August 30th, 2017

Social Media Policy

Someone asked me recently about how I deal with social media as a writer, which is an interesting question because I mainly just really enjoy social media as a person. The professional perks, while they exist, are mainly sidelines–very small sidelines. Writers who feel pressed to have a presence on all channels are probably being oversold on what the benefits to that might be, but at the same time, it is good to give readers some way (just one way is fine!) of finding you online and offer at least a little bit of interaction and interesting things to say, should anyone care. And of course, you have to share your readings, books for sale, etc. with the world somehow–social media is a good way to get the word out, but you need to be careful to avoid pushy self-promotion.

What is the right balance? Who knows. But because I like to share random things about myself on the internet, and hence am an enjoyer and moderately heavy user of social media, here is how I choose to use it, in the past and up until now, along with a few caveat emptor recommendations about what might or might not work for others…

Blogs and websites: I started a private blog under a nickname in 2001 as a way of staying in touch with university friends. Back then, many of them had blogs too and we were a happy little network of oversharers. Many enthusiasms waned over time but mine never did, and in 2007 it seemed relevant to start blogging publicly under my own name, since I was publishing stories and thought I might have a book on the horizon. I wanted people to be able to find me easily if they googled and find salient information (like what I had published and where they might find it) when they did. So I made the new, blogger blog, more organized and slightly less inane. Despite the rest of this long list, this is probably what I would recommend folks do if they dislike the internet but feel they have to be on it for professional reasons. Put together a simple, free site with a list of your upcoming appearances, links to publications and press, links toonline stores for your products if any, and a contact form so people can get in touch. That’s really all you need–if you set it up as a static site you don’t even need regular posts, though I still really like blogging. I moved to a personal domain and a professionally designed site by CreateMeThis in 2011, but that was really for my own pleasure, because I enjoy the site. I don’t promote the posts in any way very often, not even on other social media (though I’m going to try to get better at that), and it’s still mainly my old uni friends who read, but the site is here for anyone who wants it and every few months, I do hear from someone who googled their way here. There are no privacy settings on this website, and it would be weird if there were. Websites are for everyone.

Facebook: I joined Facebook early, in 2006, because I was back in school and could, because my friends pressured me into it, and because I had a job that left me with large swaths of free time on a computer and was bored. I remained bored on FB, mainly talking to people I talked to all the time anyway, and building out a far more detailed profile than later adopters bothered with. Now, after more than a decade, I love FB the most of all social media, largely for personal reasons. I mainly interact with friends there, but that includes friends who live far away, friends who are very busy, friends who are really more like acquaintances and who wouldn’t be up for having dinner with me but like to chat. It’s surprisingly pleasurable to still be able to ask people I knew in high school or met at a party four years ago about their kids and hobbies [caveat emptor: many people would not like this. know thyself]. It’s like living in a tiny village forever–but only in small doses. I don’t deliberately network on FB, but in truth most of the parties and events I attend are inhabited by writers and publishing people, so a lot of them end up in my feed. I won’t friend a total stranger, because I do post personal-ish stuff (photos of nieces, silly dialogues with husband, other family stuff) but my definition of a non-total stranger is pretty lax. There’s lots of writers I respect in my feed, and I do post professional accomplishments and queries there, so we talk about that stuff. But we also talk about food and cats a lot! The other writerly thing FB is good for is invitations, giving and receiving. Nothing else is as good for aggregating events from all inviters, and making sure they get to a wide swath of invitees. If I’m having a slow week (pretty rare, but) I’ll check my FB calendar to see what I might attend. And I send all my readings and launch invites out through the platform, because it ensures a large number of people see it and receive reminders. Very helpful. My FB privacy settings are pretty high, but not the highest–you can find me if you want me.

Twitter: I seem to have joined Twitter in 2009, but the memory is hazy. I mainly wanted access to one particular app, and you needed an account, so I created one. Now I have over 1000 followers, but I’m not sure why. Mainly they are literary folks, some friends but many strangers. I share writing news there, and some stuff about food and cats, as usual, but less, because the pithiness of Twitter doesn’t work for my long-winded self. Also, there’s a real community on Twitter that I have never really succeeded in getting enmeshed with, despite my many followers. I think I don’t interact with or comment on other posts enough, and I certainly don’t debate/bicker/joke around the way Twitter stars are famous for. I find it an awkwardly exposed site, because it’s very easy to for a tweet to a friend to be seen–and attacked, or mocked–by a stranger, and that keeps me rather anodyne on there. It’s too bad, because there really is a lot of great discussion going on via Tweet, but it’s just not the medium for me. I do get a lot of my news there–or rather, I find out something is news there, then google it and get longer-form pieces, because that’s just how I am. I have no privacy settings on my Twitter, because it’s pretty all or nothing with that site.

Goodreads: Goodreads turned up later than the above but I don’t actually know when or why I joined. I know most writers are pretty strongly urged to as a way of marketing their work, and for those who are a huge deal with a large following already, that does work–they have lots of questions being sent their way and Goodreads is a convenient way to aggregate them. But for those of us with a small, quiet group of readers who often don’t really have any questions, it’s hard to do much marketing via Goodreads–I think I’ve been only contacted a couple times that way, and those were obnoxious. Also, you can see reviews of your own books on Goodreads but really shouldn’t–it’ll just make you anxious. I do like Goodreads, though, but as a reader not a writer. It’s a convenient spot to keep track of what I’ve read, and also to scan down my friends list to see if anyone else has read the same stuff–and then I send that person an email about it in a non-GR context, because I don’t understand the in-platform communications at all. I suspect there’s lots more I could be doing. I do not have privacy settings on my Goodreads, and suspect I would not really understand them if I tried.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the only form of social media I do not find entertaining. I maintain an account that mainly focuses on my 9-5 job, though it does mention the writing as well. It’s pretty up-to-date and not that interesting. I use it for basically nothing–sometimes I get in touch with former coworkers or freelancers that way if I don’t have another contact method for them, and very occasionally I reach out to people I would like to hire or people who would like me to hire them. Most people, in my opinion, use LinkedIn badly–but perhaps it is me that does. I’m not going to connect with a stranger just because they send me a request, and having a bajillion contacts is not going to get you a job if you don’t know any of them. I do not read any of the feeds or promoted articles. Basically I figure this is a good professional thing to have–if I try to hire someone and they google me, I want them to find this account very staid and reassuring so they will come work for me. Ditto if I want someone to hire me–when I need a new job in the future, I’ll have this all set up, so that’s good I guess. Otherwise, I don’t really see the point of LinkedIn–and I’m baffled by what people use it for in their creative careers. I don’t think one gets gigs as “fiction writer” via LinkedIn–but who knows? I have privacy settings on this account, but they’re pretty minimal.

Instagram: Just when I thought social media was dying and I would never love anything new again, Instagram! Instagram is fun and pretty and friendly! It’s also quick and simple–you post a picture, people see it, maybe they like it, maybe they say something about it but often they don’t. That’s fine! Instagram is about sharing interesting things to look at or bits of your life or both, not bickering about finer points of whatever or getting people to agree with you. It is very simple and pleasant. Yes, one can promote their own work on Instagram–there’s whole worlds on the site devoted to promotion of various commercial goods–but even more so than with other sites, you really need to slide that in with a bunch of other stuff. As a visual, a single book cover–or a single face–gets old really fast.

And that’s it–everything I do publicly in the social media space. I have a few communication apps as well but not the ones you use socially–you have to actually, like, know my phone number in order to contact me. Is this way too much? Oh, for sure–but I like it, it’s recreation. I don’t touch Goodreads, LinkedIn, or my blog most days, and only check in on Twitter and Instagram for a couple minutes. Facebook…yeah, that’s a time suck, and blog posts like this can be too, but like I say, I enjoy it. As promotional tools, I would say most forms of social media have limited returns if you’re not there for the sake being there first and foremost–if you find you hate a platform, it’s fine to shut down your profile, and if you find you hate all social media, it’s fine to keep just one platform and update it in limited but friendly way when you have news to share. There’s really other stuff we could all be doing.

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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