Monday, 7 January 2013

Social Networking and You (Twitter Edition)



Although I may have briefly brushed across the concept of having to use social networking as a tool for the burgeoning author, I haven’t quite delved into the topic as much as I’d like. It’s something that a lot of people know about, are quite familiar with, and probably use on a daily basis for personal reasons. When it comes to the professional world and social networks, the game changes a good deal, and it seems to me that a lot of people make some pretty big mistakes. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t know everything, and I’m still figuring out new tricks to get the most out of my social networking experience—but there are a few errors that I see consistently that are pretty darn bad.

To catch everyone up to the same page, there are a few big sites out there that probably at least 80% of your fan base will be coming from. These are Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. In the past, sites like Myspace (and the various networking sites that came before) held a lot more sway than they do now, and unless you have the free time, it might not even be worth dealing with. Other places like Google+ and Pintrest seem like they could have some amount of use, but I’ll be honest here, the Google+ interface drives me crazy and I killed that account pretty quickly. Pintrest on the other hand, I’ve never really looked at—I might in the future, but for now I’m working on building my following elsewhere.

I wrote the whole post, and frankly it got pretty long (I have this problem a lot, don’t I?). So I’ve decided to expand each individual social networking section, and post one each for the next few sessions. First we’re going to have Twitter, then Facebook, and then Goodreads.

So, Twitter—180 character limits of short, rapidly fired, bite sized messages. This is the place where I’ve been finding the most success getting the word out. It’s even been one of the biggest draws of traffic to my personal site. You can follow, chat with, shout at, or be followed by anyone and everyone. I follow other writers and authors, they follow me; I can see their announcements and they can see mine. If either of us likes something that the other says, we can re-tweet it, and then all of our followers see the other person’s tweet as well. Things get passed around, which is exactly what you want when you’re trying to get a message out there.

Twitter can be a great place to hear about events, or meet new people, or even chat up other authors that you’ve always looked up to (don’t harass them though, be nice). It’s a lot more fluid than other networking sites, and you can gain (and lose) followers very quickly. I’ve seen people holding contests using trending hash tags (how twitter quantifies tweets), brainstorming, making sales, advertising books, and complaining about writer’s block, all in the same five minutes window. It’s a great site with a lot of potential to help your sales, but it is fairly easy to lose all of your followers, which is what I get into next.

The biggest problem that I see from a lot of people is that they either never say anything at all on their twitter, something that I did at first, or they spam their books/movies/the same thing, over and over and over. Once or twice a week (for sale locations) is plenty. People will see it, and if they want, they’ll buy it. When you say the same thing 15x a day, it can get a bit annoying, and oftentimes you’ll lose followers.

The next thing that I see (less frequently, but still occasionally) is that people forget to filter themselves. They seem to forget that they’re trying to push a brand, and while it’s great to be chatty and share aspects of your life—filter yourself. Being wildly offensive for the sheer reason of being offensive probably won’t win you many friends, unless that’s the type of thing you’re going for, in which case it fits with your brand, so go right ahead. Your followers do like to see pictures, and hear about some of the stuff you’re working on, or thinking about, or what you’re up to—but personal conversations through completely public venues are a bit awkward and should be saved for email or somewhere else where the rest of the world cannot see it.

There are places such as hootsuite.com which can help you set up automated message broadcasting schedules, and free up your hands a little bit to make things run more smoothly so you don’t accidentally spam your follower lists over and over. I’ll get more into meta-social networking sites next week, as my Facebook section is a wee bit shorter than the others.

And since it seems weird not to mention it, you can find me on twitter at www.twitter.com/trevoriswriting -- give me a follow and you can be subject to my odd thoughts throughout the day (announcements happen there too).

-Trevor

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