How Useful is Social Media for Writers?

June 29, 2017


   Not long ago, I read on some blog where a woman claimed Facebook was the best social forum for authors. Really? I think it stinks. It's only good if you have a large circle of friends and family, people who will eagerly promote your stuff. Your friends and family will share with their Facebook buddies and those folks will share and on and on in a loving chain reaction. Tra-la-la. That’s how a lot of sorry writers are able to reach the Amazon best-seller list, friends and family buy their junk, convince others to buy and soon they are propelled to the top of charts. A literary pyramid scheme. What’s wrong what with that, Dennis? Well, have you read any stuff by these popular bogus authors? Holy shit. Not only do they need a crash course in Creative Writing 101, they need to be convinced that they suck and are better off collecting refrigerator magnets. Seriously. Amazon Kindle has been a godsend, allowing aspiring authors to present their books to the public without going through literary agents or vanity publishers. Yet the downside is that it has also opened the door for thousands of no-counts, the same no-counts who have hijacked the fantasy genre. Now if you wanted, you could buy 100 copies of your book and become an instant best-seller, but it would be expensive. So, in that sense, maybe the woman was right about Facebook being the best medium for writers. 

   Unfortunately, I have few friends and family members. When it comes to building a Facebook following, I'm SOL. If I request someone to be a friend, they usually won't accept. I guess that’s because Facebook warns members not to befriend a stranger since he or she might in reality be a con artist or a psychopath. In addition, Facebook members prefer to keep a tight circle of friends and family, which this social network was originally designed for. Xenophobia is the norm. I can acquire followers, even big-name celebrities, but odds are one a trillion they will follow you back. I was, however, able to post the cover of one of my books on Paul LeMat's Facebook page, who also churns out potboilers on Amazon Kindle, much to his dislike. Stick to your hot rods, Le Mat.

   Now, Twitter is fun. You can gain hundreds of followers in a month. The problem is, nobody reads your tweets. I don't read other people's tweets. I'm not interested. Maybe when I first follow somebody but after that, I forget these people exist. You can tweet all day long, tweet, tweet, tweet, and nobody will read it, not unless you’re famous, like the President.  For budding writers, it’s a useless medium. Others see it as numbers game. You know, numbers game, the more followers you collect, the more you can brag. Having tons of followers offers a person, even a part-time cashier, a vicarious sense of fame. “I have 20,000 followers on Twitter, kiss my millennial ass.”

      Linked-in is, uh, shit, how would I describe that site? A wonderland for cuckoo-birds? A scammer’s feasting ground? A pervert’s play house? A radical leftist’s soapbox? If it used to be for professionals only, as I keep hearing, then it has made a complete 360 degree turn. The professionals have been replaced by the dross of society. There are some professionals, some, but there are a lot more kooks. Facebook is more staid than Linked-in. Linked-in is a goddamn cesspool. Sure, you can amass followers, just as many as you can on Twitter. After two years, I have almost 21,000+. Instead of 100 word tweets, can post articles up to about 15,000 words. However, chances are only a tiny fraction of your connections will read them, 50-100 of you’re lucky and that’s over a period of months. Why? Because just a few of your connections can see notifications that you’ve published anything. One guy did have several thousand views of his post. When I messaged him how he accomplished it, he wrote cryptically, “Make them feel guilty about not wanting to read your post.," vanishing back into cyberspace before I could ask him to clarify what he meant. I think he was only yanking my chain. He was a noted authority on some bullshit, computer technology I think, proving that notoriety again gives you the edge.

   Oh, and don’t make friends on Linked-in. The friendships won’t last. Most will either turn to be other than who they claim or unadulterated psychos. If somebody wants to be befriend you, they usually want to either sell something or bilk you. Authors will message asking you to read their book and make a review. If you ask them to reciprocate, they'll quietly disappear. I’m still being stalked (which means I receive anonymous views of my profile page) by a manic depressive I befriended and then blocked me after a misunderstanding. At least I believe it's her. She has numerous bogus profiles with her name and the address "Anywhere, USA." This person now writes nonsensical flash fiction about her alcoholism and suicidal thoughts. One Saturday around 2 am, I had a notification that seven people had just viewed me anonymously at the same time. Talk about feeling creepy. Maybe it was her again.

   Blocking is a Linked-in feature I truly hate (along with anonymous viewing, which means they can see you but you can't see them). I guess it was install to protect members from being harassed but it's constantly being abused. It's now customary that if you hate somebody’s opinion, you just block them, zap them from existence, put your phaser on kill. But be wary, you can never connect with that individual again. I’ve been blocked so many times that if I had a dime every time somebody pushed the B button, I could retire to the Bahamas. Block them, send them to the cornfield, out of sight and out of mind. Once I had three people block me almost simultaneously. Whoa, world's record! I’ve been called every filthy name thinkable on Linked-in but have never blocked anybody. It’s cowardly and childish. I simply call them equally terrible names and go on with my life. Everybody has a right to their views, no matter how offensive. Hey, maybe I am a gay redneck asshole Nazi. You can block on Facebook, but most people prefer to unfriend. That way if you have a change of heart, you can always invite your enemy back into your circle.

   Reddit I've tried without any appreciable results. Basically you post a comment, such as "Visit my website" and include a link. Everything is divided into subreddit topics. I've noticed that the subreddits for books and authors receive little views or comments. Maybe Reddit members don't read much. Considering that a large number of them are adolescent boys, that's hardly surprising. I read where one guy did send his book to the top of the Amazon charts after posting an announcement on Reddit. Hmm, sounds like an urban myth. Oh, and be careful about posting info about your book on some of these subreddits. A lot of them are for nerdy discussions only and consider any links about books as advertising. They will erase your post and possibly kick you out of the group. Worse still, Reddit can ban you permanently.

   Then there's Instagram, useless for a writer but great for porn stars. Youtube is a necessity if you have book trailers, not that anybody will see them. I'd recommend including other videos, homemade stuff about your kids or pets. Maybe you'll catch them doing something off-the-wall, such as the dog biting the mailman, and it will go viral, boosting views of your trailers and hence boosting your sales. A long shot, but, hey, stranger shit has happened.

    Finally, we have Pintrest, which I've scrutinized but haven't joined (and may never). You can post your book covers or portions of your blog in whatever category you want. The problem is, nobody, not even customer service, is able to explain how you post. Weird. I would be willing to bet that if you did discover the secret of Pintrest posting, the viewership would be about the same as with Linked-in, fair but not good, sometimes poor.

   So, what is a good social medium for writers? I still say a nice website with a lot of engaging features. The problem is how to attract an audience. There are SEO companies that will drive traffic to your site, but it’ll cost anywhere from $1000 to 3000 per year. You can try Fiverr gigs for a minuscule fraction of that but chances are these “media experts “only drive bots to your URL rather than humans. There are numerous websites and apps promising to drive traffic to your website for a low fee, but from the reviews I've read, the results are minimal at best. Can you spell scam?

    There are, of course, many other social media sites that we haven't mentioned. That's because they're too up-and-coming right now. If you think any are truly effective, drop me a line. I won't hold my breath though. 









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