Here’s my dirty secret: I’ve wanted to quit social media for months.
I’ve been thinking lately about the value of social media for writers. Is the return really worth the time you take away from your writing? For new, non-agented writers (like myself), is it worth focusing on social media to build a platform, or should you just be focusing all of your energy on becoming a better writer?
It seems Twitter, Facebook and blogs have become mandatory in the ‘getting published’ process. When I talk to new writers, they are usually trying to learn to write, learn to tweet, learn to set up a Facebook fan page and produce amazing blog posts that get hundreds of views. Oh, and get published.
Of course we all know that social media can pay off. We’ve all seen those previously unknown writers rise above the army of blogging and tweeting writers and start successful careers. We’ve benefited from reading fantastic blogs written by writers. We’ve interacted with authors on Twitter and become huge fan girls and boys (maybe that’s just me :).
I think the most under-communicated part of social media is that it takes time. Lots of time. To grow an engaged following on any platform, you’re going to need to spend time crafting messages, sharing quality content, talking to people. Time spent on social media is time spent not writing.
I’ve been struggling with this as I create my goals for 2013. It feels like sacrilege to speak against any form of social media (it’s part of my day job and pays the bills!), but I’m starting to wonder if social media’s returns are worth the time for an aspiring writer. Wouldn’t my time be better spent, well, writing?
In light of this social media mid-mid-life crisis, I’ve created a short Social Media Manifesto. I created this for myself, but thought that others might be interested, so I’ve re-written it and shared it below.
Social Media Manifesto:
1) Only use the platforms you enjoy. If you like tweeting (like I do) then tweet. If Facebook is your thing, then work Facebook. If you look forward to writing blog posts each week, then by all means, blog. If you aren’t into Pintrest, or Goodreads or Instagram or any other social network, don’t worry about using it. It will feel like work and you probably won’t use it enough to make a difference anyway.
2) Don’t spread yourself too thin. There are only so many hours in a day. If you work full time and are writing and trying to have a life, you might not have time to be active on more than one or two social networks. You might not even have time for one. It’s better to be really active on one social network than sort of engaged on several. There are some networks that you can get away with not being active regularly (like Goodreads), but there are others (like Twitter) where your absence will be glaring.
3) Decide what you want to be. Is your long term goal to become a well-known blogger, or do you want to publish books? Are you a social media maven who writes, or a writer who likes social media? This should help you decide where to focus your time.
Is social media mandatory for writers?
I don’t think it is. I think good writing is mandatory for writers, and having a social platform is a bonus.
I’m sure there are many people out there who would argue against this (please do leave a comment below!). I’ve met some wonderful people through social media, and I am sure I will meet more. But, what I do know is:
You can be a writer and not update your Facebook page or tweet or blog. But you can’t be a writer and not write.
If you want to be a writer and it comes down to a choice between spending ten minutes on social media or ten minutes scribbling down a brilliant idea for a new story, you should probably opt for the story idea.
Even after this rant, I’m not going to quit social media cold turkey. I might quit Facebook (for the 1 millionth time). I’ll likely keep tweeting because I like it. I’ll blog on occasion because I like that too. But, having thought this out, I feel less pressure to have a presence on every major social platform. Of course, I could be making a huge mistake and in a few years a publisher will be upset that I don’t have an established Facebook fan page (should I be so lucky to entice a publisher’s interest) and many people will get to tell me ‘I told you so.’ We shall see.
For now I’m going to focus on writing.
What do you think? Is social media mandatory for writers?