Waving or drowning? Ali Bacon reviews her social media situation

I don’t know what it takes to fall in love with social media (warped personality? lack of real social life?) but for a while I was head over heels, first of all with my blog and then with Twitter.

Behind the blog
     Blogging came about because of a work remit (I must be one of the few members of the human race who did a course on it!) and shortly after I was offered a paid blogging opportunity on behalf of a golf marketing company. Since I played golf, this was fun, and as long as I churned out a couple of posts a week I was sent a modest but satisfying cheque at the end of each month.
     Nice work if you can get it.
     And by the time the Rather-Be-Golfing goose had stopped laying its golden eggs, I had put together my own writing website using the free Wordpress facility which I knew would provide ‘static’ website pages as well as a blog, enabling me to feel like a) an IT whiz-kid and b) a proper author with a proper website.

Let me say again, all of this was fun, and for a good three years I blogged every week without fail.  I made connections with a quite a few other bloggers (not all writers, just anyone who liked taking their thoughts to the world without having an axe to grind). As time went on my occasional book reviews attracted the attention of publishers and book marketers who offered free review copies – more fun!

By this time Facebook had emerged from its academic and yoof origins but although I signed up (purposes of research, obviously) I steered clear – mere chitchat and gossip – not for me! Twitter on the other hand approached me by stealth. After I signed up (research ..!) it cheekily searched my email. The only two people it came up with already on Twitter (a local author and my niece’s husband) happened to be people I considered to be Quite Interesting - as they did turn out to be. A few followers and followings later I was chatting with a collection of people – a few of whom I knew in real life or had met on my blogging travels – on a regular basis and in a most diverting way. I crafted my tweets to fit the 140 characters and comforted myself with the thought that surely this was a good writing skill.

So what went wrong? Well nothing really because I had a novel published and my group of chatty friends turned into my social media platform – just what I needed!  Or was it?

Sell, sell, sell!
In what seemed like a piece of good timing, I had come across an authors’ collective (not this one) intent on (amongst other things) harnessing the power of social media to sell books.  I applied, I was accepted. Result. I now had a bigger band of followers/friends (FB could no longer be ignored) to have fun with. The only thing was that I was also duty bound to tweet and share on their behalves. No problem – a bit of time management was all that was required. I joined Linked In and discovered Hootsuite – a platform which will post for you across social media and schedule posts for different times of day. I dabbled in Triber too. Magic!

Hootsuit: notification, notification, notification!
 But somehow there was a subtle change in my social media activity. Basically it had become work, not play. Also, the Hootsuite interface – which I used instead of Twitter - gave more emphasis to mentions and retweets (i.e. my own profile) but discouraged me from reading the massive amount of stuff appearing in my news feed. 

Great, why read all that when it’s the mentions that count? But the overall result was that I lost interest in my old love, using it as a publicising tool rather than a chat room and transferring real socialising into Facebook. Of course the other reason I lost interest was that I was mostly reading other people’s publicity. I began to wonder if I was as annoying as they were!

Twitter - who's out there? 
Help – or sanity – arrived in an unexpected form. I took on the role of blogging and tweeting on behalf of my writing group (as no one else had the time or interest) and to save myself from confusion I restricted that activity to the original Twitter interface. After initial annoyance at its comparative clunkiness, I realised I was forming more interesting connections there than in my own account. By starting afresh I remembered Twitter could be fun.

Of course in the meantime there were notifications and new interfaces on phones and tablets just to add to life’s rich social media tapestry, but by then I had left the writers’ collective for other reasons and I’ve now divested myself of my Writers Unchained tweeting at least for a while. I’ve also for the most part ditched Hootsuite and returned to my spiritual Twitter home where I am assiduously unfollowing (sorry guys) anyone who throws out only promo material. And I am congratulating myself on never having taken up Pinterest – yes I know it’s great but I’d never be off it - although I am a little curious about Instagram …!

And my old friend the blog? I joined Authors Electric because I like the company – and could see that a shared blog makes far more sense. I use my old place for the occasional update or venting opportunity, but it’s due for a makeover of a fairly radical kind, and with so many other places to scatter my writerly seed, it may become what it was always meant to be – just an author website. 

Still afloat - just!
One or two things I have learned: - social media involves many things, including discipline, but also being yourself, whichever profile or identity you are using.

So how are the rest of you coping? Probably better than I am!

Fee free to wave to me as I keep afloat 

on Twitter @Alibacon

And of course I also have a story in Another Flash in the Pen anthology. 
Don't miss the 0.99 p introductory offer!


Chris Longmuir said…
A lot of this sounds very familiar and you are right as well as wrong about Pinterest. When I first started it drew me into it all the time, now I largely ignore it, but I use it for research purposes. You see, when you click on a Pinterest image the blog post, article, or whatever is behind it, unless of course you only collect pretty pictures. So, when I come across an article or post on the internet that I feel will be useful for research I post to my research board on Pinterest. The information is more easily found that way than bookmarking it. Good post.
AliB said…
Good tip! thanks Chris.
Bill Kirton said…
Yes, it all sounds familiar, Ali, with one exception. I'm on Twitter, I RT friends' tweets but I've never got involved in conversations there and I really can't see myself interacting with it in the way you suggest. I try to do more than advertise my books there but it's so vast, so Tower of Babel-ish that I never seem to hear any voices I particularly want to engage with. I also find it a wee bit suspect in that my tweets are rare and do nothing to reflect the wonderful person I am and yet complete strangers keep following me. Why? I'm obviously just part of a clever algorithm that keeps Twitter's revenues healthy.

And yes, thanks Chris for the excellent research idea.
JO said…
Great post. I, too, am wearying (is that a word) of social media. I know we need it for marketing, and for generally keeping in touch and enjoying picture of other peoples' cats and grandchildren, but it's not real life. I get far more pleasure drinking coffee with a friend. So I hang around online from time to time, and then bog off to do real things!
Jan Needle said…
is there any evidence at all, from anywhere at all, that twittering sells books? i supect it's more a pain in the a**se
AliB said…
I still love the immediacy of Twitter and was once one of those people who actually tweet to eachother while watching TV. It's like having a friend next to you - or can be. (And Mr B and I have different TV tastes!)
But yes, followers pop up from nowhere (you can always block them) and I only follow back if I have some specific reason for doing so. I think I was lucky to find some good companions when I started out but many of those have been swallowed up in the sheer magnitude of the thing. Use with caution I would say. And if you don't fancy it, give it a wide berth.
As to sales, I have sometimes bought a book after reading a tweet but only because I already had some knowledge of the author. It's just one of many ways we can make connections, but the secret is to make the connection not browbeat the the other party. If sales are a result it will be in an indirect way. A.
Enid Richemont said…
I tweeted all my free book KDP promos, but apart from a strange fluke at the beginning when my readership soared, none have done very well. Most people, including me, are irritated by advertising, and especially self-advertising. FACEBOOK's a bit different - you can have real conversations there.

Deeply into the latest Flash in the Pen anthology - these just get better and better.
Unknown said…
Love social media - am I following you, Ali? I'm off to check...

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