I’m the first to admit that I am probably not all that well versed in the social media thing but I have been utilizing it for many years now. For writers and other artists it’s almost a no-brainer these days if you want some kind of internet presence and/or a way to help promote your work and get the word out about what you do, especially if you’re an independent artist. Whether your a writer published by a major house or the writer who releases his/her own material, chances are you have some sort of web presence: a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter profile, or whatever else. It’s just part of the game right now and from what I’ve been noticing, even the “biggies” are expecting their authors to establish themselves on the web in some form or another to take some of their own responsibility to promote their own work and have a hand in building their audience.
I’ve had all these things for years now and for me it’s worked. By establishing a web presence I’ve been able to not only sell some books but to also meet others who’s interests are in line with my own and in the process met some very interesting, wonderful people. That was always another reason why I have these pages - to meet others around the world who share my interest in music, literature, art, and whatever else and I have, plenty of them and a lot of these people have work of their own which I think should be read, looked at or listened to. There are a lot of very talented people out there doing some very interesting work and these social media platforms allows for them to rise above obscurity, or at the very least the level of obscurity they would be if society not had these platforms, much like it was 20 years ago. It really has changed the game in a big way. I hate to use the word “game” but for some people, that’s precisely what this all is. A huge game - and once you participate in it, you are blessed with seeing all the levels of professionalism a lot of artists have or extreme lack thereof. Often, it’s a process of weeding out.
Case in point: It was only fairly recently that I starting using Twitter. I had an account there for some time but never really utilized it, mainly because I really didn’t “get it.” At first it just seemed to be a bunch of people “tweeting” fairly irrelevant things about their daily lives - and I just didn’t get it. But I started to use it again and once I “got it” it began to become a resource that I find very important if you are an artist looking to meet other likeminded people and help promote your work. I use it in the same manner in which I use all the others: a sort of combination of personal and professional. If anyone is on these sites because they like what I do, I encourage them to make personal contact. I’m open. Most of the time, I know it’s only people who share an interest in something and it has nothing to do with my writing. That’s fair and fine and I don’t have any rules that that people have to be interested in it. Sometimes meeting good people who share common interests is good enough in and of itself. But Twitter, for the most part, seems to be aimed at those who try to pair down their interests to a specific area and often “follow” those people, artists, or organizations they want to keep in touch with. Twitter has come a long way from it’s early days. From being a platform for people to “tweet” about what they ate for breakfast in the morning to actually help bring about a revolution in the Middle East and elsewhere. Journalists now “tweet” and it’s become a much bigger thing than it once was. But in terms of this discussion, I’d like to keep it within the realm of artists using it to help further their careers.
My “followers” have tripled on Twitter in the last year. Now I’m not naïve enough to believe that all these people are readers or even fans although the sales of my books have increased dramatically since I began utilizing it more. Most of the time people are seeking out others with common interests, some of them looking to promote themselves and sell their books. That’s fine. I get it. That’s the point, after all. I’m also not so naïve to believe that everyone you meet on there even cares about what you do. A lot of them are only interested in selling themselves and have no interest in you at all other than a potential customer. I get that too, although I’m not thrilled with that attitude so much. I like to connect with people, make it a little more personal, but you don’t have any control over this. You will watch your “followers” come and go just like on any other social networking site.
With Twitter, though, I find it more interesting than the others because of the amount of spam and I guess what some people feel are “ingenious” marketing methods. Sometimes you’ll see a huge spike in your following, seemingly coming from out of nowhere. Usually the Twitter etiquette is to follow them back but I don’t know if this is written in stone or not - nor do I really care. I usually do (that is if it isn’t porn or obvious spam of some sort, or some other organization that I find reprehensible - like the strange increase in followers I got recently from right wing extremists, particularly of the evangelical variety, which I found highly amusing. They’re all gone now, now that I didn’t “follow” them back) but if one is a writer or an artist of some kind, chances are I’ll follow them back and even “retweet” their projects and such to help spread the word about what they are doing. After all, it doesn’t take much to do that. Merely a click of a button. People have been kind enough to do this for me so I return the favor. I have no doubt that because of this, my book sales increased dramatically over the past year.
But you have to beware of those who have no idea what this is all about. Yes, you’re going to get plenty of people who simply don’t care about you at all and all they want you to do is buy their books. I can’t count how many times I’ve gotten tweets that were nothing more than advertisements. “Buy my book! Buy my book!” with absolutely no personal connection whatsoever. That doesn’t bother me so much as it does others. I simply ignore those, that is, unless they make some sort of attempt to make personal contact. Then you have those who’s sole concern is to ramp up their numbers, to increase their “following.” They essentially spam-follow hundreds of people at a time in an attempt to get you to follow them back, and then unfollow you once you do. This happened to me plenty of times, as I’m sure it’s happened to others. This doesn’t work, though, because people will simply drop you and unfollow you right back.
But then there are these types, the more insidious ones who think you are merely there to be a free advertisement for them. I was recently “followed” by an author who asked me, as a favor, to mention her novel, give it a “tweet” to my 1200 + followers. I did so, even got thanked for it, only to be promptly unfollowed once I did it. In the grand scheme of things, who cares, but it does go to show you the level of unprofessionalism out there and the set of balls some people have in their insatiable desire to “make it.” I unfollowed this person, deleted the “tweet” and blocked them for good measure. So it didn’t work and she will discover soon enough that it will happen more than once. Not a good way to help promote yourself or your book.
So if you are one who utilizes these sites in an attempt to promote your work, be prepared for the staggering amount of selfishness and self-absorption that you are no doubt going to run into - and don’t take it personally. There’s always the delete/block button to weed these folks out. Perhaps I still naïvely believe in the idea of independent artists helping one another out but I’m not so naïve anymore that I will extend that hand so willingly as I did in the past. I suppose the message here is to be wary. As in other avenues of life, many people simply do not have your interests at heart and only care about themselves. Human nature, I suppose. And not all that surprising these days.