Thursday, July 17, 2014

Social Networks and Platforms

While I have been working on my writing for several years, one thing I’ve also had to consider in that time is developing a platform as a writer, even though I don’t have anything published at this time. There are a few options available nowadays and more pop up every now and then. I have tried a few of them but not all because it’s good to not stretch beyond what one is capable of updating on a regular basis.

One of my blogging buddies, sparked this topic when she posted on her blog about how some were leaving the long blog sites behind for other web sites with shorter content requirements. However, most of the ones who responded to the blog about the topic were all people who still loved and continued to keep up their blogs. Social media does represent its own challenges and while having a presence online is useful, in the end it’s up to you which method maintainable over years in order to truly put a platform building use to the technology.

There are different options to consider, and these are just a few of them:
 Blogging (Blogger, Wordpress, Tumblr, etc)

There are a few others and some more may come up in the near future, but let's focus on these four. I put several in one category because blogging itself is a big option, one that many have picked up in the last two years or so. What used to be "you must get your own web site as an author" has in part switched to some people just recommending a blog because it can work much like a personal site. They can either be free, which means they still have the website name attached like blogspot or wordpress before the dot com, or for a small fee, it can just be the blog name you pick out and dot com (among other options).

Most of the sites also allow page creations, which can be whatever you want. I have a couple of blogs and each have an about me type section, the book review one in particular to discuss reading preferences since it's more than just me blogging, and I even have on my writing ones a page that shows my current works in progress and word count widgets. I started blogging several years ago and continue though I am sporadic at times with my posting. My advice for any blog is not to get too ambitious. It's okay to on occasion do special times where you post every day, but realistically that is a very hard schedule to follow. Like writing, you can get burned out and struggle to post then guilt sets in. Consider a schedule and topic that works best for you, then be a little flexible. Also, take part in blogfests and blog hops because they are fun and help gain an audience. Remember not to expect comments if you never post on anyone else's blog. Networking, no matter the system, takes time and effort.

Facebook is another well known site for networking. There are different writing groups, ways to create author pages and personal uses. It is far more of a social site and allows different types of posting that can range from how your day is going (like twitter) to random images that are shared over the Internet. It can be good for updating though you will want to be aware of who you have added on the page and what you write because almost anyone can have a facebook page and they can be monitored by employers and such. Honestly, I do have a page but I only use it for family and old high school/college acquaintances. If I want to know what my grandma is up to, then I check facebook (cause yes, my grandmother uses facebook and way more than I do). However, I keep it private from my other internet networking options because for me, it's a personal option and one I don't want intermixed, but that is a personal choice. Though I do have my posts from this site show up on my facebook feed.

Twitter is a bit different because it's basically a lot of people writing random updates at a limited character count. I have used twitter for several years, but nowadays I almost never post. While their are a lot of jokes about posting daily life things that no one cares about on the site, there are some good uses for social networking as a writer on Twitter. It's good to keep up with certain industry companies and members. Many agents and editors have an account on the site, along with some publishers. Some will even host twitter chats where they will answer questions on a certain hashtag conversation, like #askagent is a good example of one. It is also a good place to on occasion advertise or do an update so people are aware how things are moving along, like if you made it through an edit or what not. That or you can talk about cats, always good topic on one of these sites.

Finally, there are places like pinterest. Now, this isn't necessarily a writing focused one but it's a good source to consider. However, pinterest is also one that is good at connecting to different networks. Most of the ones I have pinned so far are craft, cleaning or cooking ideas and often the image won't have the information but it will link to a blog entry that explains the item in question. The image sites can be useful in that way, plus they can serve as a way to find inspiration for stories because of the visual creations available.

Each one has merits and down sides. And many of them have ways to interconnect. Facebook can post an automatic update when you have a blog post go up on your personal blog. Pinterest can link to a blog page or site. There are a number of options available. However, it's easy to go overboard, then become so overwhelmed that it's hard to keep them going. You don't need them all, so check them out and find the ones that are going to work best for your needs and what you want to accomplish. Don't be afraid to set schedules and know that posts don't have to be several times a week all the time. Keeping up a social page does take time, but it doesn't have to take up all the time because while we want to have an available presence online, we also can't forget to save time for the actual writing.