So, you want to use social media (or you really don’t, but you feel like you should) – Part 2

This is the second in a 5 part series on why your excuses for not doing social media (and they’ve been mine as well) are crap. Part one (But no-one’s reading it!) is here.

  1. But I don’t have anything of value to say!

You’re talking to the person who just spent the last entry babbling out Simpsons references and inadvertent endorsements of the logging industry? Value-schmalue.

I was recently privileged enough to be part of Hardcopy, the ACT Writers’ Centre’s excellent professional development program for emerging novelists. Among other great presentations, we had a half day devoted to marketing, promotion and social media, including getting some valuable time with the awesome Eva Bui from Penguin taking us through the ins and outs of navigating social media. And there ended up being a rather vigorous discussion among the cohort about the necessity for, and value of, social media for writers.

Some people in the room viewed the prospect of starting a social media presence with approximately the same level of enthusiasm I observed in the sullen teenager cleaning up vomit in a Woolworths aisle last week. Twit-ter…? Visible carrot in the spew. Faaaaaaacebook? Instawhat? Someone can’t digest corn.

And I do sympathise. Until now I’ve never had any settings broader than ‘friends only’ so the idea of sharing my – let’s face it, essentially pointless – rambling with the public* is a bit alien. But as I mentioned last time, there’s an inherent optimism in being a writer. You wrote a book you thought other people might like. Is it too much of a stretch that they might like other stuff too? That they might even enjoy learning something about you?

Social media is about being social. Talking to people. That’s the whole point. Are you concerned about whether every word you say to your friends or colleagues or people you just met is important enough? Are you worried when you walk away that you’ve just somehow offered up worthless trash just because you talked about a movie you liked or the fact that your neighbour smells like cat even though she doesn’t have one or a funny story you heard? Are you judging other people you meet based on that standard too? I bet you’re not. So don’t worry too much about contributing to the great pool of literature via your Facebook page and instead think of it as it is: a way to communicate with people.

There’s no point obsessing over whether you have anything ‘worthy’ to contribute, whatever that means. You have yourself, and whatever slice of yourself you choose to offer. (Hint: make it the most entertaining, kindest, best version of yourself that you can manage**). If you can’t see that you have any value then you have bigger problems than I’m going to solve in a blog post.

You can offer something to your fans. What exactly that comprises is up to you. It might be insight into your writing process. It might be extra little details about your stories or background facts about the characters or settings. It might be your kickass recipes or your funny anecdotes about your dog or your cat-smelling neighbour,*** or sharing experiences about publishing. Maybe you are funny or interesting or kind or ALL THREE.

Besides, you’ll get better over time. I’m counting on it.

To summarise: This isn’t your entry for the Man Booker. It’s just you talking to people – maybe your fans, maybe people you’re fans OF. Don’t stress out about it.

Next time: But I don’t have time! (in which you assure me that you already have to write your novel in a series of scribbles on tablecloths while working in a restaurant or through memorising interpretive dances representing your story at the gym, so how are you bloody well going to find the time to post cat pictures on facebook as well?)


* In theory. I’m quite aware that at the time of writing, not even my mother is reading this (But she’ll catch up once she knows it’s here. Hi, Mum).

** By which I don’t mean you have to obsess over content and form all the time. Clearly, this blog is going to be a rambling collection of my thoughts, written and set out the way I talk with my friends and family, not the way I’d write a novel or a piece of business correspondence. I’m not going to edit it like my fiction so that there are no misplaced words or clunky phrases. Be genuine – but obviously be conscious that what you’re putting out there will stay out there potentially forever, so a bit of censoring yourself is OK also. Don’t be a dick, obviously.

*** My neighbour does not smell like cats. But since I used the example I can’t stop thinking about solving that fictional enigma.

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