In the late 1990s I got a job with a major corporation as part of their new Internet division. They hired me to handle search engine optimization, never mind that nobody at the time knew what defined SEO, especially me. The Internet was this shiny new amazing thing that people valued well into the billions of dollars, though the higher-ups in the parent company came from an older industry. They didn’t understand the Internet, so naturally they didn’t like us. However, they needed us to stay with the times.

As the company’s lone SEO person, my job was to make sure people found our websites on such dynamic and integral search engines like Hotbot, Lycos, LookSmart, Webcrawler, Ask Jeeves, and AltaVista. They sound like discounted models of cars. Basically my job amounted to registering URL after URL into these engines and hoping to Ged their crawlers favored us. I oversaw optimization of websites geared toward two dozen-plus markets – where the parent company had various interests.

We were all over the map. Our company within a company set up each site to act as a portal for that geographic market,: news, classifieds, entertainment. Also, people could sign up for free email, chat online, and set up mini-pages for their communities and organizations. As I think about it now, our company was trying to achieve the social network on a regional scale – little Facebooks for various metropolitan areas. It might have worked, but it didn’t.

Three reasons: 1) They, like everybody else in the pre-dot bomb era, probably threw too much money at everything. Search engines were sold for billions and probably weren’t worth it at the time. 2) We were doing too much too soon. At a company retreat, a speaker came to talk to us about focus, and how we might excel doing one thing well instead of several things at once and having it all flop. She cited a major retailers as an example: As a store focusing on a specific product, they crushed the competition. When they divested and opened a chain of stores selling something else, they lost their focus.

When the lady left, we might have snickered and swore to prove her wrong, that we could be everything to everybody. Then reason 3) 9/11. It wasn’t a direct cause, but it didn’t help. Over the next several months, the parent company gradually shrank our division until pulling everything back into the main company. All the surplus people, including me, were laid off.

It was sad. I had hoped to stay with that company through to retirement. Sometimes I wonder what we’d be doing now. It would have been nice to tell new hires what it was liking working there before Google existed.

What does this have to do with anything? The lesson today is FOCUS. I’m not doing it. As a writer I should write, though I have to make time to promote myself. Over the last ten years people have told me to do X, Y, and Z to be seen. You need Twitter, you need a Facebook page, you need a Pinterest board linking to everything that inspired your book. You need a YouTube book trailer. And guess what: all this promo is FREE!

Well, it is and it isn’t. I don’t have to pay to use Twitter or Pinterest, but it comes at the expense of my time. You know what Pinterest is like, too. While you’re looking for a picture of the Chinese restaurant that inspired a scene in your book you instead find multiple boards dedicated to Benedict Cumberbatch holding a puppy. Then it’s next week and you haven’t written anything.

Therefore, I plan to focus. One network for promotion, and it will be this blog. I’m taking down my Facebook page – nobody sees what I post there anyway, because FB wants to monetize pages so you have to pay for eyeballs. I don’t have it in my budget right now, and not everything I post there is worth the ransom. I’m not saying all Facebook pages are worthless, but if you don’t have a strong following you basically shout in the wind.

I will keep G+ and Twitter active, though if you see anything there it will be the links to this blog that automatically feed into them. Everything else goes into a document for a book.

Wish me luck.