This rant has been a while in coming. I think my feelings on the subject have been heightened after spending 2 weeks at home and therefore much more time on the computer and social media sites.
There are two really important facts about social media and they should not ever be dealt with mutually exclusively. The first is that they are an excellent marketing, promotion and networking tool. The second, and in fact the far more important one, is that they do not like to feel used.
Internet users are pretty savvy these days. And there is a LOT to do and see and interact and engage with on the internet. Most of the time, I am skim reading with my finger on the mouse about ready to click off to the next thing. It takes work to hold my interest and get me to read something. And I like to have a lot of what I want to keep track of all in the one easy to keep track of place. I have to admit that I never really have managed to get a hang of Google reader. When I find things I want to keep track of, I add the RSS feeds to my livejournal friendslist. My flist spans a huge range of subjects, therefore. And there is a lot to read when I get up in the morning whilst throwing down my coffee and trying to get ready for the work brain to kick in.
I am therefore, not likely to read (and don't read) writer's blogs on anything other than lj. I make exceptions for - Scalzi, Vandermeer, Wheaton, Larbalestier. Because they are interesting and worth reading. But I have them as LSS feeds on my lj flist. I'm not really all that sure on the writers who go off to "be professional" on a blog off lj - cause I don't follow. If there is a handy lj feed for my flist, I'll add that. What I hate about pretty much any other blogging site is the way they handle, or rather don't handle, comments. I like the way lj allows communities to thrive - users with related and common interests can easily feed into each other, and discussions on different and splitting threads on a blog post are very easily handled for ongoing conversations. I HATE reading the comments in blog posts off livejournal - I rarely do, I even more rarely post one and I almost never ever go back to see how the discussion is unfolding. That's all too much work.
But the thing that really is irritating me these days is the feeding of tweets into Facebook status updates. I'm at the point now where I am going to be starting to hide or unfollow one or the other. I know and understand that different people follow and use different social media sites and that information might need to be repeated on both. However, I argue two things. 1) Facebook is NOT Twitter - they have two very different uses. And that's for the next paragraph. And 2) if you're a writer (and yes I mean YOU) and you are using these outlets for your promotion etc, are you honestly telling me that you couldn't come up with two different sentences of 140 characters? Cause like. Um. Really? That says to me, the consumer of your feeds, that either you are not that interesting, and therefore I should not bother reading you, or you're not that inventive or creative at writing which means ...
And so finally I come to this - Facebook is not Twitter. Again, Facebook is not Twitter
. They are two completely different outlets that are best used in completely different ways. I'm not actually convinced that Facebook is a good, effective or useful outlet for promotion though, btw. I think it's useful for networking - look, look how many friends I have! I must be popular! Liked! Whatever. I think Facebook groups are somewhat useful - interested parties can join and you can mail out something smaller than a newsletter to inform the interested group on newsy or newsworthy information. And it gets emailed to those people so doesn't rely on them coming past a website all the time to check on updates. But the use of Facebook, other than to update photos and leave messages and perhaps online chat if that's a feature you use, is to place static status updates on what you are doing. People can comment or get into repartee but that's basically it. And all these static updates get fed to me on a news feed about what all my friends are doing right now. Some people are experimenting with the content for the update and maybe this will evolve over time. I've joined a few pages as a fan but I have no idea what that means and I don't go checking these pages, well, ever, so as for their use for promotion? I don't know.
So what, then, the heck is Twitter? Twitter is transitory. Your one update 6 hours ago is not going to be there when I log in. Twitter is like shouting random sentences in the middle of a loud and busy bar. Sometimes people hear you and answer. Most of the time they don't. Tweeters are in constant conversation, over and under and around each other. Tweeters tweet about what they are doing, they might live tweet an event (watching TV with my friends and then other people joining in is fun - Masterchef was the best for that, also tweeting from Parliament Question time ROCKS!). Tweets also might contain photos or a link to something interesting to read. People can retweet your tweets - and if enough people do that, you can get something quite viral going on with the hopes of your tweet being spread far and wide, carried on the wind, out to people who don't know you at all. You can answer people's tweets. And sometimes you can find yourself chatting or meeting people that way.
I have had one kind of significant opening/offer come for my press via Twitter. It's still in progress so if it comes to fruition, I'll talk more about it then. But the way that happened showed me two really important things: 1) the way Twitter can be a useful tool and 2) the fact that it is coincidental and cannot be manipulated to be one. I threw something out there into the twitverse - random comment about something personal. Someone who I had followed and had followed me as a result of another random, nothing important conversation that ended up being three way via a somewhat high profile Aussie writer, asked me a question about it and the back and forth ended up with me making quite an important press contact in another country. We are friends now and might chat about a TV show or a cup of coffee on Twitter every other day but the contact made for my press is invaluable. And it came about not because I went looking for how this social medium could work for me but rather by using it for that for which it is intended - for people to keep in contact and to meet and to share ideas and information. Whether inane or profound. Useful or useless.
As soon as I see someone trying to use any of the above formats for (only) self promotion, I turn off and tune out. I no longer friend or follow everyone who follows me. As an editor and publisher, many writers come past and friend this blog and then, I think, when I don't friend them back, they defriend me and go away, never having made a comment here or tried to engage with the conversation. Social media is for interaction. And those of us already playing are deluged with opportunity. It's a constant fight for space and soundbytes - to win a small part of it, you need to be interesting and engaging. You need to prove to me why I want to read you. I'm not at a loss for reading material. And I don't want to spend every time I read your blog or tweets or facebook status update having to read why you are so awesome or why I should buy your book or your story or you.
I guess I'm looking for show and not tell.