Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ten Lies Writers Tell Themselves About Social Media

Special Report By Socia Malaise

By now we all know that social media is an inevitable part of the marketing toolbox. Many of us have scrambled over the last couple of years to get on top of it, only to find that soon as we figured out one network, another one sprouted. How do we choose? How much time should I spend on any one social network? What's the best way to learn about a network? These are just a few of the questions that seem to circle endlessly in our minds. I'm not addressing those today. My focus is about finding a balance and sifting through the messages we tell ourselves or that circulate in the blogosphere. 

Social media is a major time-suck. We all know it. We all acknowledge it. Then why do we find ourselves trading precious writing time for a tweet or status? Because we tell ourselves that we are marketing. That learning how to effectively use these marketing tools is worth the time we spend jumping on an off the networks. There are some crafty time thieves and cons out there that writers, hungry for recognition and validation, sacrifice valuable craft-conditioning hours of writing time. We forget that success comes after tirelessly writing our brains out. That like an athlete to be good you have to practice at least as much as the rest. To be the best requires writing more than the rest.

Here are ten things that writers tell themselves to rationalize time away from the blank page.

The Thieves Steal Time

1. If I don't have a huge following before my book comes out, it will fail.

We are in a different time, with POD and E-books your book never goes out of print which gives you the opportunity to build an audience. Brick and mortar book outlets, while they still have limited space and often choose only the most successful and high profile books, independent outlets are not as constrained by arbitrary numbers. Many are willing to help authors out by providing books by local authors, directly from the author. A great website can be constructed in a relatively short time once you have a book deal or a completed product.

2. If you don't post 3-4 times daily on Facebook and Twitter your time is wasted.

I don't know about you but the quickest way to get off my Twitter feed or Facebook is to post useless information, repeatedly during the day. How many times do I need to see a great quote, know what your doing or how many pages you wrote today. As I've said before, if you're not building genuine relationships with your readers they will tire of your endless dribble.

3. In order to build my list of followers I need to return the favor by join and thoughtfully comment on as many blogs as I can each week.

Newsflash: Just because someone follows your blog doesn't mean they are visiting it everyday. Do you visit every blog you've ever joined? The stats that matter are the views per day, per week and ultimately per month. If that number is steadily growing it doesn't matter how many "friend followers" or how many blogs you follow. The idea is to gain exposure, find new viewers by having quality writing and real content. The more your blog comes up in searches is the best way to gain viewers that requires good labels and timely information.

4. I'll just check my email really quick in case there is something important I need to attend to.

Back in the day of home phones and snail mail people knew that they would have a waiting period before they received a response. I'm not advocating a return to the good old days. I am anxious for writers to realize that as long as they are checking their email once a day and responding with an acknowledgment of receipt, your not in danger of missing the "book deal". Unless you are in retail and sales you're not going to lose out. Check your email once-a-day, preferably after your most productive writing time is over. I check mine when I'm watching television with my husband or waiting for an appointment.

5. I'll read a few blogs for inspiration or information for the project I'm working on. 

Sometimes this can't be avoided, if you need particular piece of information for an article on a specific subject. I've found that by keeping a research list next to my computer I can limit my time on the internet by doing research in a scheduled amount of time. If I get to a place where I need specific facts I write it down, leave a highlighted marker in the project I'm working on and come back to it during the revision. Since I already found the information during my research time I just have to plug it in so it keeps me off the internet, even during revision.

The Cons Disguise Wasted Time

6. Agents and publishers won't even consider taking on an author that doesn't have an active social network presence.
I've seen this on the internet and even in conferences. I have a couple of ways to dispel this misinformation. First, it doesn't matter how "connected" you are if your product sucks, it won't matter. At the same time, if you have a quality product that truly hits the mark, building an audience will happen. Second, There are so many ways to get your book self-published, ebooks and POD means that your book won't go out of print. Building an audience can't really happen until you actually have product to sell.

7. Learn All You Need To Know About...Webinars
OK. Yes, I've been the victim of this con, usually put out by professional marketers to find customers for their PR firm. The seminars sometimes even cost with the enticement that what they are going to share secrets during the webinar. Secrets that will totally improve your visibility over night and increase your followers by 50%. Yada, yada, yada. These are in reality infomercials for their services and usually contain information that you already knew or how their system or "secrets" will improve your business success. By the time you get to the end, they feed just enough information to intrigue you to by their ebook, sign-up for a more intense webinar or buy their product. These "free" programs can bleed out hours of precious writing time with nothing really to show for it. Be careful!

8. Participating in Twitter Chats Are Great Places To Network

If you haven't participated in one before, I suggest you indulge yourself just for the experience. I find them ineffectual and repetitive. I've even tried just busting through a transcript to see if that was any more interesting, but got bored. For one, how much can you discuss when you are limited by the number of characters? Often the subjects are pretty general and the responses consist of one liners—entertaining perhaps, but not useful. They are repetitive because everyone retweets each others comments so you can look at a string of tweets that basically say the same thing. In my experience, it's usually the same people that participate and they already have relationships. Inserting a few comments here and there isn't worth the time spent. Every once in a while there is a new voice, but rarely. I have found it much more useful to run a subject search and find someone that interests me, start to follow them and communicate directly to develop a real dialogue. This usually takes on the form of email because we want to have real conversations.

9. Buying followers can quickly boost your presence.

Again, numbers of followers are misleading and getting obsessed with the rising numbers distracts you from the whole purpose you began in the first place. To sell books. If your rising numbers are not increasing your book sales then what's the point?Think of it like this. You have a store and you sell one product. You spend all of your time and money to increase who knows about your product. At first you may sell a few. After the initial purchases everyone that wanted one has bought it. Why would those customers come back to your store? What is their incentive to return? Successful businesses continue to produce quality products and better products. Write, and they will come. Give your audience a reason to return.

9. I need to stay on top of the trends, the movers and shakers in the industry.

We often fool ourselves into thinking that we're going to miss something important if we're not monitoring every outlet. So we sign up for multiple online newsletters and updates that cram our in-box. More information than you could ever cover so you create folders and they pile up. You have every intention to read them. When you do click on them they're chock full of links to even more information. There is no shortage of informational and interesting free content and you will never be able to digest it all. You have to get selective. The best way to stay on top of trends and whats happening in publishing is to subscribe to a few industry magazines (Publishers Weekly, Writer, etc.) and join a few professional organizations to attend their conferences and workshops(SCWI, PNWA, etc.).

10. Joining multiple forums and groups means more exposure.

These can be fun and I have met some incredibly interesting people. Unfortunately, they can be addicting and pretty soon your being bombarded with updates or spending precious writing time hopping from one to the other to see what so and so is talking about or responding to a comment. If talking in forums is something you enjoy, go for it, but don't fool yourself into thinking you are doing anything more than socializing. Do it after writing work for the day is done.

I'm not sure if any of you have been the victim of the thieves and cons, but I have. I wanted to share them with you. Butt in the chair with no internet. It always comes down to that, doesn't it.

Happy Writing,

See My Interview On I Am A Reader, Not A Writer Check It Out Here.


  1. Great advice. I was starting to worry about the number of followers on my blog, but now I'm not so worried. It's true. Many people read and don't officially follow. Many other bloggers click follow, but don't always read.

  2. Good points here. Although I think #6 varies. Some agents say you absolutely don't need a web presence when you query them, but others prefer writers who do -- assuming they've got a great book, of course.

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