Web presence 101.4 – Introduction to social media
Writers are frequently not the most social of people – sitting alone typing for hour after hour isn’t really a hobby/occupation for extroverts. And yet nowadays we are expected, as part of our online presence, to be active on at least one social medium if not several. So, is it a boon for writers, or a soul-crushing time sink?
As with blogging, it helps to have a strategy in place; a haphazard approach is wasted effort. And whilst social media can be addictive and a temptation to procrastination, it can also be the perfect way for a shy writer to network and get noticed.
Note that I’m not going to go into technical details on how to use any of the social sites mentioned – there are many fine resources out there, and in any case, available features change all the time. Just google “twitter for beginners” or “facebook tutorial” or whatever
Which social network(s) to choose
Do you have to join every network? Good question! On the one hand, as I mentioned in part 1, it’s wise to at least register an account on each popular social network, to stake your claim to your author name in cyberspace (do people still say “cyberspace”? I may be showing my age). On the other, there’s no point participating in an activity you don’t enjoy – it won’t be an effective use of your self-promotion time.
My strategy is to focus on the one I like best (which happens to be Twitter) and maintain a minimal presence on the other ones that are currently popular, so that members of that network can find out a bit more about me. Note that I say “currently popular” – the internet is evolving all the time, and some sites that were huge 2-3 years ago (MySpace, I’m looking at you) are now shrinking in popularity, at least with certain audiences. You don’t have to jump on and off every bandwagon, but at least be aware of where your readers are likely to be found, and make sure you’re there.
The care and feeding of social media
The issue that exercises the minds of most writers is: how do I maintain a presence on social media and still find time to write? The facile answer is that you need to limit your time on these services and use them effectively, but that’s easier said than done! However, here are some suggestions:
1. As with blogging, remember that the purpose of social media is to promote yourself, not just to sell books. It’s called social media for a reason – use it to engage with your audience rather than churning out spam!
2. Research the technology. The popular services have lots of add-on applications that can be used to schedule posts, generate posts automatically from, e.g. your blog RSS (see below), manage your friends/followers, and so on. A few hours spent trying out these add-ons can save you a lot of time and effort down the line.
3. Remember to be professional. Even more than your blog, your social media presence is your public face. Act like an idiot online and people will soon notice – and not in a good way.
4. As a corollary of 1, don’t sit back and expect people to come to you. Get out there and follow the interesting people. “Like” your favourite authors, publishers, TV shows and so on. The more you interact, the more likely it is that others will share your posts and spread your name around. Social media is the ultimate viral marketing environment!
RSS (Really Simple Syndication*)
You’ve probably seen the RSS icon (see left) on blogs and other sites you visit. It’s a way of exporting posts from a blog or social media feed so they can be read in, say, your email program or – more importantly for our purposes – displayed on another website. This means that you don’t have to post to all of your social networks all of the time. I feed my blog’s RSS into my FB page (using a Facebook app), thereby providing regular content even when I don’t have time to visit Facebook, and use the free service Twitterfeed to send it to Twitter. At the time of writing, Google+ doesn’t have this facility, so you can only post stuff manually.
* OK, so RSS actually stands for RDF Site Summary, but how dull is that?
So, is that it?
To be honest, without going into specific details about individual services, it’s hard to give more advice. So, in upcoming posts I’ll be covering the three main social networks I use: Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. (I was going to include them here, but this post is already quite long!)
Find me on social media
Other articles in this series: