Five Things: Tips for (writers) using social media
1. Put your writing first, life second and social media third. And if the social media thing ends up becoming your life and your writing, be afraid.
2. Never get hung up on what other people are doing – do only what feels comfortable for you. People who seem most active on social media may not be selling more books than you and are likely not to be writing enough, either. He who shouts loudest doesn’t necessarily have the best words. She who has the most number of Twitter followers is not necessarily better than she who has a more modest number but enjoys engaging with them.
On the other hand, learn by imitation. But just pick the things you really want to imitate and don’t try to do everything. Doing everything would be a very bad way to use social media.
3. Be adaptable. If something isn’t working for you after a decent shot at it, stop doing it. There is no one right way to do any of this stuff and what works for one person or one book or one stage of career won’t work in the same way for another. Suck it and see. But do suck it for a decent amount of time and make sure you’re doing it right – by talking to someone else who is doing it right – before deciding to give something up.
4. Don’t take advice from professional social media experts – take advice from other writers who happen to be using social media. The experts tend to focus on what works for businesses. Although we do need to be businesslike as writers, it’s just not the same type of game.
Specifically, going onto Twitter and shouting about your book or brilliance is an ugly turn-off for most readers (and other writers), whereas a business shouting about its brilliance is what businesses are supposed to do. Writers need to be human and treat social media as a platform for their humanity.
5. Success in using social media isn’t about how many followers or ‘friends’ you have, or how many comments you get on your blog posts, or even how many books your activity sells (though, of course, that is happifying.) Success is about how well your social media activity reflects and supports you as a decent, professional, approachable, interesting person; how well it performs as a shop window where people can see whether they like the sound of your books and you while – crucially – allowing you time to write your books.
You see, without the books, there’s no point at all. Without books, your profile is mere puffery and vanity.
Excuse me while I try to write one.