October 31, 2009

Nine Months of Social Media – an Evaluation

Where does the time go? It's November already, and that marks nine months since I began using social media. It started with this blog, then I added a Twitter account, and more recently I joined Facebook. It's time to take a break and look back. This week, I'm sharing my thoughts about these three forms of social media, and I hope that you'll react by posting your comments and suggestions.

When I started the Walrus and the Carpenter blog, I wanted to do something other than a daily blog featuring short posts. My plan was to update monthly with an essay to interest other writers. Then, after learning more about blogging and reading more blogs, I decided that I should be posting more often. Since May, I've been trying to write weekly.

I haven't decided yet where this blog is going, or where I want it to go, so don't be surprised if you see some changes. I might return to posting here monthly, or I might give in and write shorter posts more often. Whatever I do, I want my readers to take something away when they leave here: an attention-grabbing link, a creative exercise, or something interesting to think about.

I'm still on the fence about blogs. Reading them and writing mine takes up a lot more time than I had planned for. I find it overwhelming at times; yet I see value in blogging, and for now I plan to continue.

I joined Twitter never expecting to find worth in sending or reading 140-character messages. I joined only because other writers were doing it, and I wanted to stay current with fresh trends. Surprisingly, of the three forms of media discussed here, Twitter has been the most rewarding.

I've written a previous post about Twitter, so I won't repeat what's there. I'll add to it by saying that I've been wise about whom I follow on Twitter, and I think that's what makes it work for me. My list is limited to people who share my interests. I don't automatically follow back, I block spammers, and I'm less likely to read tweets from people who only use Twitter to promote their books. I reply to posts that get my attention, and I retweet those that I find interesting. In other words, I participate in my Twitter community.

There are two things that keep me coming back to Twitter. First, the people I follow often post links to blog posts and articles. If I take a few seconds to visit those links, I'm exposed to much more information about what interests me than I would find on my own. That alone makes Twitter worth it. Twitter also offers the support of a real-time community. If you read my other blog, you might remember that I wrote a post about how "followers" pulled together in real time as a young woman experienced a life-changing tragedy. I see that kind of support consistently among the people I follow. It intrigues me that a caring community can be built on brief, 140-character messages called "tweets."

The jury is in on Twitter. I'm staying. It's quick, it's informative, and I like the people I've met there.

I'm still new to Facebook. I signed up in August purely for business. It was another way to network with writers, especially those not using Twitter. I'm still not comfortable enough with the media to give it an adequate evaluation, but let's look at a couple of positives and negatives.

On the positive side, Facebook allows me to create longer posts than Twitter does. I like that. I can also add images to posts on my profile page, and that's a plus. I have control over who "friends" me, and I like that, too. (On Twitter, followers don't ask for permission to follow.)

One of the things I dislike about Facebook is the interface. I wish that I could change the appearance of my Profile page by changing the background and/or layout. I also find it clunky that the Friends list is alphabetized by first name and that I can't resort it by last name. The Home page looks cluttered, and I think the "Poke" and "Like" options are a bit strange, but I understand that they're there for the social and fun aspect of the media. I don't know if it's a visual perception on my part, or what, but the whole interface just leaves me cold.

I hadn't planned to connect on Facebook with family and friends, but I have, and that creates a bit of a challenge as I try to figure out how to mix business with pleasure. So far, I've kept personal posts off my page altogether. I set up my account so that no one can post to my wall. This gives me control over what gets posted on my Profile page, but it also makes my page impersonal. I'm still pondering whether I want a separate page for family and friends, or maybe to set up a fan page for my writing business. (If you use Facebook and have an opinion, please post a comment. I'd love to hear if you've experienced this issue and how you've resolved it.)

I haven't been on Facebook long enough to decide whether I will continue. Like Twitter, it provides a good place to network with other writers, but I don’t find it as user friendly. For now, I'm eager to see how it evolves.

Overall, I view social media as an essential tool for the business of writing. It provides a great way to network with other writers and also to stay current with publishing news and trends. Still, I wonder if that is enough to justify the time I spend on social media sites. The jury is still out.

Now it's your turn. What do you think about social media?


Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jean -

I hope you continue with Blogging and Facebook. After all, that's how we met. Besides, I'd miss your wonderful, insightful posts.

You might find the scheduling feature on Blogger helpful. It's a lifesaver for me.

As far as Twitter, I'm not on it. Maybe someday I'll take the plunge, but not now.

Susan :)

Jean Fischer said...

Thanks for your comments, Susan. I always look forward to them.

Blessings back to you!

quietspirit said...

I have learned a lot by blogging. I am not on Twitter. I have a pre-paid cell phone and I don't text on it. I am on Facebook and have writers, friends from church and friends from another website. I don't go there as often as I used to.
I try to use it as a reward for getting some writing done.

Jean Fischer said...

Thanks for your comment. Twitter is a computer based media. You can text to it from your iPhone, but I think most people just type in their messages online.
I like it that you use Facebook as a reward ;-)

Lora said...

Who knows what we're doing with all this stuff, Jean! LOL

I am trying to build a brand, so to speak, using Twitter, Facebook, and my blog/site.

Hopefully, somehow, someway, it results in a profitable business.

Of course, one must have more than "hopes" and should really be planning the hows and ways!