Monday, September 27, 2010

Working Social Media

I am no expert in social media, not by a long stretch. There are so many great people out there who are, people writing blogs and books, that if you want expertise that’s where you should go. That being said, I am frequently asked what specifically authors can do and should do to help create the often-discussed buzz. Sure, you’re supposed to get a Twitter account, blog, and Facebook account, but once you have those, what works and what doesn’t?

Here’s what I think.

You should only do what works for you.
I enjoy my blog, which is why I do it. It wouldn’t work if I didn’t enjoy it. When I signed up for Twitter I wasn’t sure it was for me. It felt like more work and I just didn’t get it. I remember having conversations with Kim that I might quit. But I persevered. I gave it time and now I actually enjoy it. I use Twitter to check in on industry news and as a break. When I finish a big project I often celebrate via Twitter, and when I’m sitting down to start something it’s sometimes nice to share. It’s not just about spreading the news, but it actually helps motivate me in some weird way.

It’s not all about you.
Updating your status and Tweeting about what you’re eating for lunch has led us to believe that we live in a world where people actually care. They really don’t. Make sure when using your social media that you are talking about more than just yourself. Retweet posts or articles of interest, and most definitely engage with others. No one wants to be Facebook friends with someone who never responds to things written on their wall or ignores what everyone else is up to, but expects accolades for their own status.

Post often, but not too often.
I’ll admit that I’ve “unfollowed” Twitter pals who seem to overtake my inbox, those who have a new Tweet every five minutes or even every hour. I think one Tweet a day is fine, maybe five, but 25! That’s a little extreme and, to some extent, goes back to my second point about the fact that it can’t be all about you. No one wants to check their account only to see that you’ve been so busy none of their other friends have room to show up.

Time management
There are so many social media organizing programs out there. Use them. Most of my blog posts are written days or weeks in advance and certain Tweets are even written days, weeks or months in advance. If I know that something exciting is going to happen on a certain day, something I’ll want to Tweet about (which also links to my Facebook status by the way, so I only have to update one), I write the Tweet and set the schedule. That way if I’m busy that day the job is already done.

Make it personal
Just as you shouldn’t always make it about you, you should sometimes make it about you. I recently “unfollowed” a Tweeter because of constant article retweeting, but nothing about her. It was tiresome and boring. I do want to know something personal about the people I’m following, sometimes I do want to know what you’re making for dinner, or that the dog just jumped in your lap and deleted your writing. That’s the fun stuff that allows people to connect with you.

Not too personal
While I do enjoy learning some personal items about those I follow (for business), I also don’t need to know what kind of underwear you wear, I don’t need to hear a political rant, and I don’t think bashing others is appropriate. Again, if it’s with friends, fine, but if this is an attempt to get buzz to sell books, I’m not sure it’s the right forum.

Those are my thoughts off the cuff. What about you? Who are you following or friending and why? Who are you unfollowing or defriending and why?



Susanna Hartigan said...

I have found that Twitter has been a complete waste of time. There are more spammers on there than anywhere, IMO. Facebook has been a bigger success.

Sommer said...

Really great list. I think the absolute worst is when an author has a blog/facebook/twitter and they only use it to announce book related things and it is clear it is only a mechanism for advertising. It's clear they aren't blogging because they love to blog, there's nothing personal, it's just kind of like they heard blogging is a great way to advertise. It's not. Blog (or whatever) only because you love to do it.

R.S. Bohn said...

I've been blogging a long time, and I love it. I only created a Twitter account a month ago, so that I could follow a list of people I was interested in. I don't really Tweet.

I think it's because, like my blog, I don't like talking about mundane personal events. I don't care what anyone had for lunch or that they were at Target shopping for socks. I want to be inspired, informed, and amused, and it's what I hope I do with my blog. I try not to share negative things, such as rants, unless I can be rational and thoughtful.

The internet has vast possibilities for sharing our creativity and for generating positive energy, and sometimes, it seems squandered by some of the social media. So I'm doing what I would like to see on other blogs, etc. and I will not follow/friend anyone who posts every fifteen minutes where they are and what they are doing (yes... and it was entirely of the "Now I'm at Panera, having a smoothie and tuna sandwich" type messages) nor anyone who uses their blog, etc. to continuously express negativity. Be creative! Be interesting!

Kathye Quick said...

I have a hard time getting to posting anything. I think it's the time management issue and I really like the suggestions.

I agree with most that the updating and tweeting or bloggin about what color your dress is that day is for kids and tweeners who don;t really have much to do as yet.

Once life kicks in, we don;t usually have that much time at all.

wry wryter said...

So Jessica, you don't want to read that I am sitting here in my thong, with thoughts of idiot Tea-partiers on my mind?

So what's wrong with wearing one flip flop and reading a history book about Boston Harbor?

Actually I am of the age where social media has barely graduated from land lines to cells. Love my computer, becoming familier with blogging, but twitter?

I do text message my kids but jeez, letters and numbers all on the same button. It takes brain cells and dexterity I do not have anymore.
No I'm not springing for one of those fancy-shmancey eye-yi-yi- phones or elderberry whatchamacallits.

To create buzz I'll either do something really really nice or really really bad so I'll get noticed and everybody will want to read about me. Sort of like Susan Boyle, singing really well in a frumpy dress...I can't sing and I wear pants but I'll think of something.

Joseph L. Selby said...

It can be a big time sink trying to maintain multiple social media platforms. Twitter, a blog, Facebook, etc. While people often realize they can link one to another, it's actually possible to link all three, so a post on your blog populates on Facebook and your Facebook creates a tweet on Twitter.

I wrote a post called Maximizing Social Media

I wrote a follow up on Understanding Social Media because there were some pervading complaints on conduct in certain media that showed a misunderstanding of the uses of that medium more so than any bad conduct.

Moira Rogers - Bree said...

I love twitter. Myspace and Facebook are too cluttered for me. But with twitter I can be available to answer readers questions from time to time during the day, and chat with them. Or other authors. Or editors.

The biggest complaint I constantly see about twitter is that no one wants to know what everyone had for breakfast/lunch/dinner. All I can say to that is: so don't follow people who talk about nothing else.

Aside from recipe swaps, I rarely see mundane updates like that. I do see publishing news, editors talking about what they're looking for, agents getting excited over a sale or a neat manuscript, authors being thrilled over an accomplishment, bloggers gushing about a book they just read...

That's why I love twitter. Spending all day alone in my home office is a solitary job, and if I couldn't stick my head out the twitter window and chat with my virtual neighbors once in a while, I might go even more stir-crazy.

That said, if you don't like it, I don't think it will work for you. I don't care for Facebook, so I don't really use it. Same for Myspace. Some people prefer one or the other, and I don't think that makes said platform better or worse--Facebook certainly isn't useless or a waste of everyone's time. It's just a waste of mine.

People can tell when you don't want to be blogging or tweeting. I honestly think doing it in an obligated, annoyed fashion might be worse than not doing it at all.

Jeffe Kennedy said...

I got going on Facebook, and later Twitter, mainly to pimp my blog. I resisted, thought it would be silly and a waste of time. To my delight, I've discovered I really enjoy both. Facebook feels like a longer correspondence. It has enabled me to connect with far-flung family, friends and clients - and to reconnect with old friends. On Twitter, I've discovered a new world of friends and like-minded people.

For both, I agree the key is engaging with people. I spend more time responding and commenting than on my own status. It's all about the ongoing conversations.

I agree with Moira - I love to be able to stick my head out of the window of my home office and talk to people. I don't care if it's about what they're reading, how their kid stayed up all night or what to fix for dinner. It's just nice to interact with people

Phoenix said...

After being a nuisance on everyone else's blogs, I started my own earlier this year. I pander to writers right now, providing query and synopsis help with the occasional side of essays about farmlife and animal rescue.

I just recently jumped on the Twitter wagon and my complaint is that the people I follow all seem to be following the same people. One retweet is nice, but my box seems to be filled with the same message retweeted a dozen times. I avoid retweeting so as not to add more pollution to the twitosphere. But if I don't retweet and I don't have anything worth saying and I don't want to jump into the middle of a personal conversation, what do I tweet about? Still trying to figure out how not to be a wallflower but not be obnoxious either.

Kristan said...

I think your principles are pretty good ones to follow, and I definitely strive to. Like you, I unfollow (on Twitter or in Google Reader) or I hide (in Facebook) people who spam the update streams with their inane daily doings. I don't need every detail, just the big ones.

Btw, a caution about retweeting: too many of those will get you unfollowed too. Fortunately Twitter has a new setting that allows you to determine whose retweets you can see and whose get hidden -- that's been a friend-saver, for me, because I can just hide certain people's retweets instead of unfollowing them.

wry wryter said...

Kristan, I'm lost and what's worse I don't want to be found.
I am going to my land line now for a generational-fix. one is there.
Go ahead laugh.
You young whippersnappers...when the satelites melt where will you be without my land line and smoke signals?

ryan field said...

I always find people...readers and other informative posts on social networks. So I'm sharing this post right now on FB...hehe.

Kate Douglas said...

Susanna, I agree. I still don't "get" Twitter. If I leave it open and tweets pop up, they interrupt my writing, and when I do go on to read tweets, they're usually a waste of time. Facebook, on the other hand, allows for a more personal connection. I honestly feel as if I get to know my Facebook friends.

As far as blogging--I don't have my own. I am in a group blog and love to guest blog, but most of my time is spent writing and checking OTHER blogs, something I do once in the morning. Social media is great, but it can be a terrible time suck if you're not careful.

Lisa Lane said...

I love social media, mostly Facebook and blogging. You make some great points here. I recently stopped following a blog for being far too ranty and political.

Susan Spann said...

I definitely agree about Tweeps who feel the need to chirp constantly - in fact, when I started my Twitter account, I promised to quit if anyone ever caught me tweeting "I BOUGHT SOAP!" (Note: I do buy it, I just don't feel the need to let 21 million strangers in on it. If the secret gets out, everyone will want it and then where will I be?)

The only thing I'd say I do differently than you list is that I do tweet more than once or twice a day, but anything over one or two is in @(whoever) format - so it doesn't go to the whole follow list, only the person I'm talking to.

Sarah said...

There is a lot of great use out there for each of these social media platforms -- I think the most important thing to remember is not to use them all in the same way! That is, don't post your tweets to Facebook. Don't only talk about your blog on twitter. Each platform can be utilized in a specific way, and they should never been used interchangeably.

Hart Johnson said...

I love blogging. I do the Twitter thing, but haven't yet invested in how to do it well--it seems so 'timing dependent'

But my big TURN OFF is one-trick ponies that blog/tweet/etc. with the sole intent of selling their book. All these things are about relationship building, and relationships are TWO WAY and multi-layered. Yes, when you have a book release, talk to your readers, but your readers should already KNOW YOU, or they are not going to then spread the word. My motto on blogging is you either need to be helpful or entertaining. Both are long term investments.

Bethany said...

I have a blog, I don't always update it but I try to have a combination of what's up with me and other people--especially some of my blog followers.

I don't do twitter right now. I'm thinking of setting up a Facebook page for the writing part of my life (since I use a pen name). But I do like Facebook.

I used to use MySpace, but it's not for me.

Anonymous said...

I joined Twitter recently to keep up with a couple of agents and other literary types that I really admire.

I don't have any followers of my own yet, but I'm sure that will change when I am published and peoplle become curious about *me*. For now? I'm just the fangirl hanging in the shadows, and I'm content.

Florence said...

I pick up on every bit of advice about social networking and recently used my daughter and her friends to avoid doing something "wrong" on Twitter.

I am new to this and I appreciate your input. For the first week, I had trouble responding to tweets.

I'll get the handle of it and learn to "listen" to something other than my own voice.

Thanks again for a great post.

SusanSpann said...

A thought for Anonymous @1:55 - you may think you're "nobody" right now, but the reality is that you can build a following on Twitter precisely by being the person you really are - the one you are today. Writers love encouragement. Find a group whose work you like, or who you'd like to know, follow them and comment @ them when they have a success - or failure - or say something you liked. Get involved in the conversation not to promote yourself but to encourage others who are trying (or succeeding) too. Then, when it's your time to shine, you'll already have met people who care about you in return.

Don't do it as a trick, or "to get" for yourself, but if you genuinely care about other people, you don't have to be famous for them to care about you too.

Wendy Tyler Ryan said...

So odd that this is your topic today. After leaving a long verbage on another topic at Kristin Nelson's blog, I wrote her back to thank her for giving us a forum that lets us say what we think, but more imortantly, gives us usefull information as well. I also said there, that I have just stopped following a "shall remain nameless" agent's blog because of the inane chatter that gave me absolutely nothing. A Blog for the sake of a Blog is pointless.

So, yes, I agree. There is a fine line. If you have nothing interesting to say, don't say it. I don't care what you ate for breakfast and re-tweeting; re-blogging, re-anything, is just downright lazy. Tell us your own take on it - if you have one.

Mira said...

Oh cool - thanks so much, Jessica. For the suggestions and the conversation. Very helpful!

Malia Sutton said...

Great post about social networks. I recently de-friended a gal because she kept posting about her dysfunctional relationship with her mother. To the point of being obnoxious (I hate the bi##h and hope she joking) I felt bad and all, but keep the baggage and nutty stuff at home, not on facebook.

jjdebenedictis said...

I think you have to consider social media to be a stage you're performing on. You must entertain the audience if you want to keep their attention.

That said, they're often most entertained by you being a nice, genuine person who interacts with them.

Carol J. Garvin said...

As writers we're big on communication, and when used well social media is a means to that end. Thanks for your suggestions and the reminder that "it isn't all about me." Effective communication is a two-way affair.

Elena said...

Saturday's blog post was entitled "Whittling Twitter" -- The day I realized social media might very well be the end of me was the day I began following
Sn00kie on Twitter.

Carolyn Rosewood said...

Well-balanced, practical advice. Thank you.

Liz said...

Thanks so much for this post. Everyone's comments have been really helpful, too. I'm quite late to the social media game. I can't remember anymore why I resisted facebook for so long, but now that I'm on it, I regret having waited so long. It's such a great way to spread the word and keep track of events, etc. I haven't joined Twitter yet, but I think these guidelines will really help me get the most out of it once I do sign up.

Vickie Motter said...

Great advice. I still feel like a newby in the social media (two months I think), and I think I've figured out most of your advice on my own... most of the time. It's great to know I'm on the right path. Sounds like balance is the key. I think I have to work a little more on the personal Tweets.

Jesse said...

I agree about the "twitter-rhia." I've done the same, unfollowing someone who has to tweet every five minutes about every minute detail. I'll pass, thanks.

Hmm...yeah, I need to tweet more about myself, don't I. I tend to try not being so vain but, I guess it isn't, is it. That was the purpose of having the bloody thing.

bfav said...

I've been on the fence about whether to tweet or not. After reading this, I signed a follower. I don't want to tweet...yet.

Kay Bigelow said...

You've answered the age-old question "how much is too much?" One question left unasked, though, is how do we get the people we want to follow us to do that? I've been pondering that one for a while now. Nope, no answer has been forthcoming.