In praise of social media for writers. Ali Bacon tells us what Facebook has done for her

Social media in general is getting a bad press these days and for very good reasons. But writers would be unwise to distance themselves entirely, as this post (adapted from shows.

Over two years ago, while despairing of my then work in progress (now fully fledged as In the Blink of an Eye) I stumbled on a newspaper article describing the St Andrews Photography Festival.
St Andrews, what's not to like?
This was so germane to my languishing WIP I was immediately intrigued and also a bit cross there was no official website to tell me more. However there was a Facebook page - a poor relation to a website perhaps but as I ran my eye over it, I mused how wonderful it would be to be involved and I found my fingers adding a post about my photography interests and my writing and inviting the still rather mysterious festival to contact me.  Afterwards this struck me as ridiculously brazen. I was an 'unknown' writer with a novel lying around in fragments - what exactly could I offer? I comforted myself with the knowledge I was unlikely to hear back!

I didn't hear back for quite some time and had almost forgotten about it when a message popped up from Alan Morrison who I don't think will mind my dragging it out from the archives:
Hi Ali. Thanks so much again for sharing the news and your links. Will you be able to come to this at some point? It's on Aug 1- Sep 11. We'd love to have you be part of it and have a cunning plan for an awesome event featuring you and your stories.

At the St Andrews Photography Festival 2016*
I got this late one night and had to pick myself up from the floor. Alan was the festival PR guy and he  directed me straight to the festival organiser. I asked her who else would be involved in this event. As it turned out, no one. In a matter of hours I had gone from a writer with a moribund  project to  planning a 'one woman show.' I've described that trip elsewhere but let's just say it in terms of my work and the book that ensued, it was a game-changer.  And all it needed was a two-line message on Facebook.

You see, where a website contact form will often disappear without trace and even an email contact can be out of date, a social media message is highly likely to get a response and a quick one. (Look out for that Messenger indication of 'usually responds within ...' although I have also had responses on Twitter after quite a time-lag).

I had a similar - if less cataclysmic - experience last year when a friend alerted me to a local literature festival.  All I had to go on  - again - was a press article. But I also found a Facebook page which I messaged, still with low expectations but a bit more optimism than previously. And this time I was a bit better prepared for a positive response. Again, it worked!  A few days later I met Mark Lloyd, of Cotswold Edge Events and we went on to organise a showcase event for a group of local published writers.

There's always a degree of luck in these things. I happened to catch both these organisers  just as their programme was taking shape. And yes, a degree of self-confidence or even effrontery is necessary. But leaving a note on a Facebook page takes less courage than a phone call and can have just as exciting and immediate a result. And really, what do you have to lose?

So this is not just about the speed of social media but how it is developing as a business tool. I know there are a lot of Facebook refuseniks out there who worry about privacy and/or the sheer waste of time it can be. These are legitimate concerns, but I suggest that writers who want to engage with communities, events and ultimately readers, ignore this  platform at their peril.

Ali's book In the Blink of an Eye is out in paperback and e-book from Linen Press
Reviews on Amazon UK 

*Photo courtesy ASM Media and PR


Griselda Heppel said…
Great post, making a really important point. There are so many scare stories about social media and we do need to be on our guard but your two examples show it filling a vital role. Neither of these amazing literary connections, with their life-changing results, would have happened had you not been able to make contact via Facebook. I too have found Twitter and Facebook useful sources of information, but my main reason to be grateful to Facebook is that it put me back in touch with a wonderful friend who my husband and I had somehow lost contact with decades ago.
Whatever the drawbacks, social media is part of our lives now, for good and bad.
Umberto Tosi said…
So true, and thanks for explaining how you made such good use of social media as a real-time, marketing-and-networking tool, not simply for promotion (for which platforms are of limited use for small-scale enterprises.)... I've found that giving my works social media presence connects me with readers and colleagues much more directly and efficiently than through difficult-to-update personal Websites as well. Best of luck with "In the Blink of an Eye!" (Great title!)
AliB said…
Thanks both and good to see you agreeing with me. I was lucky to get an intro to social media years ago through my day job. I can see that for many writers who grew up without it it's a completely alien and scary beast. A
I couldn't do half of what I do without social media. I write about different countries and have networks in far-flung communities and facebook seems to do an especially great job of positioning everyone seamlessly in cyberspace. Great post.

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