Sunday, 9 February 2014

Seven Painful Truths About Social Media

Best foot forward.

A Public Service Announcement


If you write books, you need to reach an audience. Preferably, one with a voracious reading habit and plenty of spare cash. After you've exhausted your relatives and friends (literally, in some cases), the internet seems to glimmer like a golden gateway to prosperity, success and authorial fulfilment. Hold that thought. Why don't you sit down? There are some things you need to know.

1. People will follow you on Twitter, so, naturally, you follow them back. And then...in the dead of the night...they unfollow you. It's like the kid at school who got you to share your sweets and then the next day they scoffed all of theirs without telling you. Sneaky.

However, there are online tools you can use, such as Tweepi, to decouple yourself from those finaglers (love that word!). Also, don't follow someone back without first checking what they're about. If you're trying to promote your writing, hot dates in your local area or I can get you 5000 followers for $15 probably doesn't reflect well on your creativity.

2. Many people may follow your blog (hurrah), and post comments (hurrah deux), just to lay a trail of breadcrumbs back to their own blog. This needn't be a bad thing if their blog interests you and / or you can add insightful or interesting comments on their blogs in return. However, that doesn't mean you have to accept every comment. Naturally, you've tweaked your settings to ensure you approve each comment before it's posted?

3. Facebook likes mean nothing. Okay, you might get a brief and warm tingly feeling, but if you're plugging a book - preferably on its own Facebook page, by the way - what you really want people to do is share your post and preface it with a comment of their own. 

You could use a tool like Networked blogs, although, in the interests of balance, not everyone agrees.

4. You can't be everywhere at once, all the time. Or, indeed, at any time. Experiment with social media, see what works and what's fun (which may not be the same thing), and keep in mind why you're using social media in the first place.

5. Once you have a prominent and active social media profile - one which hopefully brings your books to a wider and appreciative audience - your relationship with your audience will change. 

Ideally, any questions you're asked about your work will form the basis of further posts, allowing you to engage with your readers and supporters in, if not real time, then something fairly close to it. Just as, by definition, you can't have a dozen BFFs, you should not expect - or lead others to expect - an intimate connection with too many of your readers.

6. There are so many social media platforms and tools that it's scary. If you think I'm exaggerating, here's a handy list. A little discernment goes a long way.

7. Social media can cloud your judgement and waste your time. You can easily spend valuable writing time chasing popularity, joining other platforms because A N Other invited you and you don't want to disappoint them, and repeating everything you've already said on another platform just because the new platform is hip. (People still say 'hip', right?) 

If you're a writer, your first loyalty is to your work, so keep that in mind when you choose to do anything else on your computer. Your time and focus are finite. Meantime, social media is a 24 days a day, 365 and a quarter days a year phenomenon. It's a carousel and only you can decide when it's right for you to get on and when you need to take a break from it all.


In conclusion, using social media can be a smexi move if you want to tap into a global market. It can also be a frustrating and disappointing experience if you dont ask yourself some important questions before you start:
a) Which platforms might be right for me?
b) How much time do I have - or want - to spend on social media.
c) Am I clear about what I want to say?
d) Who is my target audience? 

I've been Derek Thompson, freelance writer, and you've been a lovely audience. Now, about my books...

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