Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Social Networking for Fun and .... Well Maybe Not for Profit

I first found out about this strange innovation called Blogs a few years back, when I was in college. I loved the idea, and tried to start one up while I was still doing my undergrad.

Yeah ... that didn't work out too well.

It took another few years until I figured out the platform I wanted to write on -- Steampunk, Writing, and Video Games -- and that only happened after I came around to the realization that pure Fantasy wasn't the genre I should write in. That brainchild was Free the Princess, which is the name of a now-defunct idea I had for an online Video Game Encyclopaedia. I still want to craft that resource, if no other reason than I'm a hardcore gamer geek, but that's beside the point.

Anyway, since that July 2009 day I launched my blog, I've had the good fortune to meet some fantabulous fellow writers working across the country and around this great world of ours. I've also joined the Twitter-verse, and maintain a personal Facebook page for no other reason than to keep in touch with friends from college. (And now post to three separate blogs, including one that's an ad-supported review blog.)

Since I've now bored you with my own experience in blogging, Twitter, and Facebook, it's time to move on to what I really wanted to talk about: how I've used my platform to connect with people.

Just writing to your own blog is great, but there's only so much word-of-mouth of your readers can do to build your platform. Granted, if you're already a celebrity or have a built-in audience waiting, you might not need to worry (Literary Agents like Nathan Bransford, Janet Reid, and Mark McVeigh have huge numbers of followers partly because of their positions in the book world, for example). Since I'm not a wildly famous author like Neil Gaiman, a literary agent like the aforementioned Ms. Reid, or an editor like the fabled Moonrat, I had to work to build my meager following.

How'd I do this? Comments!

I started following other blogs and became a regular commenter on some of them. There's a culture of reciprocity in the blogosphere, and many of the proprietors of blogs I followed in turn became my followers because they clicked on my profile and saw what I was writing. I'm up to nearly 75 followers as of today partly because of this strategy. I'm kind of half confident that I'd have more if my blog was of a more general focus, but Free the Princess is focused on what I want to focus on already; so I have no intentions of changing. Anyway, the end result of this is that I've gained 4,000+ hits since I started tracking visits to FtP.

Twitter is another animal entirely. My success there is partly due to Gary Corby and his network of followers, but also because I'm a regular contributor in the discussions that occur there. That's the key to success in both places, truth be told. Contribute regularly via your own blog, comments on others blogs, and in Twitter and you'll end up building a network quicker than you can say "Hey look I built a network!"

Twitter's also allowed me to talk to people I otherwise wouldn't get a chance to. Like Gail Carriger, Cherie Priest, and other published authors who in an earlier time I'd have to communicate via letters and their agents. Now I just Tweet @ them and can, depending on my tweet, get a response decently fast.

Facebook is a more personal outlet for me, and I've yet to really connect professionally with anyone through there. Which I intend to remedy once I have something interesting to a wide audience to share through it. But as I don't quite yet, that's not done.

Anyway, if you take one thing and one thing only away from this ramble, it should be that participation is the key to growing your presence through social networking. Unless you're ridiculously famous ... then pretty much all bets are off and you can do whatever you want.


Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I agree that participation is important - you can go to the party, but if you never speak up and say something interesting, will anyone know you were there?

Twitter is my newest habit, and I blame you Matthew (in the nicest possible way). I'm still figuring the ins and outs of tweeting, but I can already see the benefits.

I actually have a lot of FB author friends (more since I made a second FB page just for my writerly persona) - we found each other through FB groups devoted to writing or a particular genre. Here is where I meet wildly divergent writers, but we are all supportive of each other in our daily writing trials - almost like #amwriting on Twitter, only less ADD like and more personal.

p.s. I'm jealous of your number of followers, but I think it takes time to build up. I'll keep blogging regardless (because it's fun).

fairyhedgehog said...

I'm not sure what you count as "success" on Twitter. For me, it's being able to chat with friends.

I love it when people reply to me - and that goes for blogging too. I'm not sure why I started my blog, probably just because I could. But it's turned into a great place to chat with some wonderful people. I like playing with the look of it too!

L. T. Host said...

As you well know, I am quite new to Twitter. We'll see how it goes in the coming weeks!

Blogging has been really cool. I love the people I've met, and I love how in touch some people are, like the agents. It's no longer super difficult to talk to people you never would have been able to approach before, and I think that's really neat, and useful.

Joshua McCune said...

Commenting, replying, interaction has definitely provided me a better sense of the community... Twitter's a step too long for me right now and Facebook's out of the question (b/c I'm so imagining the recent SP episode where Stan didn't want to, then had to farm everybody's crops, then had to fight his Tron alter-ego b/c he got so sucked in, despite his best efforts to resist the Borg-like effects).

Bethany Wiggins said...

I find you get out of blogging what you are willing to put in. Comment a lot and you get comments back. Lovely blog, BTW!

Stephanie Thornton said...

I do like the reciprocity of blogging. You give up time to comment, but you learn a lot and meet other great writers. I just don't have time for Twitter and blogging!

I need to clone myself. TWO Supreme Dictators! Mwahahaha!

Wait... How would that work? Hmmm...

Matthew Delman said...

Susan -- That's OK, I'm jealous of our Supreme Dictator having over 120 followers. Re: your Twitter habit -- I'm hella good at being an enabler, as L.T. will tell you. I never thought of crafting two FB pages, but I might do that now.

fairy -- I count success on Twitter as having fun. Whatever number of followers you have doesn't matter, so long as you're enjoying yourself.

L.T. -- It'll work out well, you'll see! Also: I agree.

Bane -- LOL. It's been so long since I watched South Park it's ridiculous. Must find that episode now.

Bethany -- You whacked the ball out of the park with that one. Put in the effort and you'll see it come back to you in spades. Reciprocity is fun like that.

Supreme Dictator -- You could always have your clone be the Supreme Dictator of half the world and you take the other half. Might work.

fairyhedgehog said...

I like that definition of Twitter success!

Unknown said...

Twitter has been a new interesting way to have contact with publishers, famous authors and news from the publishing world without having to search it out daily. It's like a wealth of knowledge waiting for me each day. I think of it as time saving even though most wouldn't think so at first.

FB is more personal for me. But I do have some friends now who are in the publishing world. I don't know how or if this will be largely benfical in the future until I get that contract with an agent and get that book deal.

Blogging, unless you spend hours networking and commenting is a bit harder for me. I just don't have the time. Until I sign that book deal I see it as my presence online for agents to see. Today it's something you need and it's a fun way to make friends with those who are in the same boat as yourself. But, all this does take away from what we all should be doing... writing, learning our craft, and exploring our stories. I'm finding it to be hard time finding a balance between it all.

JournoMich said...

Get involved. Best advice ever for any marketing plan!

I have certainly enjoyed your contributions on my blog....Great, meandering post. :)