Maximizing Social Media (Part 2)
This is a continuation of the previous post I made
on maximizing social media. That one ran into problems shortly after it was posted because Facebook made some changes to fan page construction. It has been partially fixed. For a Facebook fan page to export to Twitter, the update has to be posted to the Wall (not just the Notes tab). That functionality was disabled but is now restored in the Notes settings (when you're in settings, look at the top of the Notes Settings selection box and you'll see a second tab option that will bring up a checkbox for you to choose to post your Notes to your wall). Facebook is still having trouble maintaining subscriptions and there's no rhyme or reason as to which pages are affected. When you list a URL for subscription, Facebook should check every few hours to see if new posts have been made. Some pages (like mine) drop the subscription, so I essentially import posts manually. But otherwise the trifecta process works.
One of the reasons I switched from LiveJournal to Blogger was to see if it was a matter of platform. LiveJournal is a dinosaur in terms of social media and perhaps it simply couldn't keep up with Facebook's quickly evolving interface. Now that I've attempted the same trifecta with Blogger and run into the same problem, I know the issue is with Facebook.
That brings us to today's topic, Understanding Social Media.
To properly utilize social media, you need to A) Understand the best uses for said medium and B) Understand the expectations others have for that medium.
This post discusses three media: Blogs/Journals, Facebook, and Twitter. For the purposes of this post, podcasts and video casts are lumped in with blogs/journals. They are outside the Venn diagram of this post and much of the blog conversation can apply to them, so there we go.
BLOGS and JOURNALS
Blogs and journals are similar in that you can use the same platform to deliver either. You can use blogger to deliver a journal. You can use LiveJournal to deliver a blog. It's a matter of content that separates the one from the other.
So, before we begin, we will assume you are not a New York Times bestselling author with a built-in fan base that will come find you regardless of where or how often you post. For the mere mortals in writing, there are some guidelines you need to keep in mind regardless of whether you're blogging or journaling.
Frequency. A blog has a set release schedule: once a week, three times a week, five times a week, seven times a week, etc. Whatever schedule you set, keep to it as best you can. If you're only posting once every six months, there's no reason for people to make the effort to remember your blog (even if you think, "Hey, just throw me in Google Reader and forget about me," that's still space they have to dedicate to you the person that isn't actually capable of posting more than twice a year, so really why are you worth that space?). While a journal may not be on such a rigid schedule, the concept is the same. If you don't give people content to read, they will not spend the time looking for what you have to say. A blog that posts rarely is not a blog at all. It's a zombie walking along and occasionally spouting out blog-like things but really all it wants to do is eat your brains.
Platform. There are a lot of options for blogging and journaling out there. Blogger, LiveJournal, MySpace, Dreamwidth, and a number of other derivatives that come and go. While you should find the one that works best for you, be cognizant of what a platform can offer you. Simply by moving from LiveJournal to Blogger, I've quadrupled my posting views and participation. People don't like clicking through. The more clicks they have to do, the less likely they are to do it. So sometimes it's to your advantage to post where the most people are, even if that means moving platforms every half-decade or so.
So there are the similarities. What are the differences? It's the intent that distinguishes the two. A blog has an expected topic focus and an expected release schedule. You will give advice, comment on the subject matter, or otherwise provide a review of the subject matter that is either newsworthy or instructive. Even the slice of life stuff is instructive. See what I had to go through? You're not alone! You can do it! and/or Don't make the mistakes I did! And you'll do so on said schedule you determined.
I'm cautious to list examples for this one. A lot of the old guard that made literary blogging such a big deal are starting to or have faded (Kristen Nelson, Moonrat, etc). Nathan Bransford
is still going strong. He talks about agenting and writing and the business and he does so once a day, five days a week. That is a blog.
If that seems too stressful, consider a journal. A journal is similar but much more laid back. Topics can be as instructive or as flippant as you want, and you can post as frequently or as infrequently as you want. (Remember, it's better to have an empty page and an account you use to view/comment on other people's work than a handful of posts throughout the year. Much like having a self-published credit versus no publishing credit at all.) You want a good example of a journal, check out George R.R. Martin
's aptly named "Not a Blog." You're more likely to find George talking about football than you are A DANCE WITH DRAGONS.
Whether you're using a blog or a journal, the delivery is the same. You write a self-contained mini-essay or rambling exposition on whatever you want and put it up for people to read. There is a comments section where they can choose to comment. The initial thought is self-contained. In my opinion, the more dangerous place for a writer isn't the post itself but in the comments section. That's where the back-and-forth exchange occurs. That's where the sycophantic praise happens (don't let it go to your head) and that's where the trolls come. It's easy for genuine disagreement to be drowned out by all the people who say they agree with you. It's easy to take dissent as a flame because of trolls who show up for no other purpose than to be rude to you. Be sure to listen and treat all posts--good and bad--fairly. Be calm and be careful. In the end, this blog/journal is your space and you set the ground rules. You establish the tone, and you decide what is and what is not displayed.
(Incidentally, despite the tone of recent posts, this is a journal and not a blog. When I get busy at work, posts will slow down, and when I see something inspirational like a good play, I'll probably comments on it as well. For me, I have other outlets for that kind of stuff which is why the content here is better defined to a general topic of writing and the challenges of trying to become a published author.)
Facebook is what made social media a part of our lives. It's likely most people reading this already have a Facebook account, so I'll keep the description short. It's a networking tool where you make friends and list your status. You may involve yourself with old school/childhood friends, family members, coworkers, or what have you. How strict or how loose your friending policy is your discretion.
If you have a Facebook account and you are using that for writing purposes as well, stop. Facebook puts a limit on how many friends you can have, so as soon as you are successful, you'll have to ask all those writing followers to switch. Best to do it right from the beginning so you don't have to inconvenience anyone. Also, it can get frustrating for a friends list who are personal acquaintances and those there for your writing to put up with status updates for the other half. Go create a fan page for yourself and steer all your work-related content there. It'll save you a headache later, and will provide you an outlet to properly present yourself as a professional.
You've seen a fan page whether you realize it or not. XXx friend likes "xxx show" That show is a fan page. Anyone can make a fan page. It does not require you to make a new account (in fact, it'll be linked to your personal account as you'll be the administrator of that page). A fan page allows you to post status updates like a normal account does. You can also make Notes (longer blog-like posts) or import Notes from a blog/journal. You can post pictures and links and your fan page can have its own list of people of whom it is a fan. It's almost like a second account except you can limit how much other people participate. You can prevent them from commenting or you can make it so their comments are there but don't immediately present themselves. It gives you an administrative control over normal Facebook functionality.
But best of all, it allows you to keep your life separate from your work. Facebook has millions of members and becoming a fan of something is incredibly easy. Every person that likes your page has that "xxx likes xxx" show up in their news feed. That means everyone who is a friend of that person sees your page and so on and so on and so on. It's institutionalized viral marketing.
(If you've heard of or experienced Facebook's privacy debate, keep an eye on Diaspora
which I am hopeful will present a great Facebook alternative in 2011.
No one thought Facebook could be stopped when Twitter first came along and boy was that proven wrong. Twitter is the place to be right now. Does it make a difference? There's no measure to be sure, but it generates the most activity of the three. With 140-character comments, you can have conversations, post, and be reposted, created searchable hash tag discussions (such as the inimitable #amwriting). Twitter is growing into a community for various writing genres, such as YA. This is because unlike Facebook and blogging, where the poster maintains a degree of control, Twitter is fully open. It is voyeuristic socialization. As soon as you make a post, there's nothing you can do about it. Anyone can see it. Anyone can respond to it. Anyone can retweet it (unless you block an individual, typically reserved for spam and trolls or protect your posts, which completely defeats the purpose of using Twitter to expand your online visibility).
Here's how twitter works. Anyone with a twitter account can follow anyone else. They then see the comments of everyone they follow (assuming those comments are not directed to another person they do not follow). The more people you follow, the more posts you see, both their original comments and their conversations and responses to one another.
It can be disorienting given how different Twitter is to more controlled environments like blogs. At any given time, someone can respond to what you're saying. On Twitter, you are never
having a conversation with another person. You are having a conversation with everyone who is watching you. It's just a matter of whether they choose to respond.
As an aspiring professional writer, it's important to have an online presence (as you will be told often), and social media is an effective way to spread word about yourself without an advertising budget. Others like what you have to say and they pass that along. Their friends see it and pass it on and so on. It's the fundamental tenet of social media, "pass it on." You need to figure out which of these best fits how you want to interact with people and how much involvement you want to put forward.
Be aware of where you're posting and the expectations and opportunities of that platform. It doesn't do you any good to have a blog you don't update or try to maintain privacy on Twitter. These are tools, a hammer, a screwdriver, and a wrench. Each has different functions, but all can help you build a bookshelf for your eventual best sellers.