Sunday, August 18, 2013

Jeffe's Five Tips for Using Social Media on a Time Budget

We Word Whores love to socialize. From the quiet safety of our bordello, that is.

That's the kind of whores we are - we love to sell our wares, but our product is our stories, not our sexy selves. Except, that's not really true, is it?

For example, on the cover of Act 4 of my six-episode eSerial, Master of the Opera, my name is pretty much the same size as the act title, Dark Interlude. Just yesterday I was having a conversation with my man, David, who has started reselling books on Amazon. He's learning lots about books and book sales - things like what is a mass-market paperback and predicting when a used book might come into vogue again, such as when the movie comes out - knowledge that I've taken for granted. I told him it's kind of a joke in the business that you've made it when your name is bigger than the title. It gets a little freaky, in fact, like those Janet Evanovich books where her name takes up the ENTIRE cover and you can barely figure out what the title is.

Art tends to be associated with the person. Perhaps because it's so much an expression of ourselves. When was the last time you heard a reader say "Oh, I'm so in the mood for a Kensington Press book!" as opposed to "I can't wait to read the new JD Robb!"

So, where we might feel that we're pimping out our words and not our bodies, the truth is that being the face and personality that brings our stories together is vitally important.

Fortunately we have social media!

This week's topic is Social Media: Using It without Losing All of Your Time.

I kind of cringe every time I hear someone say they don't have time for social media. Because, really, if your publisher sent you on a three-week book tour of the major cities, you'd make time for that. And it would be three solid freaking weeks out of your life when you got Nothing Else Done. More, any of us would go happily because, yo! BOOK TOUR.

Those days are pretty much gone if you're not Neil Gaiman and having a road named after you. But you don't have to be a Famous Author to use social media. All you need is an internet connection and some sort of access to it with a keyboard - both of which can be found for free - and you're set.

But, Jeffe, you whine (yes, I hear you) - I'm so BUSY already that I barely have time to write! How can I possibly find the time for this??

I'm telling you, it doesn't have to take that much time. It's a matter of deciding how you spend it. So here's

Jeffe's Five Tips for Using Social Media on a Time Budget:

1) Pick Your Poison - Just like nobody promised you a rose garden (dating myself), nobody ever said you have to do All The Things. In fact, please don't. The magic number is, and always will be, three things. Pick three avenues into the Interwebz that you enjoy and do those and only those. Can you do more than three? Sure - but this is about being on a time budget. Some venues to choose from:
    1. Individual blog
    2. Group blog (like this rocking one!)
    3. Twitter
    4. Facebook
    5. Goodreads
    6. Google +
    7. Fan forums
This is just off the top of my head - there are tons more. Don't listen to the people who say "you have to be on X" or "all the readers are on Y." Pick three you like (see Bonus Advice!) and focus on them. Which leads to my next point.


If you want to be efficient about your social media time investment, concentrate on doing that. Don't watch TV. Don't try to write at the same time. Don't go down the rabbit holes (see Tip #3). Treat social media as the time investment it is. Pay attention to what other people are saying and posting and respond to it sincerely. Just like it's rude (and ineffective) to talk to people while you're watching TV (because your attention is divided), the same works for social media. Pay attention to the people you're interacting with.

3) Don't Go Down the Rabbit Holes

Okay, we all know this. The Internet, by its very nature, is full of rabbit holes. You could spend YOUR ENTIRE LIFE reading interesting (or banal) stuff and never get to it all. Don't try. For example, when I visit the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) forums, I pick one thread to look at and respond to. Then I close it. On Twitter, I use the list function and have columns set up on TweetDeck to organize the people I follow by who they are to me - friends, writing friends, agents & editors, book reviewers, booksellers & librarians, etc. I don't look at each column every time. Instead, I'll peruse one or two and respond to some, then close it down. On Facebook, I use notifications to make sure I see stuff from the people I most want to. If you're doing social media right, the people you follow post fascinating things - but you cannot read them all. Don't try. And when you do read, RESPOND. Otherwise, you just blew the point of your being there to interact.

4) Set a Time Limit

I have my browser (Firefox) to open to the pages I look at regularly: Facebook, Blogger (for my two group blogs located there), my own blog, Goodreads, SFWA, the Contemporary Romance Cafe group blog, and Tumblr. I also open TweetDeck. But wait, Jeffe! cry you math geniuses out there, Isn't that way more than three? Well, yes. Yes it is. But, I work from home for my day job for a company based out of a city on the east coast, with a team of people scattered across the country. I am on the Internet All Day Long. I don't have to be on a time budget so much, except in being careful to get all of my work done. This is why I touch each thing and then close it. I dip in maybe 5-7 times a day, look at a few TweetDeck columns (and respond!), peruse the latest on Facebook. If I follow a link to a blog post or interesting article, I make sure to comment or share it. (Unless it falls in the "banal" category, which sadly happens more often than it should.)

Then I move on. If necessary, I use Freedom, to make sure I can't look. Set a timer if you have to.

5) Invest in What You're Doing

Okay, this is the advice you won't like, but if you're having trouble finding time because you don't have regular Internet access - like if you're behind a firewall at the day job - then you have to invest in an alternate portal. In other words? Get a damn Smart Phone already. I know, I know - your flip phone still works fine, despite that the top is duct-taped on. But come on - the technology is here to stay. You can access every social media site from a Smart Phone app. You take breaks during the day, the kids are off on the swing set, the pointy-haired boss left for his daily "errand" that involves sneaking off to the bar. Use that time to check in. This is an investment in your career. Five minutes here and there can be all you need.

BONUS Advice: Have Fun

Seriously. Take the "social" out of "social media" and you have, um, well - "media." And who likes that? If you limit your social media activity to things you enjoy, then it's not a burden. Talk to people. Read interesting things. Laugh. Share the cute kitty pictures and don't listen to the snarky hipsters who bitch about that sort of thing. Don't worry about being cool. Be like the people at the water park who run around in their swimsuits and forget to hold in their stomachs because they're having so much fun.

Do what you like and people will get to know the real you.

Stop by the bordello and let us know how it goes! Virtually, of course. ;-)


  1. Great post, Jeffe. Yeah, I'm one of those ones who doesn't have a smart phone. (Mine's dumber than a stump.) But I'm also one who's home all the time with a computer in front of me. I keep my blogger dashboard open, my FB page open and my gmail open. With those three, I can access all the blogs (mine and others') I need, any comments that come in, and all the status updates. Still haven't really jumped into Twitter as much as I should. And my Goodreads account is more for me as a reader than for me as a writer.

    And yeah, I'm still having fun. I wish I had time to comment on everything I want to, but some days are better than others. (Of course, in order to be super social online, it helps if you aren't social offline. LOL)

  2. I think you're really good about commenting, B.E. - at least from my perspective! I'd say you're one who's doing it exactly right. And there is no *should* with Twitter. You have a nice social niche with blogs and FB. I'd say even Goodreads counts, because you're building your reader community. Rock on!