|Do you think social media is for the birds?|
For my career, social media has played an enormous role in my successes. By using blogs and social media sites, I've made easier connections with other writers, editors, and agents. Plus, most of the invitations I've received to speak at writing events have come specifically via Facebook over the past few years. Another invite originated on Twitter. (Check out the tangible benefits of social media.)
Popular Social Media Sites for Writers
Before you can get started digging into social media sites, you need to know what exists. To help out, here's a list of the various sites with links to tips on how to optimize your experience. Notice that I did not list every imaginable site ever. Instead, I focused on the big ones as I know them. If you want to make a case for another social media hub, do so in the comments and maybe I'll add to this list.
- Facebook. This is still the big social network. It's where the people are...and their friends...and their pictures...and their status updates...and their messaging. Here are some Facebook tips for writers to get you started if you're not there already (or if you are, but aren't quite sure what you're doing).
- Twitter. This is a microblogging site. Every tweet must be 140 characters or less. That's really economizing language, and here are some Twitter tips for writers. This site is part social, part newsy, part crazy. If you can build a good follower base, it's also a great site for referral traffic to your blog or site.
- LinkedIn. This social network has carved out its own niche as a professional networking site. It's probably of greatest use to academic-minded and professional/technical writers, who are often looking to build relationships with institutions and companies more than the average freelancer. However, I've even seen poets use this site to help prep their speaking tours. Here are some LinkedIn tips for writers.
- Google+. This site is still new and going through the growing pains of a new social network. Initially, there was a lot of buzz surrounding the launch of Google+, but that's now died off a bit--and many users have abandoned their use of the site. However, I wouldn't write off this site just yet. For one, I've previously abandoned Facebook and Twitter--only to return more furiously than ever. For two, this social media site is powered by Google--the largest search engine on the planet. Here are 11 Google+ tips for writers.
- Pinterest. I have an invitation from my wife to join Pinterest, but I've just been too busy to check this site out the way I'd like so far. That's my bad, because a study recently found that Pinterest refers more traffic than Twitter, which is huge news. Many traditional media companies, including Better Homes and Gardens, are making big pushes on this visual social media platform. Here are 10 tips for using Pinterest well.
- Goodreads. This social network caters to readers, who also happen to be the audience of...umm...writers! So it makes sense for writers to hang a shingle, make connections, and have a strong presence on this popular social media site. Here are 2 ways to make the most of Goodreads.
- RedRoom. Red Room's tagline is "where the writers are," and they have their own set of RedRoom tips for writers. This is one of those sites I always hear referenced as a great place for writers, but that I don't actually use myself. (Btw, don't feel that you need to maintain an active presence on every social media site. That can wear you out and make it impossible for you to write. You should experiment and find the communities that are the best fit for you.)
- Tumblr. This is another great referral site that doubles as a popular blogging site. It's not my cup of tea, but I know people who love it. Here are 10 tips for making the most of Tumblr.
Tips on How to Use Social Media Sites for Writers
Once you find a social media site (or three) that you enjoy using, you need to know how to make the most of that site. In the past, I've shared social media etiquette for writers and explained the process of dealing with interface changes (because sites like Twitter and Facebook are always changing their interfaces).
Here are my main tips on using social media sites that are applicable to any and all:
- Complete your profile. Whenever you sign up for a new social media site, it prompts you to complete your profile. Do this. Enter your name, your e-mail, any URLs, pictures, work experience, etc. Make it easy for people to identify your profile as uniquely yours.
- Include image of yourself. It amazes me that many writers still hide behind an icon or comic character or famous person photo. Instead of having your avatar be someone who's not you, use a headshot of yourself (even if you're convinced the image isn't flattering). People like to connect with other real people--even online.
- Be selective about friends and follows. Some profiles on these social networks are bogus, so check out potential friends or people to follow before connecting. You don't need to make them share their references, but check out their profiles first--just to make sure it's a good fit.
- Don't expect anything. Sure, social media can help people with their careers and platforms, but don't expect anything specific when you start investing time and energy in social media. Instead, be open to serendipity and finding new paths that you didn't know existed.
- Communicate with others. Avoid just always throwing out content without listening. Also, avoid just lurking in the shadows without ever sharing your perspective or experiences. Get engaged and join the conversation.
You Have the Time to Do Social Media
One of the gripes I hear often from writers is that they don't have the time to handle social media in addition to everything else. I don't buy this argument, and here's why: I have 5 kids (3 who live with me in Georgia and 2 who I visit at least once a month up in Ohio), volunteer as a den leader for Cub Scouts, have a full-time job as an editor, write and submit poetry that gets published in online and print publications, blog frequently on my "own time" at this blog, take Sundays off for my faith, and I still find time to connect with people on social media sites.
You have the time to do social media. The question is whether you're willing to take the time to do social media. Unless you have 6 kids spread across 3 states and work 2 full-time jobs while doing a crazy amount of volunteer work, I'm just not buying the "no time" argument.
How to Amplify Social Media
Finally, I just want to touch on the power of social media when used in conjunction with other pieces of a platform. You see, social media alone does not make a platform--or if it does, the platform is pretty flimsy. No, a platform needs several posts to make it sturdy and stable. As a result, I advise writers to have some sort of regularly updated online hub, whether that's an author website or blog.
Social media alone is useful, but writers can amplify results by pairing up social media use with consistent content on a blog or website. Content gives you something worthwhile to share on social media sites, and sharing content on social media sites drives traffic to your blog or website. It's a win-win.
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