Social Media Need Not Be Scary

The social media landscape can be a daunting trek for many writers. Scratch that last, not just writers… it overwhelms many. But speaking of writers, if we go based on stereotypes that we know to be, well… not so outrageously inaccurate… we writers form an a-typical use case for the constantly shifting, broadly anonymous, jungle that is social media. And at the same time, those of us who venture forth use it to great advantage.

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I understand the dilemma. We writers pursue a largely solitary career—hunched over our laptops or device of choice, or possibly even over pad and pencil (gasp!). Many are averse to change—yes, within the last few months I heard a writer refer to her writing device du jour as a word processor. We are protective of our work—happy to share, when ready, with like minds and trusted advisors but wary of risking intellectual violation by internet thieves. And that Wild West of the web offers anyone and everyone a forum to critique our work; good, bad, or indifferent.

Last year, at a California writing conference (that shall remain nameless), I asked the opening evening’s forum of seasoned writers how they made use of today’s technology. The brief result is that out of a panel of five, only one said, “I love Twitter!” Three of the panel blamed their agent for making them host a website, let alone a social media feed. One said he preferred a lantern and a pencil; I think we can infer that he’s not the latest Instagram© enthusiast. This particular conference drew primarily nature-writing, tech-nervy writers—it wasn’t located in Silicon Valley. I would have been better served by asking what writing implements to take hiking in the Sierras. Nothing against the conference or its participants, it’s just a lesson to me about the writers different conferences draw.

“So what’s a writer to do?” you ask, eyes bloodshot from staring at your too-small laptop screen trying to decipher what’s what in the wide web world. Advice on the subject abounds and could get long-winded, so here are a few brief tips I’ve come across through personal trial and error (and research)…

  1. Plan ahead. You need not be everywhere, but where you are, you want your screen name and profile to accurately reflect you as a writer, and to tell a similar story to those other places you’ll be found online (websites, social media applications, etc.). Screen names can be hard to come by (I’m not the only Kristen Foster online) and even harder to change, so figure out where you want to be, what’s available, and what you can have in common across applications (for me, “Kristen M. Foster” where I can, “kris10foster” in other places).
  2. First impressions count. Think about that service company you looked up online only to find its website resembled one from the internet stone age, last updated in 1999. I doubt that inspired much confidence in the company. Your online presence is susceptible to the same risk. If your last post dates back to the release of the final Harry Potter© book, potential new followers are likely to pass you up.
  3. Social media is a two-way street. Follow followers and desired followers, monitor and respond (appropriately) to comments. If you go silent, so will your audience.

Subsequent posts will delve deeper into these and other topics but if readers of this post are just a little less fearful of the online environment, I consider that a small victory.

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"Words without thoughts never to heaven go." ~Shakespeare

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