Social media…is it really social? What are the risks? What are the guidelines? Does any of this help the author, or is it merely another time sink, pulling us away from the important things, like writing another novel? Most of us follow along with the advice of those in the know and become actively involved in numerous sites, hoping to find a reader in the wild and entice her to our pasture. In this digital age, where everything is instantly available and you have to make some noise to rise above the multitude of others making noise, it has becoming increasingly hard to tell what works.
Back in the day, the author could spend her days in the garret pounding out words on the typewriter, and ignoring readers. We readers watched the evening news, read a local newspaper, maybe a few magazines, and we bought our books in bookstores or borrowed them from the library. Occasionally we’d find an author interview, the top review sites, or read the best seller lists, but for the most part authors could write under a pseudonym and maintain their privacy. Those days are long gone.
The internet arrived, and we developed websites, which gave our readers controlled information. Sometime later we developed blogs, and we enticed readers to join us there. We communicated back and forth, but still there was control by the author of both the topic and the comments. Information flows freely now on a multitude of social media sites, and oddly, many of us really think they are social. Once your comments are out there, they’re there forever. You have no control over who shares your views, or where they’ll end up. You have no control over unattractive comments, reviews, or your personal life. The only control you have is in what you say. Social media is all about the content you share with the goal of engaging interaction. Make it meaningful, respectful, have fun, and create a positive digital footprint.
Some years ago, only a few authors had a voice, or were one of the privileged few to garner a professional interview. Today, any author can promote herself, build her audience, and give freely of her opinions. Sometimes professionalism has taken a back seat. No longer are there carefully chosen photographs, quotes, and discussions to be shared to help build the author’s public demeanor. Today everything is fair game, from the photo of you eating, to your misquote of someone famous, to your belly hanging over your bikini bottom, or that time you got really, really angry.
Nothing is sacred. And, there are people, for whatever reason, who love to spread any embarrassing mishap with lightning speed. What can we do?
We must remember that social media sites are public places. Using a pseudonym can create a false sense of security, because almost anyone can be uncovered. We have to maintain professionalism, even while having fun and courting our readers. We must never bad mouth other authors, or industry professionals. We must prevent the fast flow of gossip. So what do you do when someone comments and asks your opinion on an iffy topic? Take the dialogue offline. When a reader talks about you in a negative way, or you receive a bad review of your work, don’t engage. Yes, the reader can talk about you, but you can’t talk about the reader. Maintain some personal boundaries. Don’t freely give of your personal information.
I think the only thing you can control is your content, both in your novels, and on social media sites. What about you? What do you think?