Follow the Leader – How Should We Use Social Media?

By now I’m sure every Writer out there and everyone who gets sucked into a conversation with a Writer knows about the massive changes in the publishing industry, the brewing battle, as it were, between Trad and Indie publishing, and the importance of creating an online platform to market yourself as a Writer.  Everyone knows that the onus is on Writers to promote themselves, whether they have a major publishing company and a contract behind them or whether they go it on their own.  These things are all givens.

But what do we actually do with this glut of information?  I mean, I had a fantastic time last Friday swirling down the rabbit hole of Novel Publicity’s    Author Karma Friday Facebook like-a-thon.  It was awesome.  My Like-man-ship doubled in one afternoon and I gained several Twitter followers as well.  But dear Lord was it overwhelming!  It was like hosting a party and having ten times the people I expected show up.  I was terrified I would run out of food, people would get drunk and puke on the carpet, and cars would get parked on the lawn.  I’ll recover though.  It was a damn good party!

So here I am on the proverbial morning after with an online social media platform hangover.  What to do with all this information….

So far I’ve noticed that author social media platforms tend to be a bit incestuous.  We cater to each other.  Writers follow writers.  We get out numbers up and feel happy.  We blog about our writing and our experiences.  And this is all awesome.  I love reading about people who jumped into this same boat with me.  But there’s something, a niggling little thing way back in the corner of my brain, that questions the reasons for the party.

In surfing all the Facebook pages of my new friends I found a wide variety of intent in creating a social media presence.  There were the folks who’s single-minded aim seems to be to promote their book.  Awesome.  I’ve got a book coming out at the end of September myself and I appreciate the need to market it.  But some of these sites left me feeling a bit hollow.

Then there were the sites of authors who appear to be hard at work creating an image for themselves.  Is this branding?  Perhaps.  A lot of these pages were quite gothic.  They had a strong visual impact and a clear message.  Granted, a lot of the ones I came across were dark and, dare I say it, indulgent.  Of course my opinion about that could be shaded by the fact that I’m not really into the whole paranormal or urban fantasy thing.  But does branding really mean playing make-believe with your image or is that role best played by the characters in your books?

The pages I really loved were clean-cut, had pictures of the author in question as the profile pic (as opposed to pics of the books which, strangely, didn’t appeal to me at all) and included personal status updates and touches.  I felt like these were people pages, not marketing tools.  And of course as a devotee of Kristen Lamb’s book We Are Not Alone: A Writer’s Guide To Social Media, this makes perfect sense to me.  These are the authors who are seeking to connect as themselves, make me see them as people.  I like it!  Of course that’s part of the point.  I like it.  Not everyone will.  It’s subjective to the core.

Okay, so where does that leave me and the people I follow online and everyone else eager to establish a platform for themselves in hopes of hitting pay-dirt as a Writer?  Should we throw parties for each other or should we go out looking to crash other people’s parties?

I think the answer is to do both.

Following and being followed by other Writers is like going to a family reunion.  We all have common bonds.  We come from the same background.  We’re dealing with the same crazy Uncle Trad who is a little schizophrenic and doesn’t quite understand what all those wild young people are doing with their crazy Indie books and weird way of dressing.  (But since Uncle Trad is the moneybags in the family and we all want to be in that will we humor him)  It’s a grand old time, even if Grandma tells the same three stories every time we all get together.

But you’re not going to get a date at a family reunion.  At least I hope not!  To get a date you need to go to other parties.  You need to venture outside your circle and look for folks who share common interests with you.  That’s why I routinely search for keywords like “medieval”, “romance”, and even “renaissance faire” and “SCA” on Twitter and WordPress.  The book I’ve got coming out in September is a medieval historical romance told in a modernish voice, a la A Knight’s Tale, so those are the people I think would like it.  Those are the parties I need to go to right now.

We go to our family for support.  We look elsewhere for consummation.  Both are important.  So if we’re going to ace this whole author online platform thing we need to make sure we’re going beyond Author Karma Friday and looking for People Who Like Medieval Things Wednesday or SCA Saturday, if you’re me that is.  You get the point.  Again, we all know this.  Consider this my friendly reminder to get out there and crash some parties.

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14 thoughts on “Follow the Leader – How Should We Use Social Media?

  1. These are excellent observations, Merry. I, too, took part in Karmic Friday, and while yes, I nearly doubled my “followers”, in looking at their pages, only a very few of these would be interested in my novel (although clearly a lot of them would benefit from reading my writing books!). Followers are fine, but if they don’t want to read your books, or don’t repost your posts, it’s almost like being followed home by stray dogs–you don’t want to hurt them, but you can’t get rid of them!

    I agree–marketing yourSELF (emphasis intentional) first and you book second is the best way to create real fans. Fans who feel they have a true connection to you, the author. That makes them feel special–and want to read your books.

    • I don’t really mind making friends online through things like Karmic Friday who won’t buy my book, etc., as long as they are still interested in interacting with me (like you have – YAY! =D). What bothers me is when people use social media as billboards. I mean, where’s the fun in that?

  2. Excellent post. All I kept thinking with Karmic Friday was it reminded me of local Chamber of Commerce meetings I’ve been to for my day job–I own a web development company. It is basically a group of a hundred people or so all there with one purpose only, to sell their product or service. Everyone you talk to, would nod their head while you told them what you did, but they had that predatory look on their face, ready to strike with their pitch at the slightest pause in yours. Needless to say, I quit going after a while.

    Not that the metaphor is perfect, because at least with things like Karmic Friday, everyone is basically in the same category, writers. And writers are readers (or they should be), so in theory they might really be interested in what you have to say. I do think I’ve found some good people to follow (your blog for instance), and hopefully at least a couple of people that chose to follow me will benefit, at least a little, from what I have to say too.

    • That is a good metaphor though. I also kinda felt like I signed up for a bunch of spam through Karmic Friday. But on the other hand, I don’t mind the spam because I have picked up a few really great people by doing it. It reminds me of the old dating adage “You’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince.”

  3. Hi Merry. I’m glad you (mostly) enjoyed karmic Friday. Yes, it can be a bit crazy. I love your post and agree with many of your points. I also like to emphasize the need to sell yourself first and your book second. I write Paranormal as well, but you probably wouldn’t know that from my page. And the new rules that I put in place a couple of weeks back should clear up a lot, if not all, of any spam resulting from the karmic chain. Hope to see you again some time!

    Emlyn (of Novel Publicity)

    • Oh I did enjoy Karmic Friday immensely! It was just overwhelming. But it’s a great idea to get the writer-karma going. And I did make some really awesome friends in the process. Thanks for putting it together! =D

  4. This metaphor of networking among writers being like a crazy family reunion is perfect. As a newbie, socializing with other writers is what I’ve needed to feel comfortable with my identity as a writer. There are very few people in my life who I can talk about my WIPs and sideprojects, and even fewer who understand why I’m working on them when I have so many other things on my plate.

    All the same, I know that one day down the line, when I’m ready to sell a book, I’m going to have to start interacting with the folks who’ll want to buy and read that book. I love your suggestion for following more general search terms as well. I’ve been following #steampunk on Twitter, but beyond looking at all the pretty pictures, I haven’t gotten involved in socializing the way I have with, say #amwriting. That’s something that I’m going to make an effort to do in the future.

    Great post!

    • Yeah, and that’s why I think that it IS actually important for we Writers to friend and follow other Writers. I know that I look to you and all my other Writer friends to keep me honest, so to speak. I need someone to hold me accountable or I’ll get lazy. I think other, newer Writers need role models or advice or guidance or whatever you would call it. And we are readers too. But ultimately, yeah, it’s all about the family. =D

  5. This may well be your best post yet, imo. I laughed multiple times when I got to the family reunion metaphor ending with the hope that we don’t go to the family reunion looking for a date. Great stuff, and a very good point. I’ve been doing this myself. I admit I’ve been taking my “image” toward a marketing platform, but I’m trying very hard not to let that overtake the reasons why I started a blog and got on twitter, facebook, etc. in the first place.

    I have neither a picture of myself, nor my book on my blog page, nor do I plan to change it to incorporate one or the other (though I have a picture of myself in an elf costume on my “Saronai” page about the blogger thing). I have my muse pictured instead. I plan to update it someday when I can afford a more mature image of my muse (from an old picture your muse writing exercise). I hope I fit more in with the “trying to personally connect” to people rather than the ooo meme line nonetheless.

    I also have been avoiding “for other writers” posts on my blog lately. I read a really good point on “A Brain Scientist’s Take on Writing” @lkblackburne on twitter that listed this as a common mistake blogging writers make when they aren’t running a blog for writers. It also got me seeking twitter friends out of people interested in more than just writing and reading (though I still do both from time to time; I like the watercooler :D)

    Either way, before I write a whole post in your comments, I just want to say thank you for this. Good advice in here, but mostly I want to thank you for making me laugh multiple times!

    • Aw thanks Saronai! If I have made someone laugh, then it’s a good, good day. =D

      I keep thinking about the caution not to write too much about writing on your blog if you’re a Writer. I can see how it would be detrimental to ONLY write about writing. But it’s something I’m passionate about, and I suspect other writers are too (duh). Actually, another thing I’ve been noticing lately is that a lot of Writers with blogs have been posting about the same few subjects. That’s inspiring me to try to find original subjects that still appeal to my Writer family as well as things like my Medieval Monday posts that are unique to what I write about. I hope I’m striking the right balance!

      And now you have me thinking about what or who my muse is too. Hmm… Richard Armitage. 😉 And Michael Emerson. Hee hee. Men. Definitely men. This bears more thinking about. Heh heh heh

      • And now I’m laughing again. I thought I subscribed to these comments but I guess I missed the checkbox on some of them.

        Nothing wrong with a male muse for a female writer, particularly one in the romance genre. Personally, I think someone with the looks of your preference, the humor and personality of Danny Kaye, and the voice of Alan Rickman is a great choice for a muse ^,~

      • Oh, and I think it’s okay to write about writing sometimes too, I was just sliding into writing about it more often than not when I ran into her advice to avoid it. Not applicable to all bloggers or all blogs, obviously, but it made me realize I was neglecting the non-writer segment of my humble readership numbers.

        I think you strike a good balance.

  6. Hi Merry,
    This is such a great post, and since we share the same last name, I knew it would be good! *waves*:-)

    When it comes to blogging, it is great to write about writing *sometimes* However, it should not have to be every single post. Writers are creative people and our blogs should be a reflection of that as well as our genres. 😉

  7. Great post and very good points. I’ve only been on twitter and blogging for about six weeks now and at times I find it overwhelming. Most of the people who are reading my blog are writers. I like your suggestions for historical writers to visit people who have an interest in our time period or history in general. Thanks!

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