Something we don't talk about very often in the world of online networking is the importance of taking a break. We hear a lot about the value of posting to our blogs, Facebook and Google+ pages, and Twitter accounts frequently and consistently. We read about the necessity of blogging on a schedule. The most successful bloggers will tell you they "have never missed a scheduled post." But what few people talk about is the importance of setting your social media tools down and putting your feet up, of taking a vacation from your online life the same way you take a break from your professional life for a couple weeks every year. (For those of you thinking, "But social media is fun; it's not work," you're probably using it for recreational purposes. Those of us who use social media as professional and marketing tools eventually tire of it, and the best way to avoid burnout is to take periodic breaks. Here are a few tips for doing so:
1. Announce your scheduled break.
Don't feel guilty about it. Just tell the world, "I'm going to be offline for the next two weeks while I sunbathe in the Caribbean/watch every episode of Battlestar Galactica/clean out my attic." It's better to announce your break ahead of time than to disappear from the Internet without warning. And don't apologize for your absence when you return. Just jump right back in. Most people won't even notice.
2. Preschedule posts.
Another method of taking a break is to write extra posts before you go offline and schedule them to post while you're gone. The problems with this method are: a) It doesn't feel like much of a break if you have to write double the number of posts before you leave and b) Your readers/followers may wonder why you're not responding to comments if they think you're posting live. Only take this route if writing extra posts is not going to be an extra burden, and be sure to let your followers know that you're going to be on the beach drinking margaritas and will respond to comments when you return.
3. Host guest bloggers.
In order to keep your blog posts consistent without taking on the burden of writing extra posts while you're gone, you may want to host guest bloggers and preschedule their posts before your break. Again, be sure to let your followers know that you will be offline for the duration of your break.
4. Repost old posts.
Many of our best posts get buried beneath newer content. Social media breaks are the perfect time to repost a "Best of" series, which you can preschedule before you hop on that plane. Just remember to let your followers know how long you'll be gone and when to expect you back.
I have not posted to my blog for two weeks (which is possibly what broke my blog—I'm working on fixing it now), and I can tell you that taking a break feels fantastic. I know that when I return to my office at the San Francisco Writers' Grotto January 7, I will be refreshed, revitalized, and ready to dive back into social media again. Meanwhile, I have played a dozen games of Chicky Boom, made paper snowflakes, launched water rockets until I was soaked head to toe, solved the Perplexus Rookie, watched a Denzel Washington movie, eaten too much chocolate, and begun rock climbing again. I would say that's a pretty successful use of my time away from social media.
How about you? Do you ever take breaks from your online life? What has your experience been?