Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Dangers of Social Media by Brenda Sedore

Guest post by Brenda Sedore

Social media can be your best friend or your worst enemy. It depends on how much you control it or how much it controls you. Let me explain.

As my husband, Daryl Sedore, and I prepared to launch our debut novels around the same time, we began exploring social media as a marketing tool. We discovered that it is imperative to the modern author.

What is social media? The main players in this new game are Twitter and Facebook. Twitter allows you to connect with others in the publishing industry as well as the readers of your books. You can both cross-promote other authors and reach your readers in a personal way.
I recently read The Tale of Halcyon Crane and did a review on it on Goodreads, another great social media tool. I gave it 4 stars and did a quick review on the high points of the novel. My review was posted to Twitter. Within a few hours, the author, Wendy Webb, sent me a tweet thanking me for my review and expressing her pleasure that I'd enjoyed her book.

I thought to myself how things have changed for the better. In the past, I wouldn't have had a personal note from the author. I might have taken the trouble to write a fan letter, which may or may not have been replied to, but not always by the author herself. How nice to connect with an author of whom I'm a fan. That's one of the beauties of social media.

The other big player in the social media game is Facebook. Facebook was started as a way of connecting to people you know or have known in the past. It is rapidly becoming a way of promoting books and other endeavors. My son, Dan Oig, is a musician. Social media sites such as Facebook have given him a much wider audience than he might otherwise have gotten in a small Canadian city.

Now, back to why I called this post The Dangers of Social Media. Everything sounds perfect, doesn't it? For everything positive, there is always a negative side. Just like anything with the Internet, it needs to be handled with self-control. If your reasons for using social media are to promote yourself, you need to have something to promote, yes? If you're promoting your writing, you need to take time to write. It's easy to keep Twitter open while writing, or stop in the middle of a scene to check Facebook and see how many new friend requests you have.


It is important to keep your social media to within a framework of time. When it's time to write, shut off Twitter and Facebook. If you need to, use a writing program that has a fullscreen feature. I use Scrivener. It's perfect for the job. The only way to do your best writing is to shut off all distractions.

You have to be careful to keep the writing as the most important part of what you do. If you don't, spending time on social media may very well take up most of your writing time.
There is another danger. It's easy to forget that the people you chat with every day are people you don't know. This is still a business and you need to act in a business-like manner. If you want to Tweet and Facebook personal things, you should have a separate account.

Too many people have Twitter accounts to promote their work and they end up talking about their personal life. I'm not saying to keep it all impersonal, but there is a point. One literary agent was tweeting about how her baby took off her dirty diaper and threw it against the wall. TMI (too much information) people.

So, if you have a lot of friends that you want to be personal with, have a separate account. I have an account for my cooking interest. I follow chefs and farmer's markets, etc, but with this separate profile. You want to present a certain image that will resonate with your readers. You need to be real, just not TOO real.

Social media is a tool like any other. A tool is only as good as the craftsman using it. Use social media wisely and it can be your best friend. Just remember, even a friend becomes annoying if you spend too much time with them. Taking breaks will only heighten the enjoyment.
I'd love to hear how social media has worked for you as an author, musician, or whatever your passion is. Do you see it as an important tool, or something you don't have time for? Please leave a comment with your thoughts. Social media and blogging is about connections and conversations. Thanks for reading.

Links to some great social media sites:

Photo credit: Chris Wallace


Shannon said...

Great job Brenda! Thank you so much for taking the time to be a guest blogger, you have given some awesome advice and information that too many people are not up to speed on. :)

Rayvenne Black said...

Great post! I used Write Or Die Desktop Edition when it's time to write and leave it in fullscreen mode. It is amazing how when those distractions are taken away you can get so much more accomplished even on days you think you have nothing to write. I completely agree with you on keeping professional while not seeming impersonal. tweeting about diapers....yeck :(

Anonymous said...

Great post my dear!

Love Social media posts as people not only need to be constantly aware of what's happening out there but also aware of the time they spend using it and not doing what they love.

Bren said...

Thanks Shannon. :) I appreciate you asking me to guest blog.

Thanks Rayvenne. I've never heard of Write or Die, I'll have to check it out. I like to be up on all the writing software out there. You're so right about how much more you can accomplish, too. Thanks for reading. :)

Bren said...

Daryl, that's funny, we posted a comment at the same time. Thanks for your support.

Rayvenne Black said...

Writeordie's software employs the use of negative stimuli to keep you writing. Depending on the setting (I use normal), if you stop writing the screen will slowly start to turn red and then it will play annoying noises like a crying baby or alarm clock until you start typing again. You should at least try it out for a laugh.


I like his tagline. "Putting the Prod in productivity" :D

Charity Gosling said...

Wonderful post. Social media is a demon I'm only just beginning to wrestle with and I have yet to find that balance between staying on top of it all and going insane because I'd rather be writing. It's a discipline for sure. :)

Soooz Burke said...

Congratulations on a well thought out, interesting and timely post.

Balancing the need to promote with the necessity of remaing comfortable with what you put out there is a tricky thing to do. I am still walking that high wire, and hoping like hell there's a net waiting.

Bren said...

Thanks for the link, Rayveene. I'll definitely check it out, if only for a laugh. :)

CJ, yes, it is a diffcult thing to learn, but a lot of fun once you get a handle on it. Thus, the danger...

Hey Sooz, thanks for the nice comments. The balance is tricky, but I think the net is all the understanding people out there. I've met so many great new friends since I first started exploring social media. I just think it's important to always keep in the forefront that no matter how fun this is, it's still a business if you want to be taken seriously as an author.

Thanks again to everyone for the great comments.

Ansh said...

Nice post, Brenda.

As an IT guy, I multi-task all the time. Sometimes FB & Twitter can get very distracting. Add MSN to it...and phone calls. But this is part of life now. But I know I have the control over these things. If I want to concentrate, I quit them until I am done writing.

There is no doubt in my mind that they are fantastic tools. Not only do they connect you to old friends (remember the snail mail days!!) but also help make new ones.

I find a lot of information on Twitter. And I also see a lot of unwanted stuff. Some people tweet absolute nonsense for hours. If I find their posts uninteresting, I scroll past them without reading them. However, if they continue eating up screen space over several days, I click on the Unfollow button.

Again, when someone adds me, I check out their profile & their tweets. Then I decide whether I want to follow them or not.

Daryl's mentioned a good point too.

I think the solution to the dilemma people have on this topic is this - the choice is always yours. At all times, it is you who decides how much you want to disclose and whom you want to add/follow.

Bren said...

You make some very good points, Ansh. You have to remember that YOU are the one in control. I am careful about who I follow for the same reasons you are. My time is limited with a full-time job and novels to write. Promotion is vital, so I want every minute I spend on it to count.

Thanks for reading!

Ev Bishop said...

Great post with great advice/reminders! Thanks.;)

And to Rayvenne: I'm definitely going to try out http://writeordie.drwicked.com/ --sounds hilarious and helpful.

J E Fritz said...

Very good advice! The impulse to check Twitter every five minutes is strong because I feel like I'll fall behind on something. But maybe it's okay to not be up on EVERYTHING.

Bren said...

Thanks Ev and JEFritz. Glad you enjoyed the post. I agree it is very difficult to resist the temptation to check twitter ever 5 minutes. I've had to accept that I won't be able to stay on top of everything. I have become very choosy with my time out of necessity.

MeganMulry said...

Really enjoyed this post. I just joined Twitter and FB within the past few months and both have been time-management learning curves. It has now settled (in my brain at least) that FB serves the friends and family part of me (people just want pics of kids and a little about my writing) and Twitter serves the author part (tons of great industry news, other authors, and the occasional family tidbits as they relate to the process of writing, juggling, etc.). No dirty diapers!

One warning for newcomers: I followed *way too many* of the "people you should follow" recommended on Twitter when I first joined and now I am spending a lot of time trying to winnow away. But like another person above said, if a person "fills the stream" with topics that are not relevant then I just stop following. It's a great, free-flowing arena.

Thanks again!