In a report by Online Business Canada, “A significant 86 percent of Canadians interact with businesses on social media, to one degree or another. All age groups reported they spend over 80 percent of their social media time interacting with companies.” Writing may not be a company per se, but this gives a small snap shot of how much we are all online in the West. The now common lament from writers is to be online as much as possible to connect with your future and present audience.
Ann C., my sister from another mister, feels strongly that social media is a drain on the creative mind: “We are not a business, we write as an art form, as creatives.” To be clear, Anne is a respected writer of short stories, novels, and a past blogger. She has no social media, no webpage, and no interest. For many writers, shelling yourself out there in social media land, trying to create fresh content all the time for your new piece, can appear to be equated to yelling in the caves of an ancient sea – alone and wet. You get a few thumbs up, maybe ten hits, then you’re done. Hours of work following others, crafting responses, equalling about two more sales for you last book. I can see her point.
My situation is different than Ann’s. I am a writer for hire, a lone gun-woman on the sightly moist and vast Alberta prairie looking for a good time and a pay cheque. Recently social media, specifically Twitter, has gifted me two fat contracts. The downside was the judgement I received in not having enough of a presence by a interviewer for a job. I guess I never blog or tweet or insta enough for her as I was passed over (also I was aggressive and arrogant, but that’s another feminist ranting post for another time). Social media is part of the work I do – I craft packages of pre-made tweets/instas for clients, create content for their websites, and am paid for it. I teach others how to leverage their LinkedIn to promote themselves and get noticed by employers. Many people I’ve helped land that big job, or client, or just get noticed.
My own writing? I promote my upcoming readings or new publications. At a cost of time and energy, but it’s worth it.
Yes I can get tired of following small businesses that make artisanal cheese, fellow writers that produce poems once every ten years, or ‘influencers’ who have more money invested in their dog than I do in my house. For me it works. I like these people and their dogs. But these humans then hire me, attend my history events, and yes occasionally read something I wrote in print.
For others it’s an extension of their writing world. Look at the epic @scalzi on twitter. John Scalzi, writer of much sci-fi and winner of the Hugo. THE HUGO! The crown in any sci-fi writer’s life. Scalzi brings it every day on twitter and his blog https://whatever.scalzi.com is pure joy and insanity which we all need right now. He makes his social media work for him as another creative outlet. That’s wherein the differences lie.
Ask why you want to be on social media.
As usual the best advice I received on this was from Robert Lee Brewer, whose bluntness in Writer’s Digest always clears my head:
“After all, social media is not all sunshine and book deals. These sites are meant to grab your attention and hold it forever. I mean, why do you think they invented infinite scrolling? This, of course, presents a danger to writers and their precious writing time.
So yes, I endorse social media for writers. But I also endorse writers knowing when social media isn’t right for them…or when it’s not right for them right now. Please try the various platforms out, but be aware of whether it’s helping you write and get published—or if it’s distracting you from your goals.”
I do it for work, Scalzi does it for his sanity. Ann avoids it like she avoids dark caves. You have to have a reason, and it can’t just be the next book. As Ann and others pointed out to me, if it’s just a personal platform to flog your latest book, good luck. Then the uphill battle of going from zero on a slope to pushing through the pain to a cave of moist words, and probably some troll that can eat you. I suggest if you go spelunking, try getting equipment ready like reading other blogs or see what other writers do first, then go in. Choose your media and try one at a time. I like twitter, but maybe you’re a picture person so do Instagram. Then work those muscles, get them use to bouldering, and do your best. But watch out for falling rocks cause they hurt like words.