Thursday, August 22, 2013
So first off - I have to wish a Happy Birthday to Word-Whore Jeffe Kennedy today...and of course, the main reason I remember her birthday so easily is because hey, it's my birthday too. :D (Birthday twin powers, activate!)
It's also fellow author Jane Kindred's birthday, so really it's just cakes and confetti and naked pool boys all around, right?
Anyway, social media has been around in one form or another for several years, and we've become more sophisticated in how we consume and produce it.
Remember back in the day when someone decided that writing an email in all caps equates to shouting? And of course now, it's so ingrained in our psyche that just seeing ALL CAPS MAKES US WINCE. RIGHT? And remember when email was dial-up access only? And then we got blackberries and smartphones and now we're connected all the time and there's no such thing as leaving work at the office anymore. We read articles all the time about how people take working vacations and check email and the internet from the moment they get up until the moment they go to bed. It's having some rather pointed and lousy effects on family and health dynamics all across the board, simply because people cannot shut off.
My point being is that the more things change, the more things stay the same. Take Twitter, for example. When it first showed up, it was your basic 140 characters - and not only could you see a person's tweets, you could see all their friend's tweets too. (Sort of as a rolling conversation of tiny sentences.) Of course, Twitter went through many changes and now we've got hashtags and embedded pictures and links and all sorts of fun stuff. But follow a few too many people and you're bound to miss a lot of the conversation.
So that's where tools like Tweetdeck or HootSuite come in - designed around the Twitter interface, you can track hashtags or keywords, usernames or whatever else you want. And really, it's the only way to make sense of it - I've got columns for anything that references me or the titles of my books or things of general interest to me. And then we have Twitter etiquette - how much marketing is too much? Is it rude to DM people directly to ask them to buy your books? (YES.) And so on...
And each bit of social media seemingly has its own rules and etiquette levels - so it's not even enough to be a part of them - whether it's Facebook or Pinterest or Tumblr or Vine or whatever. As someone who is attempting to put a public persona out into the world, authors have to have some sense of what is and isn't polite. (YMMV, of course - it's one thing to purposely be a troll - but how many newbie authors do we see constantly slamming the tweetstream with requests to check out their books, simply because their publishers said this is what they should do? And guess how many of those books I buy? Nada.)
It can get pretty overwhelming after a while, which is why the general consensus is to only use the social media you like and will actually keep up with. Social media doesn't work too well if you only pop in every once in a while. Content is king - however you choose to provide it, the key is to consistently provide it.
I tend to be an overachiever. (Or a glutton for punishment.) At one point I had two blogs, three tumblrs, 4 twitter accounts, 2 facebook account/pages, etc... Plus I blogged every day.
But that sort of total internet immersion comes with a price. At the time I could pull it off simply based on the fact that I had pockets of free time at my job. (No longer the case. I'm drowning in work every day.) And maybe I was more driven a few years ago than I am now. I made more time for social media because I needed to get my name and my work out there. Even so, trying to balance all of that with the day job and the writing and the family...it leads to a certain amount of resentment after a while, which in turn leads to less efficient use of time. (At least for me - nothing quite like endlessly scrolling through Tumblr instead of doing what I should be.)
I've cut back on that these days - between the blog tours for the book releases and health issues, I've become burned out on the blogging aspect in particular. I seem to have taken a bit of a summer break, in fact - and I'm only randomly posting here and there, which isn't good, but hopefully I'll get back into the swing of things. I am still on Twitter and Facebook, though not as often as I was. I'm on Tumblr every day, mostly reblogging things that make me think or laugh or whatever.
As far as time-balancing advice goes? I think that it's going to be different for everyone. Spreading yourself too thin is a fool's game, especially if it's coming across as superficial. I know a lot of people who don't like to blog - believe me, readers can spot that a mile away. If you're not having fun with what you're doing, chances are no one else will either. If you find social media cutting into important things - actual writing time, family time, job time - then it's time to rein it in and maybe focus your efforts onto one or two avenues of social media where you can have a greater impact.
But at the end of the day, we need to remember that it's okay to unplug.