Social Media: the Joys and Challenges for Authors

Here I have begun with my own story.  You will notice there are no statistics in it.  I have purely focused on more qualitative feelings about social media.

This blog post is  part of a series for authors trying to do their best to manage social media and feeling overwhelmed and frustrated or who are scared they are on it too much.  Some people love it, and others find it difficult. I think this is essentially because we all have different personalities and approaches in life and these can be magnified on social media.

Writers by nature are often introverted!  This makes the challenge of social media even more daunting at times. We might have expectations or conceptions about how these platforms work  which don’t turn out to be true for us but are true for others.  We are told that we have to build a platform, and that it should be engaging!

My journey with social media began with me not even thinking of it as social media but more as a tool to keep writing when I lived in a country area. My first entry into what we tend to call ‘social media’ was a blog which was mostly a letter to family  and friends about life in North Queensland which was new to me at the time although I did like to include poems as I did this in letters as well.

I should say at the outset that in my youth I had many pen pals.  It became too expensive to write to them all, and I lost touch with many of them as my budget of time and stamps became tighter.  Blogging presented a solution.

Over time the blog just kept growing and developing and I found myself writing a lot about the community I was in, and our life there. I love looking back through old blogs now.  I would have forgotten some of these things without writing them for my blog.

My family bought me a digital camera and I just loved it! I used my photos on my blog.

I used flickr as well because it was a great space to store photographs.  I found a few friends there as well, who I am still in touch with today. Some of my blogs were published in anthologies.

 

Ultimately my blog let me to being a community journalist/blogger  for ABC Open, and sharing the cyclone recovery story of my area.  I became a frequent ABC Open contributor for a few years as well.  Two of the friends I made through ABC Open later worked with me as editor and designer on my Magic Fish Dreaming book.  I stayed in touch with many of the producers and visited them on the way down to live in Brisbane.

 

The Book!

I did not set out to build a platform, I just wanted a space to develop and  share my writing.  My early connections were other writers and photographers in similar situations, especially women living in the country all over the world who were facing the same challenges.  I found their stories gave me strength, and I loved the way they journalled life.

I  took part in online writing prompts and writing worlds.  These were just so much fun.  We would set out on online adventures, and write into these worlds.  Blogging really gave me an opportunity to develop my writing through play and journalling.  I have formed some lifelong friendships through it.  Later on some of these people supported my kickstarter.

But despite all these wonderful things about social media I still have friends I prefer to telephone and catch up with.  They don’t use social media and we still connect mainly via email and phone! Now I haven’t even gone into email at all, but will leave that for another post. Email of course is a form of staying in touch, but I don’t tend to use that much anymore for that purpose.

Pam family friend with the kids – we stay in touch by phone and email

Gradually I learnt about twitter, which was interesting because you could tweet almost anyone.  It is a space where you can send messages to people whose work and philosophy you connect with and they might just tweet back.  I found twitter a great place for researching topics.  I was able to connect with poets and others in this space, some of whom I later met in real life.

Later one of the friends from twitter wrote the blurb for the back of Magic Fish Dreaming.  A Queensland Tourism body also sent me a support pack of goodies during the kickstarter, including tea and chocolate.  I did not set out to build a platform I was curious about the world and used it as a research tool.

The next area I ended up in was facebook, mainly because our family were there and really wanted us to join, I resisted for ages.  They didn’t really read my blog that much and it had become more something the community read, although it had been initially started for family.

Now facebook can be a truly complex place.  I find people can become upset so easily  and you find out things you don’t want to know.  Like perhaps a friend is racist.

You find the keyboard bullies and warriors.  It often becomes a place of opinions with no basis in fact and little basis in reality.  Yet, facebook was super helpful during cyclone yasi, at keeping people connected, and sending messages to large numbers of friends and family, from the wifi in Maccas.  We could never have phoned them all.

 

To respond to the challenges of facebook I find that I moderate groups and join groups in interest areas  which are themselves well moderated and stay only in those that truly inspire me.  I like to share things that are helpful to others, and in turn receive some priceless advice from people who know what they are doing say for instance with publishing.

I am part of private family groups and art groups so that my feeds don’t bug people who are not interested in those same things.  I have pages and public groups for projects, and sometimes connected project blogs.

This challenging space, became the place that made my kickstarter possible.  Many of my friends from blogs and twitter became also facebook friends, and real space friends.  When I moved to a new city I met many of them and they welcomed me to the area and helped me find my way to creative groups.

 

Write Link Buddies

I did not set out to build a platform on facebook, I joined facebook to connect with family and friends, and creatives met through both virtual and real space.  When I go to conferences and return home I often find people will connect on facebook or twitter.  Or I meet people that I have been speaking to for years, and I just really feel like I know them.

I did of course make a facebook writer page at some point and I do have a Magic Fish Dreaming project facebook page.  I still don’t really know what this achieves.  My general view on this is that groups are better than pages for engagement.  Mind you the Magic Fish Dreaming project page, is fun to share links with from the blog, and stuff I love about nature, so perhaps it is really just another form of journalling.

I find that social media when used well is great for maintaining and deepening connection, sometimes it can spark new connections and extend knowledge.  The main frustration I have is that sometimes it is very hard to keep up with all your friends and even family, actually it can be impossible.  There is so much information there all the time.

I don’t mind if you miss my news! I will try and contact you directly if I have time and feel you would really love to or need to know something.  I am not being pushy if I do this I just know the volume of information on facebook.

But often, there are people who take it personally when you miss their news, or don’t support their project,  launch, etc and they think you should notice.  But funnily enough if they phoned you, you would have responded.  I loved that my one family member phoned all close family about her engagement prior to any online announcement.  How wise and lovely!  Such a precious phone call.  Perhaps then some of our projects need the same approach with some of our contacts.

But like any area the most genuine friends and family find a way to stay in touch, and will actually pick up a phone or visit when they are in town.

A tree which was later destroyed by Cyclone Yasi. So happy to have this photograph of it.

Thoughts on social media – this is my take, in no particular order.

1- Be yourself

2- Be kind

3- Connect with people, fans, organisations, friends, family etc sincerely

4- Be passionate

5- Be humorous

6- Be thoughtful

7- Care about others and how they are doing and share things that could make a difference to them

8- Be thankful

9- Connect in real space when you can (of course wisely if you havent met people before in person and know them from online discussion groups)

10-Don’t make your whole social media about marketing!

11- Do work out the best times of the day to post and where your audience are – find out from the professionals; but always be yourself

12- Understand how the hashtags work as they are pretty useful everywhere

13- Cross pollinate your social media so that you share your blog posts on twitter and facebook

14- Find out how people who do it well work but also add to that your own twist

15- Create the best work or business you possibly can so you can be proud of what you do and it can speak for itself

16- Think about the groups you are in and apply all of the above

17- Be respectful of others

18- Have breaks

19- Find out about apps

20- Plan your time on social media to take into account all of the above and limit it to what will make you happy in life and productive with other tasks.

 

(c) June Perkins

In future blogs I would like to look at authors whose social media use is brilliant and inspiring any other topics of interest.  So watch this space.