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The Happy Writer’s Guide to Social Media

More and more these days, writers are encouraged to establish a web presence, even before they are published.  I would agree that a website is a major plus.  Editors and agents are known to take a look-see before beginning a relationship with a new author.

Blogs, too, as an extension of your website, can be a great way to create an online persona…all you have to have is something to say and the writing skills and you’re off.  Then, by the time you sell a book, you have at least a small audience of probably loyal readers.

That said, blogging is not for everyone. I have a much more difficult time maintaining my personal blog than this blog.  I prefer sharing what I know or have learned about writing than I do promoting myself as a writer (not necessarily a good thing).  Still, if you find you enjoy it and can balance writing with blogging, your future editor/publicist will love you for taking the pressure off them.

Personally, I believe that websites and blogs are the key ways a writer can be accessible to anyone in the publishing business who wants to check out what kind of following a writer has.

Beyond the Basics

The next level up on the web presence ladder for writer would be social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.  Blogging and then sharing the posts on Facebook or Twitter can be a great way to attract readers to your possibly otherwise neglected blog.

But, do you really need Twitter and Facebook to “establish a web presence?” Or are they great big time sucks that are going to distract you from writing?

The answer can be yes or no to both questions.  You can certainly use them to get your name out there, start getting to know your “tribe” (or, as my friend Cathy calls them, your Right Readers) and keep up with the industry.

But many authors are successful without social media.  Facebook and Twitter can be enormous time sucks leaving you at the end of the day with dozens of 140-word tweets to your credit and not a single page written on your work in progress.

On the other hand, some people actually have self-control and can do both.

It’s up to you to determine whether or not social media is for you…and to determine which is the right fit for you. Both are very different from each other.

Taking a look at the benefits and risks of each and the differences can give you an idea where you might like to start…or even if you want to take the plunge at all.

Weighing the Differences

Facebook and Twitter are vastly different programs and, while one may not be a good fit for you, the other might be right up your alley.  There’s a lot to consider when it comes to social networking:

Time availability – How much time (after work, family, self-care, writing and maintaining your website) do you have to devote to social media?  Will that time be in one consecutive lump or intermittently throughout the day/night?

Will you be “checking in” or “hanging out?”

What are your social media objectives? – To stay in contact with other writers? To get to know agents and editors? To establish a connection with your readers?

Here’s how they break down:

Twitter

  • Like a party where everyone is talking at once.  Pick the conversations that catch your eye or start your own.
  • Great for hanging out, not so good if you can only check in for a few minutes at a time.  Twitter is very immediate and trending topics change like the wind. Leave the room for ten minutes and everyone is on to something else by the time you get back.
  • Hanging out, though, can be a downfall for writers who lack discipline. The desire “not to miss anything” may keep you hanging out and chatting when you should be writing.
  • Many editors and agents hang out on Twitter.  Wonderful venue for getting to know them, their personalities and deciding if you might be a good fit.  As well, you may establish name recognition by posting and participating in conversations on Twitter.
  • Writers use Twitter for a way to connect with other writers.  It’s like a mini-conference every day, where you can chat with your writing friends all over the country.
  • Follow trending topics for up-to-date news and information from around the world or participate in topic-specific conversations with the use of hashtags (such as #writers). (I admit I’m not up on how it all works because I’m more of a Facebook fan myself.)

 

Facebook:

  • Similar to a message board but easier to navigate. Update your status when you have time.  You’ll probably get at least a few comments in return or a “like” or two.
  • If your lumps of time are limited, Facebook may be the choice for you.  Unlike Twitter, where you inevitably miss something if you leave the room, you can come and go from Facebook and, when you return, it’s all right there and you haven’t missed anything.
  • On the other hand, the temptation is still there to check in on Facebook dozens of times a day to make sure you don’t miss anything.  Again it’s down to self-discipline.
  • A wonderful resource for building a tribe.  Several big authors I know of post a daily question or comment on Facebook and ask for reader participation. It’s not unusual for them to end up with hundreds of comments in a day.  They get to know their readers and their readers get to know them.
  • I’ve not personally noticed as many editors/agents hanging out on Facebook.  There are definitely publisher-run pages, where you can often find out more information about what the publisher is looking for, but there’s less of a showing of individuals in the business.
  • Participate in groups on Facebook, such as Writer Unboxed, for a feeling of community and to connect with new people who share your interests.

 

Making the Happy Choice

As you can see, social media has something to offer everyone.  It can be a great way to get buzz going about your latest book release, too…keeping in mind, using the above characteristics of each, where your Right Reader might be hanging out.

Social media also has its downside…the ability to distract us from our writing.  And, when it comes right down to it, if you don’t write, no online presence, no matter how great, is going to get you a book deal.  If you’ve got the self-discipline to both be “out there” in the world of the internet, gathering your future readers (or your maintaining relationships with your current readers if you’re published), while still getting the writing done, then go for it.

What I’ve noticed for myself is this…I love Facebook. It fits my personality and the limitations of my time. I can pop in and out as I choose and I never feel like I’ve missed anything.  I’ve never gotten the hang of Twitter, probably because the 5-10 minutes I can hang out at any one time isn’t long enough to really carry on a conversation with anyone.

Even with my new phone, where Twitter and Facebook apps abound, I find myself unable to work with Twitter.  Yesterday, I decided that was okay and I deleted all Twitter apps from the phone.

Because, in the end, your “off-line” happiness as a writer is most important. Feeling guilty about what you’re not doing (except for writing), isn’t going to get you anywhere.

If you write a fabulous book, no editor will turn it down because you don’t have a Twitter account or you have let your Facebook page languish in loneliness. It’s all about the writing.

What are your thoughts about social media for writers? Do you like it or not? Do you hate it but force yourself to do it because you “should?”

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