicious. I am self-centric — I am storing the links in a bookmarking system that sorts by date and category and can be easily backed-up and searched.
Content of blog posts and tweets: The self-centric writer posts whatever is on his mind, including the proverbial “what I had for breakfast” dispatch. The reader-centric writer thinks hard about what will be interesting to an external audience, and shapes it as a product for a customer. Self-centric blogs are more personal; reader-centric blogs tend to be about a specific topic.
Replying to tweets: Hundreds if not thousands of people have replied to me (@bencasnocha) on Twitter, but I rarely post replies of my own because I don’t find it an efficient conversational medium. (I do read all replies.) Also, I don’t want my main Twitter page to be polluted with all random replies to random people. Compare my Twitter page to this popular twitterer. I’m being self-centric, instead of reader-centric.
If you replace “self-centric” with “selfish” and “reader-centric” with “selfless” you can see how the old adage “it’s selfish to be selfless” applies in this case. Many times reader-centric uses of social media, by increasing total readership, become long-run self-centric.