Social media sites get a bit of a bad rep, especially among writers and artists who need to cut down on their opportunities for procrastination. However, they can be extremely useful for your career. Potential benefits include:
- A way to learn about the industry. The book industry is well represented on social media. Everyone is on there. Twitter is a great way to learn more about literary agents, editors, authors, publishing, publicists and writing in general. Understanding the industry will help you to find the best place for your writing, and help you network.
- The opportunity to brand yourself. Being active on social media platforms allows you to dictate the style in which you and your work are presented. These days, a lot of authors will be expected to be heavily involved in the promotion of their books. A strong social media following is a huge bonus in this. It's also an attractive proposition for publishers when they are researching new writers.
- A place to make friends and contacts. Social media will allow you to interact with people you might not have the chance to meet in person, and build connections with like-minded people who could offer you support – and vice versa.
- The chance to connect with your readers. Getting involved allows you to gauge what it is your audience expect or need as well as being able to make individual connections. A lot of writers will pitch questions to their followings these days, asking for input on historical facts and other aspects of their work.
10 ways to stay writer-savvy on social
Write something good offline
You might be an aphorism machine on Twitter and Instagram but that counts for diddley-squat unless you write something worth reading offline. Social sites are like a virtual staff canteen for writers - it's a great network for writers stuck in their studies at home. Like a good tea-break, however, use it wisely.
Know why you're there
Don’t start a social media account because you feel like you should. Know what you want to do with it. It might be simply to discuss writing with other writers, or to research opportunities. Check out the profiles of writers you admire and see how they're using their Twitter, Facebook or Instagram feeds.
The more you use social sites the more you’ll realise that you’re developing a voice. Is this friendly, insightful, cynical or a bit too negative? Take a moment every now and again to read through your old posts just in case you are coming across as a bit of a ranter, a grump or just plain weird.
Be regular and interact
Whether you're a chatty soul who'll be online every day or someone who'd prefer to dip in only when you have something amusing or useful to say, that's fine – as long as you stay consistent. Don't post 30 times a day for a week then ignore your site for six months. Find a balance you can maintain so you can listen, respond and build an audience.
Mention people by their name
If you're mentioning a person, organisation or event in your social post, be sure to tag them or – if they aren't on the same social site – include a link to their site. It's nice to give people a shout out and will help you stay connected to a community.
Keep up appearances
Most people wouldn't turn up to work half-dressed. Take a bit of time making sure that your profile looks professional and represents who you are. Social media sites make this as easy as they possibly can (even for the IT illiterate) so don't be intimidated. A good headshot is proven to gain you more followers but if you would rather use an illustration or something more unusual go for that - as long as it best represents you and your work.
You won't build an audience unless you have something to say. Get involved in the conversation by keeping an eye on what's trending and what other writers are saying. Is there anything you can say about World Poetry Day, The Booker Prize, sport, or the economy? What are you passionate about? Be opinionated but, remember to remain aware of how you're coming across to people who don't know you in real life. With social media it's better to spread the love than the hate. Avoid social spats if at all possible.
Share good content
Make yourself useful to others and your followers by finding good articles, sharing news about other writers' book launches and generally being a good egg. If you help people to share their news, they will help you in turn. Good content can involve your own book news too. People who follow you want to know about your writing - just don't overdo it.
David Mitchell has published an entire story on Twitter. Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan has done the same. Don't be afraid to try new things, especially around your book launches or public appearances. Not everything you try will go viral, but it's always good to experiment and keep your eyes and mind open to new ideas.
Write something good online
Social media is made up of words. You are a writer, therefore there is nothing to fear - you're in your natural habitat. As a writer, be sure to use good grammar and punctuation though. Social sites are also great for working your abilities to write succinctly. Embrace the limitations.