A funny thing happened  with this blog yesterday – people showed up in droves.

I’ve been writing pretty consistently here for almost two years. I don’t post every single day. Sometimes I’ll even go four or five days without a post. That’s just how my mind works. I’ve either got it in my head or I don’t. I am not the type of blogger that has 9 or 10 posts on the back burner in draft form, waiting to be meticulously scheduled for a certain date and time.

I’m the type of blogger that gets an idea in my head, and then I just have to write about it. Guess that’s why I have the word “muse” in my name. Sometimes, like for my last post on small town social networks, I spend a few days mulling it over in my head. I don’t write notes (usually). I DO do research (when necessary to get my facts straight) and I do ask for input from others if I need it (oftentimes it’s my very clever and smart husband). But mostly, I just write. Like I am now.

Late, late last night Chris Brogan put up a post on his blog about his disdain for Twitter auto-responders – if you’re a Twitter user, you know the kind. You follow someone, and immediately receive a Direct Message (a private message from one Twitter user to another) with some sort of canned response and of course, a spammy link to their online sales pitch. I’m not going to elaborate on my opinion of this practice. Go read his post. It’s way more articulate and polite than what I’d write.

Anyway, the post got me thinking…there are plenty of people out there who still don’t really have great social skills when it comes to social networks. Let’s put the auto-responder into an in-person context. I go to a party, or conference, or event of any kind. I walk into a room, and people start to come over to me to say hi. Instead of engaging on a personal level with each person, I auto-respond, “Hi. Thanks for coming over here. Please check out my web site at www.shillsalot.com, and tell everyone you know.” Something tells me I wouldn’t be too popular.

Now, of course, the average person with reasonable social skills wouldn’t pull something like this in a million years. What shocks me is that the people who have anti-social behaviour in social networks are, in my experience, pretty socially savvy in person. So why would they sabotage their social status in this way? It’s pretty mind boggling to me.

Now, I don’t claim to be any sort of expert in how to gain success using social media. But I feel as if I have been able to figure things out over the past couple of years since I’ve been involved in this space. I’ve learned a ton of it by watching and observing and asking questions and the like, but I’ve learned an awful lot of other things by just exploring and experimenting on my own terms too.

Yesterday I posted about the small town experience I had over the holidays, and how it relates to online communities. Much to my surprise, the post was picked up and linked around by a whole bunch of people, resulting in many comments, a record number of hits (for me), and a bunch of new Twitter followers and blog subscribers (all of which I am infinitely grateful for!)

So, want to know the secret to success with social media? It’s a tricky one…you ready?

Be Real.

I didn’t write that post because it was full of Google juice, or plenty of links to popular blogs, or because I wanted to come across as being a social media “expert”. I wrote it because I experienced something that gave me some new ideas and I wanted to explore those ideas. I wrote it because I love to write. To be honest, I wasn’t really too concerned about who read it or who re-tweeted it or linked it off their blog. Was I pleasantly surprised when I saw how many hits I was getting? Of course! Was I happy to have so many new people introducing themselves to me? I was thrilled! But it was not my raison d’etre.

Social media only really, truly works if you are 100% yourself at all times. And it doesn’t matter whether you are an individual or a huge corporation. You need to just be real. Do not hide behind this technology. By all means embrace it, use it, experiment with it. I write plenty of posts that are only read by my Mom and my close friends. But I’m just as proud of those posts as I am about the ones that get lots of eyeballs, because at all times what I write here is  genuinely me.

For the new year, let’s all make a resolution – that we’re going to take down the walls we’re hiding behind, give up the ulterior motives and start just being real people around here.

What do you think?