I’m a writer, but I’m also a business person. My writing is a creative process that results in a tangible product that can be bought and sold. I am the CEO of my career, if I want one. It doesn’t matter whether or not I have a publisher, editor, agent, or pr manager, the buck stops with me. As a consumer of books, I already know that readers hold me ultimately responsible for the product I put out there, and are judging my value as a writer with each and every book I write. That’s a lot of pressure!
One of the things writers learn very quickly is that we are also responsible for getting the word out about ourselves and our work. Readers want to know about us, and many like connecting with the writers whose work they’ve come to enjoy. That’s very cool. But as great as that is, we also need to connect with other writers and industry professionals on a regular basis. Writing is lonely work, so when we reach out and meet others who are as invested in this business as we are, we learn and grow as individuals and as professionals. That’s where social media is a tremendous boon. In fact, it is an important tool for anyone in business.
The ability to easily and cheaply connect with others who share our likes and concerns on a global platform is something entrepreneurs have never been able to dream of before. By forming meaningful relationships via social media, we enhance our ability to do more than sell a product or service. We enable relationships of various levels to grow. Consumers can easily connect with providers and build the necessary trust levels that help a business grow and develop over the long term. This is no different for writers who take their work seriously.
Over the course of the past several years I’ve been writing, I’ve made some terrific connections via social media venues such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. Other industry professional’s blog posts have proven to be tremendous sources of information and resource for me. Each of these on-line resources provides its own unique brand of communication.
For example, LinkedIn is used primarily for businesses, but there are a ton of LinkedIn groups dedicated to writers and readers. No matter what your business industry is, you can share ideas, concerns, industry related news, etc. In fact, through LinkedIn I was connected by a podcast host, Adam Scull, of Eat, Sleep, Write, who invited me to participate in a podcast interview. Adam’s podcast is dedicated to writers and readers, and since its inception, has grown by leaps and bounds. Not only did I enjoy the experience of doing my first podcast interview with Adam, but it allowed me to experience an entirely new medium of communication I’d never heard of, let alone dreamed of contributing to.
I hear so many people denigrate Facebook, but if used correctly, it’s a fabulous tool for staying and keeping connected. It’s also a great medium for building relationships with others who share your interests in business, and reach new consumers. I’ve “met” some incredibly talented people on Facebook who are writers, publishers, readers, editors, playwrites, etc. Now, I’m very judicious when I accept people to Facebook. I don’t accept everyone who requests it. I make a point of visiting their own pages before deciding whether or not they are the kind of people I’d like to connect with. People like Jonathan Gunson, Christina Hamlett, Joanna Penn, and others who are avidly involved with my chosen career of writing bring so much depth and knowledge that I just don’t have yet. Their generosity in sharing their experiences, industry information, and ground-breaking industry news makes my life easier, and more interesting. On a personal level, these industry connections help me realize that we’re all in the same boat, battling the same issues, and learning from one another. The funny jokes, inspirational quotes, and personal touches help make writing feel less isolating. We are part of a community. And that’s the crux of the matter. In business, any business, you need to reach out beyond your product or service and become part of your immediate and global community. Human beings generally crave connectivity, and social networks enable this on a grand scale.
But there are pitfalls that many people fail to see before it’s too late, even with something as “harmless” as social media. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve seen a posting by someone, family, friend, or industry professional, that is just plain offensive, rude, or unprofessional. I remember reading something a while back that stated you should never post anything on social media that you, literally, wouldn’t mind the world reading about on the front page of your local newspaper. If you are in business, you don’t want your followers gaining a poor opinion of you because you posted a picture of yourself drunk and disorderly on Facebook. On LinkedIn, the expectation is that members will comport themselves in a business-like manner and not be offensive, confrontational, or rude. On Twitter, the same holds true. You are what you write and post.
As a business person, you want to be sure that the message you are putting out there on social media reflects the image you want others to have of you and your product or service. It’s so easy to screw it up with one or two really ill-advised posts, tweets, or comments. Remember, these venues all just provide brief snapshots of who you are, so you’re going to be judged, rightly or wrongly, by what you put out there. A good rule of thumb is to have two Facebook accounts, one for personal, meaning family and friends, and one for business. This keeps the two areas of your life a little tidier, and hopefully lessens the chances of a poor image of you.
Blogs are terrific for a number of reasons. I read other blogs because they share information I don’t have, or I resonate with the message they are putting out there. Through blogs I’ve discovered more blogs, other writers, and industry information websites that are really useful in helping me grow my knowledge base and craft. That’s important to me. I now follow a number of blogs regularly, and although I may not read every single blog daily, I do read at least one a day. I’ll comment on posts that I’ve enjoyed, and share my own opinions. Remember, writing is lonely, so it’s nice to have a virtual gathering place to express and share ideas and information.
Writing a regular blog takes me about 1- 2 hours every two weeks, depending on research etc. If you want to develop a blob for your business, great, but make sure the content continues to remain regular and consistent. I hate it when I visit a new website or blog, only to find the content is out of date or months old. You have to give people a reason to visit you again. If you’re a boring host, you won’t have many visitors. Of course this takes time, but it’s time well invested. More and more companies are realizing the benefits of building a community of followers who are interested in learning more about them, their industry, how-to’s, etc. When something new is happening within your company or industry, you can share it with your followers, and become a trusted ‘expert” in your field. Blogs also invite readers to participate by posting comments, which in turn invites others to likewise share and contribute. This sharing of ideas quickly builds a community of people who all share an interest in your topic. For businesses, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Twitter is great for sharing short blasts of information and ideas. It’s a fun way to keep in touch with others who share common interests, and allows business entrepreneurs to share new information or updates on their products and services. A tweet about a book launch goes around the world in seconds, and is completely free, as are all these other e-venues. The ability to attach a link, photo, or video makes sharing this type of information incredibly easy. What a great business tool! But again, be careful what you share. People are watching and judging you by the content you choose to share.
Goodreads is an amazing place to share information, book reviews, and participate in discussions on books with writers and readers. You can post and read reviews of books, and discover new writers in any genre. You can connect with writers directly, ask questions, participate in virtual book clubs, and indulge your love of the literary world to your heart’s content. I’ve discovered some incredibly talented new and seasoned writers through this site, and have been thrilled to receive some really wonderful, thoughtful reviews of my own work. For a writer, Goodreads is an invaluable tool not to be overlooked.
But do you have to spend copious amounts of time on social networks in order to connect and share your information? No. On average, you only need about ½ an hour to an hour total to dip into each of these areas daily, review what’s being said on each of them, share, comment, or like just a few, and move on. Be forewarned though, it’s easy to get drawn in and distracted, and writers are notoriously easy to distract. By setting scheduled time limits for each networking activity, it can be easily managed. If after your real work is done and you want to go back and “visit” again, go for it and have fun.
Rather than fear social networking, by embracing it in a professional, realistic way, I’ve discovered a whole new world of people whose work and opinions I’ve come to respect and enjoy. Hopefully, they feel the same about some of what I share as well. Being able to communicate on a global stage, instantaneously, is a lot of fun, but it comes with responsibility. I encourage people to join the on-line communities, but please, be respectful.
I always welcome comments and would love to hear your thoughts on social media for business and for pleasure. If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it with your circles. Thank you.