Some writers embraced it from the beginning. Others of us have been skeptical, but we can’t fight it anymore. Like it or not, social media has become firmly entrenched in the lives of writers, and it’s here to stay.
It can be an overwhelming proposition to jump into social media or try out a new platform. For writers who aren’t using social media at all, there’s so much of it out there, that it’s tough know where to start. Writers in this scenario likely feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options available and this can lead to paralysis. If you don’t know where to start, it’s often easier not to start at all.
On the other hand, even writers who navigate the internet like it’s their second home can feel hesitant to try out new platforms or communities. It takes a huge initial investment of time and energy to learn the new platform and figure out how to make the most if it. Some time ago, Jane Friedman posted a fascinating article about getting over that initial “hump” when using new technology or social media platform. Even writers who are fairly tech-savvy and “plugged in” to the social media world might find themselves resisting new platforms or technology at first.
The reason this happens is simple: writers are asking the wrong questions. They’ll worry about WHERE in this vast land of social they should set up shop, and WHAT they should do once they’re there. Instead, they should be asking something completely different. They should be asking WHY.
For every social media decision–whether it’s to start a blog or to join Twitter/Facebook/Google+/YouTube/etc.–writers need to have a clear idea of WHY they’re doing it. Many writers engage in social media because they think they should. They have been told that they need a “platform,” and the best way to get one is to blog or tweet or what-have-you. They’ve been told what they need to do, but no one’s told them why. So these writers dive head-first into social media without a strategy driving their choices, and a few weeks or months later, their enthusiasm fizzles and they fall off the face of the interwebs.
I could tell you why I think writers need social media (in fact, that was my initial plan for this post), but now I realize that would defeat the point. The truth is, each WHY is as unique as each writer. Social media needs to have a strategy that ties it together. Without strategy, social media becomes simply a matter of going through the motions, which is not a great way to acquire that ever-elusive authenticity that everyone out there on the web seems to be seeking.
If you’re engaging in social media just because someone said you should, just stop. Or at the very least, go back and consider why you’re doing it in the first place. And don’t just think in vague terms; get specific. Why Google+ vs. Twitter vs. Facebook? Why blog? Why is each social media platform useful to you as a writer?
As a writer considering these questions, you may also want to check out Dan Blank’s new course at WeGrowMedia.com called “Build Your Author Platform” which I took last summer while developing DIY MFA. This helped me build a strategy to drive my social media choices and helped me make DIY MFA what it is today.