Recently at one of the writing forums I’m a part of, there was a discussion about recommend social networks for writers, and the advantages and disadvantages of Facebook.
I’m not a big fan of treating social networks as promotional tools–I just goof around and make friends on all my social networks, it’s a lot more fun that way–but I still had some thoughts on the effectiveness of each network for connecting with others. Never one to miss a chance to share my opinion, I had a few things to say…
Facebook‘s an attractive tool for promotion because you already know a lot of people on it–friends, family, fellow writers–and most of them know how to share posts and like pages. But after you build a couple of hundred followers, Facebook becomes a self-destructive and expensive promotional market. As soon as you reach a high number of likes, Facebook starts throttling your views and charging you to increase the percentage of people who see your posts — they effectively hide you from your ‘likes’ until you pay. It’s good for building an audience in the early stage, but it comes back to bite you later.
So what else is there that I can recommend?
The best ‘self-promotion’ space will always your own a self-hosted website. It’s the only space YOU control, the only space you can predict. As long as you keep your bills paid and your site backed up regularly, there’s not much that can go wrong here. The terms over at Twitter or Tumblr could change any time to match Facebook’s throttling (Tumblr especially is one to watch since it’s owned by Yahoo! now and is evolving to suit its new owners).
If you can’t afford your own website, a WordPress.com or Blogger website is a good second-best. They both rank well in search engines, have full features without requiring you to fork out money, and they rarely have big shifts in terms or interface like Twitter and Tumblr often do.
I’d rank the social networks as follows, when it comes to ease-of-use and benefit to writers:
1. Your own website
4. Tumblr / Pinterest (these cover some very similar ground, you can use both or just pick one)
Pinterest is great for giving your written projects a visual side. It’s good in the brainstorming/first draft stage as a motivation tool, and good as a bonus for readers later — you can show them a little scrapbook of what inspired you. It’s not good for building an audience, really, just for entertaining your existing one.
Tumblr is good for strong visual projects, and for any content that’s of an ‘shareable’ nature. Potential for building an audience, but it’s easier if you have artistic skills. It can be a hard ‘market’ to break in to and there’s a bit of a learning curve to the site. It’s friendlier towards text posts than Pinterest is, and can be good for sharing short stories.
Pinterest and Tumblr cover a lot of the same ground, including sharing covers and fanart and sharing inspirational images. A lot of writers will only need one of these, but some writers find uses for both.
But be careful — Pinterest and Tumblr (all of the social networks, in fact) have the potential to be HUGE timesinks. Guard your time wisely and don’t let social media drain all your day away…
Twitter is good if you have a chatty social personality, but steer away from too much promotion. Twitter is all about communicating with others, interacting with the community. Self-promo should be, at the absolutely MAXIMUM, 10% of your tweets. Strong potential for building an audience (or, y’know, just making friends) here because it’s a text medium and well-geared for writers.
It’s also beneficial for a writer to have a Goodreads page –– set up an author page, update it with books you’re currently reading, ensure you books have correct pages set up so that readers can add them…. but whatever you do, ignore the review section. Don’t even look at it. Avoid avoid avoid.
But wait, why are you telling writers not to read reviews? Alright, you got me, that’s a generalisation. Some writers can handle it and benefit from the feedback, but most don’t so I always advise against it. Our brains are programmed to remember negatives more than positives, which can be a dangerous hit on already fragile writer self esteem. Also, writers with perfectionist tendencies (*points at self*) will be frustrated and potentially discouraged because they’re receiving feedback on a work they’re unable to change.
BUUUTTT not everyone is like that. Best-selling awesome writer Maggie Stiefvater has an argument from the other side of the fence, and she raises some great points about how reading reviews can help you improve. So if that floats you boat, go for it.
Goodreads is an odd network because a lot of it (eg the reviews, the annoying private messages) is best left ignored, but having pages up for your books and running the occasional giveaway can have a long-lasting benefit. With Goodreads you can set up the starting details and let your readers take control from there — writing reviews, having discussions, adding the books to lists etc. After a push from the author it becomes entirely reader-driven.
As for YouTube, I can’t say much about it because I don’t use it for social networking (I mostly just glare at the comment section). If you have the personality and equipment to be a vlogger, it’s always worth giving it a shot, but most writers are more comfortable with words instead of a video camera.
So, writers, what’s your favourite social networks? Chime in in the comments!