Social Media for Writers: Boon or Bane?

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Most everyone who’s anyone is singing the praises of social media when it comes to marketing and promotion potential.  The amen corner  is full of  “absolutely!” and “imperative!” when it comes to using social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and/or web sites to jump-start your writing career or increase book sales.  But is social media use helping or harming your writing career?

Answer: It depends.  Here are some possible boons and banes.

SOCIAL MEDIA BOONS:

  • Speed and convenience.  You can publish that great American novel yesterday and trumpet your magnum opus all over the world today via your Facebook page or Twitter account.  Or sooner.
  • Ease. Social media applications are generally straight-forward and easy.  You don’t have to have an advanced degree in computer science to figure it out and plug in.
  • Accessibility.  Unlike paper and pen or hard copy, you can update your social media outlets from virtually anywhere – email, mobile phone, blackberry, etc. You don’t even need to be near a computer.
  • Maximum exposure with minimal effort. Many social media platforms offer an option to link to your other accounts so that posting in one venue generates an automatic message in another.  (If you activate this option, just be sure that what you’re tweeting about will also be of interest and appropriate elsewhere.)
  • Cost.  There’s no need to invest in paper, ink, or postage when using social media to promote your expertise or your work.  You can open a Twitter or Facebook account for free.

SOCIAL MEDIA BANES:

  • Quantity doesn’t necessarily mean quality. Social media is quick, convenient, and cursory.  You can cover lots of ground with minimal effort, but social media is the online equivalent of “a mile wide and a quarter inch deep.”  Cultivating the kind of relationships needed to successfully market yourself or your work takes a lot more than a one-sentence status update or a 140-character tweet.
  • It can be deceptive. Writing takes time, energy, and effort.  You may feel like social media-ing yourself all over the place is boosting your writing career, but in the final analysis, only one thing can do that: writing.
  • It’s distracting. What’s easier – tossing out a 140-character tweet, or cranking out a full page of prose, correcting spelling and punctuation, sharpening your POV, or creating several pages of meaningful dialogue?  The ease and accessibility of social media can seduce you away from the real work of writing.
  • Time spent on social media is time taken away from actual writing. Like the above, if you’re spending half your day Facebooking, linking, or retweeting and devoting twenty minutes a day to revising that troublesome chapter or rounding out that one-dimensional character, you’ve jumped the tracks.  You’re a writer, not a tweeter.  Prioritize your time accordingly.

The answer to the “help or harm” question depends on you.  Social media can be a boon and a valuable tool in your marketing arsenal when used properly and advisedly.  It can also be a bane, a glitzy distraction that gobbles up huge quantities of time and creative energy that should go into your writing.  Balance is the key.  Use it wisely.

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