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“So, last night, I killed the Doctor.”
How do you respond to that? I didn’t know. My cursor blinked as I tried to think of what she could mean. After all, sweet Mary who is terrified of birds didn’t just go around killing doctors every night. She has hobbies. I’m sure of it. But I’m just as certain that doctor killing is not one of those hobbies.
A reply appeared before I could put coherent words together. “Oh! I got saved last night. The doctor should have saved himself.”
To say I was confused—understatement.
However, it did leave me confident that Mary hadn’t actually killed anything—including a bird named “the Doctor”—you know, like after Doctor Who or something.
That innocent statement, as guilty-sounding as it is, broke down my anti social media defenses. I learned about playing Mafia, about how doctors save people, vigilantes kill, and cops investigate to name the evil vigilante—that guy who kills the poor doctor whenever he can.
I wanted to play—oh, so bad.
So, I made a Facebook account. Just for Mafia. And I played. I put a picture up so those folks I played with wouldn’t be freaked out by this non-person. And for quite a while, I did nothing but play Mafia.
But then it got old. And by then, folks had found me—a friend from high school, friends from my message board, my sister-in-law.
I’ll admit it. The whole idea of Facebook bothered me. I saw it as a great, big time waster. Back then, everyone was obsessed with Farmville. Seriously obsessed. Back then, TONS of notes, quizzes, and angel pictures that said “share or you’ll be cursed” (or something like that) filled my feed. I just wasn’t interested.
Look, a lot of those same things still populate Facebook today. They do. But I’ve learned how to turn them off, to hide them, to hide people whose posts are just to vitriolic for my tastes (so about 95% of everyone during election season *whistles*)
But we now have groups, pages, and meaningful conversations.
Why? Did everything change?
I don’t really think so. What I think happened is that I changed. I learned how to interact—how to create real connections. And I’m so glad I did. Really.
You see, my sister-in-law and I didn’t know each other well. We lived 2,000 miles apart. I’d actually only been in the same place as her four or five times. But through Facebook, I got to know her. Learned to really like her. Really learned to love her.
And then she died.
You have no idea how grateful I am for Facebook. Without it, I never would have known an absolutely fabulous woman.
So What Does This Have to Do with Anything?
Well, it’s one author’s way of explaining her introduction to social media and what she does with it now. And yes, that author would be me. And I say that so there’s no talking about myself in the third person. Because I’m not Matthew McConaughey, my name isn’t Steve, and this isn’t The Wedding Planner.
During this time, I published my first book. So I shared that on Facebook. Friends-turned-fans created a page for me. I pretty much ignored it. But in my feeble attempts at marketing, I read something about snagging all the social media accounts you can—including gmail—with your preferred name.
I ignored it.
I mean, c’mon! No one else is going to want Chautona. And for a while, I lived in my blissful, one-social-media-account ignorance. Then I read about an author who had a freaky stalker steal social media accounts and pose as him. I got Twitter. And Gmail. Because that’s what existed.
Well, until Pinterest. I was part of that back when you had to wait for an invite and all kinds of stuff. But I never thought of it as “social media.” It was a “service” in my opinion.
Life was beautiful in my minimalistic social media presence.
And then Ashley stepped in. Yep. She sure did. I hired her and suddenly I’m supposed to use these accounts. Tweet. Blog. Facebook. Pin, pin, PIN! Write that newsletter. Make new friends. C’mon, girl!
I responded by reserving my Instagram name, although I didn’t have a phone and my laptop app didn’t work. She said it wasn’t enough.
Okay, fine! Ashley was right, okay? There. I said it.
And that brings me to social media today and…
What I consider to be the best and worst social media sites for authors like ME
First, there’s a huge caveat in that sentence. Did you see it? Yeah. “Like me” makes all the difference. Not everyone will agree.
This is a fabulous site for authors who want to connect with other authors and industry professionals in a career capacity. I don’t really see it as a primary source of social engagement with readers. And, since that’s my #1 reason for using social media… it’s the absolute worst for me.
How I use it: Stuff occasionally gets posted here, but I’ll be honest. I have it because I took the name and want it to be reasonably active. Occasionally, I’ll post a blog post or some writerly thing or another. That’s about it. But I’m there. Because like it or not, I’m a professional. (Wow. Further proof that I’m actually a grown-up instead of playing grown-up games!
Google has its fingers in everything these days, and Google+ is kind of the “Facebook” alternative. But it’s so much more than that. I know that. However, when I polled my readers, almost none used it. I wasn’t sorry, which will explain my lack of enthusiasm. I have no doubt that it can be a fabulous professional and reader engagement tool, but I don’t think it beats its competition, and as authors, we only have so much time, right?
How I use it: My account exists because Google made it so and prudence says to have my name. I tried to get into it when Facebook irritated me once, but I just couldn’t. Stuff goes there automatically, but I haven’t learned to enjoy engaging there. It only gets more interaction than LinkedIn because it’s all automated. I confess!
I gave this one a neutral rating because I think it depends on genre and how you plan to use it. C.R. Rowenson is a younger author writing secular horror/thriller and super-powers type stuff. I really think Twitter is perfect for his audience. His generation is the Twitter generation. His reader is already engaged on Twitter. Most of mine isn’t, if I trust my surveys (and I do!).
However, authors really seem to use it a lot. There are lots of writing tips, prompts, and other engagements that really build up one another. As a professional tool, I consider Twitter to be one of the best. So best and among the worst (for reader engagement) combined equals… neutral–ish. I think it’s infinitely better than Google+ though.
How I use Twitter: This one gets three types of engagement from me. I do semi-automatic tweets of occasional blog posts, and a few book blasts around a launch time. But otherwise, the majority of my (admittedly few) tweets are writing related. Here are a few past tweets to kind of give you an idea.
Psst. I was wrong. It was 1115.5 points and 80,000 pages. sigh
Did you know YouTube is the second largest search engine right now? It gets more traffic than the other major engines COMBINED. Yeah. Whoa. That alone means that all authors should be using it–even those of us who feel like total fools doing it. It’s a fabulous way to make you a real person to your readers. So often, we become these cardboard cut-outs behind a screen, but slap us in a video, and BOOM! Instant engagement.
How I use it: I didn’t think I’d like YouTube. I’m not comfortable in front of a camera, and I didn’t know how else I’d make something like that work. But, then author Cathe Swanson dragged me into Michael’s Crafts one night and made me record videos.
As far as author engagement goes, what’s not to love about this one? First, our target market is visually inclined to look at our words. Add them to a picture and it’s perfect for Instagram. Additionally, engaging with readers is super easy. All you need to do is tap that screen twice, and you said, “Hey, I noticed you today.” If you want to comment, no one expects you to write a long treatise on some topic. Just a few words keeps you engaged. Add to that the ability to get to know them (if their account isn’t private) and be able to create a truly interactive relationship, and you’re set!
All without spending hours on it every day. Because no matter what you say about it, we do have to have some time to write!
How I use Instagram: This one I thought I’d hate if you want the truth. All I saw when I first looked at it were pages of selfies—most of which had ridiculous duck faces. So not impressed. But, when I got my tablet and could actually post, I posted a couple of things for practice. Followed a few friends. Followed a few more, posted a few more. And you know what? I actually really like Instagram! Here, you get a few cool things:
- My Instagram Serial Novels from the #writeastorychallenge
- Image quotes from current works in progress and books on sale.
- Pictures during my writing and editing process.
- Fun things I and/or my family is doing (at a daughter’s performance, at a son’s speech, at a murder mystery thing, or on a research trip! This account offers the most personal information of all of them, but I do try to keep it from being too intrusive into my family’s privacy.
Like Instagram, Pinterest is a great visual resource, and like YouTube, it works as a fabulous search engine. In fact, it’s one of the largest search engines and it’s growing daily!
Authors who engage on Pinterest report fabulous returns on their pinning investment. If you use “Rich Pins” and link everything to your website, you have a veritable smorgasbord of opportunities to drive readers to books–yours! And, you’re doing it in a way that helps them!
And let’s face it. If it’s all about you, it’ll never be about you. The point is to serve your reader. It’s why you write. It’s why you share quotes and your blog posts. It’s why you pin articles and show images that inspired you. You did it all to benefit your readers.
How I use Pinterest: I actually have two linked accounts. I have my Chautona account and my Chautona Havig. My Chautona account I created when Pinterest was a baby. I pinned with abandon and back then, you couldn’t organize things like you can now. So, when I stared at my “My Books” with its endless pin and repin of cover after cover with no rhyme or reason… yeah. I couldn’t take it.
So, I created the second one–because I didn’t know it was a bad thing. My thousands of followers on the first have not all followed me to the second… yet! But that second one almost exclusively features my writing.
Book covers and trailers, blog posts, fun book merchandise, Christmas stuff related to my Christmas books, character inspiration, writing tips… All that jazz. I spend a lot of time keeping these up to date. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.
In my not-so-humble opinion, Facebook is the best social media site for authors. Bar none. Why? I’ll tell you!
Because it offers every advantage of the others all in one super-popular place. Think about it. It’s visualy oriented like Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube. You even have the video aspect with the new FB Live and the ability to share/upload videos to your account.
With groups, pages, and personal accounts, you can do so many things in one easy place. Socialize with other authors in various groups, socialize with readers in theres, create your own, or not–whatever you like!
The one thing it doesn’t have is a solid search engine function. It is totally unreliable and inefficient. However, I really don’t use anything but Google for searching anyway!
How I use Facebook: I have three Facebook “options.”
- The first one is my private account which, anymore, isn’t all that private. Most readers go to Facebook, find my name, and ask to be my friend. Unless I see something suspicious on someone’s profile, I accept almost all of those requests.
- Then I have my author page. This is where I spend most of my time online. It’s where I best connect with my readers etc. However…
- I also have a Facebook Group that I am trying to turn into a more conversational “room” of dialogue—some place where everyone feels like they’re at home instead of visiting at some book signing or something. BLECH. 😀
There are dozens of others, of course. Goodreads, StumbleUpon, Tumbler… the list is endless.
There you have it!
Those are my thoughts about and where you can find me on Social Media. I, of course, also have a newsletter (where you get even more personal interaction and exclusive content), a BookBub account (where readers can keep abreast of sales and coming releases for ALL their favorite authors), and, of course, my Amazon Author Page.
Now that I’ve bared my social media soul, tell me. What’s your favorite and why? Maybe I’ll learn to appreciate one in a new way thanks to you! Kind of like I did with Facebook and my sister-in-law.
In fact, that’s probably why it’ll always be my favorite.