Social Media for Writers

Heads on HaightI’m so sick of the phrase “social media savvy.”

I’ve used it on resumes, I’ve used it at parties, and yes, I’ve even used it on my social media profiles.

But I’m sick of it.

To me, it sounds like shorthand for, “Don’t worry about me! I’m not some old geezer who’s scared of computers! I have totally got this!”

But really…social media is pretty confusing.

There are dozens of different social media tools, and each tool has its own etiquette, its own community, and its own language. As a writer, I’ve heard I’m supposed to be on all of them. I’m supposed to write my blog, set up a Facebook fan page, tweet every hour, pin cool things on Pinterest, build my brand on Tumblr…but when will I have time to write?

Unless you’re 14 years old and you grew up with an iPhone in your hand, trying to be present on every social media network is signing up for a course in insanity.

Here’s my strategy: Pick one or two social media resources and start there. Pick something you like and have fun with, and ignore all the rest. Dabble around and then pick your poison.

Here’s a cheat sheet on some of your options:

FACEBOOK
The granddaddy of them all, Facebook has sheer numbers to recommend it. I’ve heard users have been declining in the past year or so, but there’s no denying that it’s still very, very big.

Pros
If you have frequent events going on to promote your work (like book signings or lectures), Facebook lets you set up invites and keep track of RSVPs. Likewise, a Facebook Fan Page can also be helpful as a landing page to showcase your writing to new fans.

Cons
Navigating between your personal Facebook page and your Fan Page can get confusing on the technical side. Facebook is also notorious for making people with privacy concerns uncomfortable.

TWITTER
Whether you call it micro-blogging or a media platform, users of Twitter have made expressing yourself in 140 characters or less an art form.

Pros
It’s easy to directly connect with other writers and readers on Twitter. Just send them a tweet. And the practice of following complete strangers isn’t weird, so you have countless possibilities to make friends and connections in the writing world.

Cons
Because of the never-ending stream of tweets, a lot of folks find Twitter too overwhelming. Also, tweets are public—to anyone and everyone—so some writers might feel like the pressure is on to always say something good.

PINTEREST
Pinterest splashed onto the social media scene as a digital billboard concept that allows users to pin pictures and videos revolving around a theme. It’s slick and enticing, and the majority of its users are female.

Pros
If you’re writing about anything heavily image-based, like fashion or food, Pinterest allows you to connect with your audience instantly through visuals. And if your audience is primarily female (think: paranormal romance or chick-lit genres) Pinterest could help you scoop up new readers.

Cons
If you’re not that interested in focusing on the visual, Pinterest can end up feeling like a burden and a time-suck. And there’s definitely a competitive element that arises in trying to keep up with Joneses—it’s actually called Pinterest Stress.

TUMBLR
Tumblr is known for being the “anti-blog.” Instead of trying to attract a large audience of strangers, most users set up a Tumblr to share with a smaller circle of people who they probably know in real life. Most Tumblr users are also under the age of 25.

Pros
If you’re a young 20-something artist or writer Tumblr is an interesting social media option. Because so many young people use it to express what’s actually going on in their lives, it can help you easily keep a finger on the pulse of your local artistic community.

Cons
If you’re over 30 you will probably tire of Tumblr quickly. The content is aimed at the younger crowd, and it’s unlikely you will find many people you actually know using it.

LINKEDIN
LinkedIn bills itself as a social networking resource for professionals. Your page is basically built around your resume, as well as professional accomplishments and connections.

Pros
If you have some really kick-ass names in your Rolodex, LinkedIn can help you shine. Likewise, if you have a long and impressive career, LinkedIn can help you showcase it. Because of the emphasis on companies, organizations, and professional connections, this site works best for journalists, publicity and content writers, and freelancers.

Cons
If your credentials have nothing to do with writing (say you’re writing your novel during the day, but at night you drive a taxi), LinkedIn probably won’t get you very far. It’s also not a site that encourages you to link up with strangers as a best practice—the people you know on LinkedIn you usually know in real life, even if it’s only over email—so it’s not ideal for gaining new audience members or making new writer friends.

Consider your social media goals—what do you want to get out of this? Consider the kinds of people who would be interested in reading your books. What social media sites are they hanging out on?

Pick two sites and sign up. Dabble. Play. If you like it, stay. If it doesn’t speak to you, move on.

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