By Alex Segura
I want to talk a bit about social media because that’s been front of mind for me for a few reasons. I’ve been thinking about privacy a lot - specifically in the wake of reading Glenn Greenwald’s excellent memoir on his role in the Edward Snowden NSA leaks. The book got me to thinking about how much info I put out there and to whom and whether it’s really something I want to do. At the same time, I’ve been thinking about my online “presence” and how I present myself via my various social media channels and whether that’s working for me.
For a long time, I felt like it was. I had my Facebook profile, Facebook author “page,” Twitter account and myriad other ways to shout out what I’m doing and where I’m doing it (Foursquare), what I’m reading (Goodreads), what I’m seeing (Instagram), what I would like to read/eat/watch/do (Pinterest) and what I found amusing or interesting at any given moment (Tumblr). All that and a website to boot. It all seemed to make sense.
I’m not so sure anymore. I realize this isn’t directly about writing, but it is about tools we use as writers, and whether they are helpful to us or just taking up time.
I’d been talking to a few good friends, some fellow authors others savvy marketing/social media people, about “presence” - what it means, what the most effective route to having a good “presence” online is and how to also make it interesting and entertaining for me, as a regular person, not an “author.”
The first thing that jumped out at me was redundancy. I was posting a lot of the same things in various places and they were feeding into each other and creating a kind of bottleneck, critical mass. I sat down and looked at my author page on Facebook and my personal page on the same site and didn’t see much difference. I was posting about my book on both pages, I “liked” a lot of the same things on each and my news feed on my personal page was flooded with posts from companies and brands that I wasn’t really sure I wanted to hear from.
That’s just one example. I could extrapolate about each social media “channel” and vent for a bit about why it was or wasn’t functioning for me as not only an author, but a person. But it all points to my main thesis: social media has to work for you. It has to give you as an author (and as a regular person) what you want.
Fans want access. Your friends want access. Read the Greenwald book and you’ll see the government wants access (to everything). It’s up to you to decide who gets what, if anything - and what you want in return.
Also, keep in mind: your information is yours. You don’t have to share everything or put yourself out there in detail. You don’t have to tweet about what you had for breakfast. I do sometimes, but that’s me. You don’t have to tell your fans what movie you just saw. But you can. In an age where everyone wants to know every thought we have, it’s OK to keep some things in reserve because you want to.
I see a lot of author friends who use their personal profiles as author hubs, open to fans. I see the other end of the spectrum, where authors have pages just for fans and keep their personal stuff private. Other authors tweet all the time. Some have locked accounts, and so on. Your mileage may vary. Marketing via social doesn't have to be either/or, too. Just because something is more personal doesn't mean it can't help promote your books. Something to consider.
My point is, decide what you want to get out of these very useful tools that authors before us never had. Use them wisely and to your benefit and don’t let them detract too much from the whole reason we’re here: to write.
There’s a great Ted Rall comic strip that starts off with a guy getting inspiration while showering and then proceeding to export that idea, or the idea of the idea, to his various social media channels: “Let me tweet that I had this idea!” “Oh, wait, let me take a picture of the idea. “Let me tease the idea on Facebook!” and so on. I’m not doing it justice. But reading the cartoon over the weekend, while visiting some family and having relaxed with some old friends, really put a lot of it into perspective for me. Social media is great and extremely useful - in service of the work we do, not instead of it. Something to think about.
I’m curious to hear from fellow authors on this subject, too - how do you use your social media tools? Are you happy with your setup? What do you like/dislike about certain things? Discuss!