From Cheryl's Writing Crate
The world of social media--facebook, Twitter, and the increasingly popular Tumblr, has dramatically changed communication in the 21st century. When I was first introduced to facebook several years ago, I thought it was the most ridiculous waste of time a person could spend. I actually forced myself to post just a couple of status updates during the first few weeks I opened my account, and then something happened to change my pessimistic outlook--my facebook friends started commenting on my posts, I began getting dozens of friend requests, and before I knew it--I was hooked!
We all have reasons for loving or hating the use of social media in our lives, but even if you are still skeptical of the benefits of these high-tech communication tools in your personal life, as a writer there are some well thought-out reasons why you might want to consider becoming more active with sites like facebook and twitter.
I recently read an interesting article on Mashable.com that referenced 10 Prop Tips for Writers Using Social Media. While I found the entire piece helpful, here are five of my favorite tips:
1. Interact and Engage — Enthusiastically
It's easy to forget that part of successfully using social media is actually being social. While linking to things you like and adding commentary are part of the whole deal, it's important to engage with followers in order to keep them. As a writer wanting to gain a following, you have to try to keep everyone interested in you.
John T. Edge, food writer, columnist for The New York Times and author of Truck Food, uses Twitter "like a madman" when he's traveling. "I use it as a kind of diary to track things I saw, music I heard, food I ate." Edge combines his genre with interesting tidbits that aren't necessarily related to his writing. Your social media account doesn't have to be all writing, all the time.
With Facebook, it's all about pacing yourself. Allison Winn Scotch, author of the bestselling Time of My Life and the forthcoming The Song Remains the Same, says, "I think Facebook users get annoyed if you post too many status updates, so I'm careful to only post at most once a day, and more realistically, a few times a week."
Make sure your personality shines through all platforms. Karen Palmer, author of the novels All Saints and Border Dogs, says that readers are drawn to a writer's voice more than anything. "The most interesting folks are those with curious minds, oddball insights, passion and humor."
Overall, it's important to remember the golden rule. Tao Lin, author of Richard Yates and Eeeee Eee Eeee, makes sure to use social networks "without feeling like I'm doing things I wouldn't want other people to do to me...or that I'm doing things that will alienate people who, based on experience, I like being friends with."
2. Make Valuable Connections
Use social media's endless networking possibilities to your advantage. "Have fun with it and engage with other authors you admire," says Winn Scotch. "I follow a slew of writers whom I don't know personally but whose observations on pop culture, for example, I find funny as hell. And you never know where that connection can lead." She says that those connections are important not just for aspiring authors, but for seasoned authors as well.
That said, it's important to be somewhat selective when choosing your followers. "I also find that following too many people can lead to chaos in my feed," Winn Scotch adds, "so I don't follow everyone."
3. Consider Privacy and Comfort Levels
You might be hesitant to join these global virtual communities in which your information and viewpoints are available to anyone, but it's all about focusing on what you're comfortable with in a public sphere.
"I found social media hard to navigate at first, because I’m a private person," Hindley says, but she soon found topics she felt comfortable discussing, such as books, history and her writing process. "Every so often, you should review your tweets to see what you’ve been talking about. Ask yourself if you’re comfortable with the image you’re projecting. If not, make some adjustments."
At the other end of the spectrum, Lin is very open about his contact information with those who follow him on social networks, and he even gave out his phone number when someone asked for it in an HTMLGIANT comment thread. "I've never had problems — that I can remember — from people having my contact information," he says. However, proceed with caution.
4. Aspiring Writers vs. Seasoned Writers
You may be wondering if there are different ways up-and-coming writers should use social media as opposed to those whose work is already established.
"Social media is an extension of your voice," says Orlean. "For aspiring writers, it's a chance to practice miniaturization — how to say something interesting in a very concise way — which is, in itself, a good writing exercise. Seasoned writers might look at it as an ongoing book tour, or at least the Q&A part of the book tour."
Lin, on the other hand, doesn't think there's a difference. "I feel like what I try to do myself has remained somewhat constant throughout my time having these [accounts]."
So it's up to you how to present yourself, but you should be honest with followers about your work's progress.
5. Don't Force It
It's alright to admit that social media isn't for you. "If after experimenting for a while, you find you don’t really enjoy it, don’t do it," Palmer advises. "It’s obvious to others when your heart isn’t in it. And should you come to find you like it a little too much, use social media as a reward for doing your real work — writing."
Do you think social media benefits your writing?