Is Social Media Worth It for Writers?

A year ago, I closed my Facebook account. Too much drama. Too much of a time drain. And while that decision was motivated on a personal level, it also had an impact on my writing, since I did have a fan page.

Do I regret it? Yes and NO. Yes, it has made following local home education happenings almost impossible. Yes, it makes participating in clubs and community groups harder. Heck, even my little old lady quilting group has Facebook. But no, I don’t miss it. Instead of time spent with political extremes (on both sides), we host a monthly open house for our friends. And that hour or two each day has been put to much better use. Oh, and my stress levels are much lower.

As an aside I  did try to open a new account, a couple of times actually, primarily to find out about those home ed activities and to flog my four lovely guinea pigs that are making Alan ill. But Facebook blocked my account both times. They demanded identity verification. To comply with that I set up another new account under my ‘legal’ name, the one that none of my friends or fans use.

It too was blocked. So, I followed their appeals process, sending them scans of my passport and driver’s license. That was two or three months ago, that they received confidential identity documents which they admit will be kept on file for one year. And? Nothing. They did not so much as bother sending an email acknowledgment, let alone making a decision.

When I got worried about data protection, I asked the in-house expert. I wanted his help to find a contact number – to speak to a ‘real’ person. His response was ‘good luck with that.’ Evidently, they are being sued for this very type of behavior and they don’t care.

Oh, well, never mind. I don’t need the hassle and nastiness back in my life that bad.

The thing is that when I left Facebook I thought ‘how am I going to promote my writing now?’

I had other social media accounts, of course. Goodreads, Pinterest, and Twitter. I decided to put my focus on Twitter, the largest of those platforms. But still, I struggled. My writer’s account was almost a decade old and had a few hundred ‘followers.’ The thing is I am not one of those types that just want to blast their shit at folks, screaming buy me, buy me. I actually want to know people and help them, if I can.

Then, a few months ago I discovered the #WritingCommunity. It was instant love. Well, not quite. I had one misunderstanding early on with an editor type, nothing new there. But Twitter handled the situation quickly and fairly. And I decided no more high horses for me, even if I was right I was gonna take an Elsa approach…

Sorry, I could not resist.

And in the six months or so since joining the #WritingCommunity, I have more than quadrupled my ‘followers’ and I have taken a conservative approach. I am sure that if I had tried I could have been over 10K by now.

But like I said, my social media is not about numbers, either followers/friends or book sales. It is about actually connecting with people, engaging with them, and yes, finding those few lost souls like me who want something deeper and more meaningful, sharing my ideas and writing with those people. Not because I want their money or fame, but because I believe in the message and want to share that with as many people as I can.

And that is what has happened. I have met an editor-type who shares my vision of supporting others and the money will follow. I have another friend who is a homeless transman whose writing speaks to me. And, my autistic writer friend whom I support on Patreon and whose poems brighten my day and email inbox.

I have played these silly word and .gif games. But those games have helped me to learn more about these people, my fellow writers. I have learned some really interesting stuff about some fascinating minds. And it has been good fun.

Now, like Facebook, Twitter is going and ruining everything.

It has come out with these new rules that outlaw the most fun bits of the #WritingCommunity.  No more cool ‘show me your fur babies’ photo trains. (There is one of those at least once a week.) No more #FridayFollows either.

Why?

Because Twitter thinks that its users aren’t smart enough to figure out someone with 50K followers is not necessarily all that and a bag of chips. Yes, it thinks that we need protecting from ourselves. That we aren’t smart enough to see through those #followback games.

Okay, maybe some people aren’t. In our Kardashian world, where appearance means more than substance, some people honestly aren’t intelligent enough to know that have 100K followers on Twitter does not necessarily make you famous, and it sure as hell does not make you right all the time. It probably means you have a huge ego and too much time on your hands.

But to punish everyone in order to protect some from themselves, is that fair?

No, not at all. And it certainly rankles with my individualist and #Transcendentalist beliefs.

But all that aside, the bottom line is…

Does Twitter sell books? Or even increase views?

For me, at least, the answer to that one is marginal. Yes, it does increase views on my blogs, especially. I can see spikes in views on the days when I have Tweeted them. On my Medium articles a bit less, since this is primarily a subscribers service. My audience at @literotica is established and there is no real way of measuring impacts on that one. As for Amazon? I quit tracking that one when Alan and I made the decision a few months ago that my writing does not need to pay.

But I know (and I have in the past used) services that for a fee will Tweet your book to tens or hundreds of thousands of users. More often than not, your increased sales don’t even pay for those ads.

I think a better question would be…is Twitter worth it?

A cost-benefit analysis. Not simply the hard costs of those ads, but the opportunity costs as well. If you aren’t familiar with that economics term, the simplest definition is ‘all the things that you could have been doing if you weren’t doing that thing.’ In this case, the real opportunity cost is writing time.

I have a confession to make. Most mornings, I get up at five (oh, there is also a #5amwritingclub). I grab a cup of coffee. I sit down with the laptop. And I open Twitter. I spend between half an hour and an hour just checking my notifications, liking stuff, and replying. The first hour of my writing time is not actual writing?!?

Okay, perhaps that gives my brain time to kick into gear, the caffeine to hit, and me to wake up. But aren’t there other more effective ways of doing that? How about the treadmill or simple writing exercises?

Okay, as I said, I enjoy those silly games like your favorite movie or food. And I like seeing how my friends respond.

But if Twitter is going to spoil our fun…then what’s the point?

It certainly ain’t sales. There are much better and more cost-effective ways of doing that like SEO and keywords (things that now Alan is retired I’m going to be getting his help with).

The thing is that Facebook, Twitter, and other social media need to learn…

Without users, you become MySpace or AOL.

There is a whole generation of young people who don’t even know what those were and if you keep pissing your users off in an attempt to protect a few idiots then we will find somewhere else to take our fun games. And when they get too big for their britches as my Nanny used to say somebody new will come along.

So, what am I going to do? Am I abandoning Twitter as I did Facebook?

Not just yet. Like I said, I really have found the type of engagement I want there. Some profound conversations. Some silly games. Some real friends. And yes, a few readers, especially of my blogs.

But what I am doing is being more judicious with my time. Making certain that I am using my precious writing time to my best advantage, not skiving off on Twitter because of some perceived writer’s block. And I am thinking ahead, as all businesses should, to what is next. Where do I take my message? How do I connect with MY readers?

That is the beauty of the internet. For the first time in human history, we have the potential to spread ideas, beliefs, and knowledge globally with little or no real costs. That is a huge advance. The challenge is that needle in a haystack. If you aren’t a flashy Kardashian type, if this is about more than followers/friends, how do you make those real connections with the people like you, what marketers call your tribe?

I admit I’m not there yet. I may never be. I like to take solace from Henry David Thoreau. This writer of Walden Pond died at forty-four, broke, and alone. He never knew that his simple sixteen-page essay Civil Disobedience (follow that link to my newest blog Transcendental Ramblings and my thoughts on Thoreau and Civil Disobedience) would inspire men like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Nelson Mandela. That his writing would change the very face of this planet, the map itself, as well as liberate millions (billions?) of people of color.

And with the internet, that power is manifest hundreds of folds. One of the story ideas I have is for a post-apocalyptic world where technology is just being re-discovered. They are unlocking pieces of the internet that have been lost to generations. They discover the writings of I don’t know someone like…me. They need that writer’s expertise to rebuild their society, but they can’t access all her writings. So, they travel back in time. Kidnap her. And bring her to the future to save what is left of the human race.

Yes, that is sci-fi. Or is it? On his death bed, do you think if an angel or someone from the future came back and whispered in Henry David Thoreau’s ear that Civil Disobedience would be one of the catalysts for the American Civil War, Indian independence from Great Britain, the American civil rights movement of the 1960s, the end of apartheid in South Africa, and whether Extinction Rebellion credit it or not the environmental movement that is the last great hope for this planet (before we face that post-apocalyptic world)?

And Thoreau did not even have Twitter or Facebook? Go figure.

9 thoughts on “Is Social Media Worth It for Writers?

  1. Thanks for sharing this post, along with many interesting points to consider! I’m starting a new audio blog project here on WordPress, and plan to just go “slow and low” to see what happens.

      1. Oh, what level? Have to consider that one. Want to make my blogs more neurodivergent friendly (dyslexia especially).

      2. I only went up one level to “premium,” which gets rid of all adverts on my blog, and allows me to use more media stuff like audio, video, etc… it cost about $180 for a two-year plan and so far I’m loving it!

      3. Thanks I have been considering it, but for which ones of my blog? I have several. Have some thinking to do now.

      4. Thank you for your input. I will definitely do so. Just have to figure out which of my babies to treat. At least at first. LOL.

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