How "Personal" Should Writers Get On Social Media?
The world around us is changing so quickly that most of us struggle to keep up. New paradigms call for new rules and new social norms. What do we keep from the old? What do we add to the new? The common denominator to all this social media technology is the human heart beating in its center, and we are wise to remember this.
Yet, we do run into dilemmas. How much personal information should we reveal? How professional should we be? A lot of experts seem to have conflicting advice, so I am here to clear all of that up…
They are wrong and I am right :D.
Unless these experts are telling you the same things I am, then they are also right and amazingly brilliant and insightful. Odds are they are probably freakishly good-looking, too.
Where was I? Oh, yes. Advice.
I know that writers are encountering new problems in the digital world, and you guys need some
vodka and chocolate sound advice. I am actually trying to talk Writers Digest Magazine into giving me a monthly advice column for social media questions…and a corporate credit card with unlimited spending for candy. They replied and mentioned something about a restraining order and a 50 foot perimeter, but I know this is just them playing hard to get.
In the meantime, while we are waiting on Writers Digest to let go of denial and acknowledge the vast empty hole in their content that is exactly Kristen-shaped, I will just go ahead and answer your biggest social media questions as you send them. Here is an e-mail I received recently over at WANATribe:
Dear Social Media Jedi, Kristen Lamb,
I am so confused. Everything I read says to keep the tweets we send and the pages we create professional, but then I look at your messages in your Twitter stream and your blogs about spamming and they are personal to the point that they seem to contradict that advice. I think I have my blog under control, but I’m unclear about my Facebook page and I definitely don’t know what to do about Twitter, as I’ve been trying to only post relevant writing information, which results in essentially retweets and links – completely opposite of your advice.
Can you point me in the right direction? How much personal is okay before it’s unprofessional? How many links are okay before it’s spam?
I really need an answer quickly, or I might lose all hope and be forced to shave my head and join a cult of moon-worshiping vegans.
Wow, now you see why we had to talk about Staci’s problem quickly. Hair takes time to grow, and a life without bacon is no life at all.
Okay, I totally made up that last line about the vegan cult (and she didn’t specifically call me a Jedi), but the rest of Staci’s problem is not only true, but it is also very common.
Technology and Humans
We are in a completely new age, and technology cannot help but affect human civilization. Not only does technology affect our lives, but it affects our language, our ideals, and even how we define our reality.
For instance, for thousands of years, every human activity was governed by the sun and the seasons. Then some genius invented the clock. The clock got its start in the Benedictine monasteries in the 12th and 13th centuries, and the reason the device was created was for one sole purpose—to provide regularity for the monk’s seven periods of devotion throughout the day. The church bells would ring, signaling a canonical hour, and the technology that afforded bell-ringing precision was the clock.
So this doo-hicky “the clock” was invented to make sure a bunch of monks prayed enough during the day in between doing other things like gardening and inventing beer. Yet, I would venture to say that none of the monks could ever have imagined how this tool would change the very course of human history. In fact, economic ideologies like capitalism would have never been possible without the invention of the clock, and forget movie matinees, commerce and mass transportation.
Can you imagine trying to be an air traffic controller with no clock?
Why do I mention this story? Because it was really cool and I needed a place to share. But, aside from that, we cannot envision life that is not precisely measured in increments of hours, minutes and seconds. Measured time ripples into every corner our world.
Like it or not, social media is doing to humankind what the clock did centuries ago, only on a larger scale and far faster than ever in human history.
The world before clocks had different rules, expectations, and norms than a world revolving around the notion of precisely measured time. Same with social media. When some marketing “expert” tells us to only present our “professional face” on social media, that information and approach is outdated. It applies to a pre-social media world.
The New Paradigm
In a pre-Facebook world, most people didn’t own and use computers. There were no smart phones and reality television was some weird experiment on MTV. People didn’t interact real-time with each other, let alone with their favorite authors. In the pre-social media world, web sites were very expensive and most were not user-friendly, so we had to hire copy writers and web masters to do any changes.
This meant changes were expensive, so they happened very little.
Cost and difficulty are why our author image had to be so carefully crafted in the pre-social media age. We were engaged in one-way communication that had only a small window of opportunity. Print ads, billboards, television time were astronomically expensive, so of course we would present a crafted one-dimensional image.
This was why authors had only the heavily airbrushed author photo, a newsletter and some press releases. We only had small (and expensive) windows of opportunity to connect, so we needed to make them count. We needed to talk about our books our work and about ourselves before the window closed and we had to cough up a trunk-load of cash to open it again.
Our world is completely different. We are interacting real-time, globally, and for free. The technology is so easy a five-year-old can use it. Ah, but this also means that we are inundated in a bazillion choices (this was not a problem back in 1995). Our world is more and more impersonal, and we are looking for fellow humans among all the technology.
The Global Cocktail Party
If all writers do is talk about one facet of their identities, they will quickly bore others. Social media is like a giant cocktail party. At cocktail parties we do talk about our work and what we are writing, but we probably would also mention an upcoming trip we are excited about. We’d also tell people if we were married and how many kids we have.
If we are really great at socializing, we might tell a couple jokes, or share stories and anecdotes that will make other people laugh and want to gather around us and maybe get our number so they can hang out again or do business with us. We would ask questions about others and be careful to be good listeners. We’d compliment others, and go out of our way to talk to them and make them feel welcome.
What we wouldn’t do is badmouth others, rant about sex, politics and religion, or start fights. We wouldn’t whine and complain and tell others intimate or embarrassing personal details. We wouldn’t likely give names and specific details about our kids or our home address. We wouldn’t go to our car and grab a box of books, a folding table and a credit card machine and start selling copies of our new novel. And hopefully, we wouldn’t get blitzed on Fuzzy Navels and cry as we talk about our ex.
Granted, there are people who do all of these things at cocktail parties, but they don’t get invited back…ever.
And while it is okay to talk business and give tips and advice, if we just walked around the party handing out business cards and fliers and spouting off stock tips, others would think we missed taking our meds. So, Staci, to answer your question, feel free to post some links…but don’t get crazy.
Timeless, Yet Not
A lot of things are still the same. We are still humans with needs, loneliness, issues, drama, and a longing for company. What is different is that technology sometimes makes us forget this. We forget about the human on the other side who wants to know us as a person as well as a writer. My advice to you, Staci is to just balance both. People crave connection with real people, and they buy from who they know, so why not know you?
If you have a burning social media question, please send it to my
minion assistant Chad. His e-mail is ccarver at wanaintl dot com. And, for those who want to learn more about how technology has changed our world, I recommend Neil Postman’s Technopoly–The Surrender of Culture to Technology.
Also, at WANA International, we are offering a seriously cool class, Audio Books–Catch the Wave! for only $25 this Saturday and from the comfort of your own home, using the WANA International Digital Classroom. So if you’ve envisioned your book in audio format, this class will get you started. Here is the list of our current classes. My October Blogging to Build Your Author Brand class is now open, so make sure you get a spot. This class is two months long and can be done in your own time, but it is also a class that has a history of selling out, so sign up asap. I won’t be offering another one until 2013.
But back to social media and etiquette…
What are your thoughts? Ideas? Questions? Problems? Concerns? What do you feel is TMI on social media? Do you like authors who connect with you as a person? Does it not make a difference? Have you had an experience with someone in your network wearing a digital lampshade after too many digital daquiris?
I LOVE hearing from you guys! And since we have a guest today, every comment counts DOUBLE in the contest.
To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of September I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.