Social Scmedia - who needs it?

I joined Instragram this week.

...whyilovemelbourne...(in case you’d like to join me.)

I joined because I love sharing photos of the quirky, interesting city I live in. And sharing them on my Fakebook page is pointless because FAKEBOOK will only share it with 3 my 1021 close personal friends, unless I pay for the privilege of spreading it further.

Facebook was my first adventure into social media. My step son joined me up years ago and I got excited for a bit when I found my long lost best friend from High School and was able to hook up with my 354,863 cousins on my father’s side (they are Irish Catholics, they know how to breed).

But as time went on Fakebook started to lose its shine. I discovered I SO don’t care what people are having for dinner. Or breakfast. Or what colour their snot is when they’re sick. And frankly other people’s happy holiday snaps make me want to draw black moustaches and big dicks on the images of their smiling children. But I persevered, because I liked knowing I wasn’t the only one getting speeding fines and having hormonal hissy fits at my family.

Following all the ‘good’ advice, I set up Kate Belle author profile and left the privacy settings wide open. Immediately I was inundated with friend requests. I got a few from men called Raymond who looked like a 23 year old Asian girls in bikinis, and some African guy in a LaCoste shirt (I HATE THOSE SHIRTS), and an Indian businessman, and someone mysteriously calling themselves Deja Vu. While there were a lot of people I knew, there were more I didn’t and the majority of them were other authors trying to sell me their books. Dubious, I accepted their friendly overtures and was overwhelmed with messages begging me to like them, like their book, read their book, promote their book, share their blog post, enter their competition – FFS – don’t they know I’ve got books of my own I’m trying to flog??

So I went to Twitter. Here was a social media platform I understood. Twitter is perfect for people like me who think they’ve got something to say every five minutes. It’s like being at a noisy cocktail party, where everyone is talking at once and no one is listening to anyone. I loved it.

But – I started to see some nasty stuff. On Twitter there are a lot of people who seem to think it’s okay to be really rude to strangers, I assume because they’re not standing in front of them and there’s no chance they will get a well deserved poke in the eye.

The other thing I noticed was my sense of invisibility increased on Twitter. Do you know that you can answer a question or respond wittily to someone’s comment and they can COMPLETELY IGNORE YOU? What’s worse is EVERYONE ELSE CAN SEE THAT THEY IGNORED YOU because your 140 characters just hangs there in the conversation like some awkward moment that won’t go away? (I’m looking directly at YOU Marieke Hardy!)

So - seeking some more civilised behaviour I joined LinkdIn. Only to discover it’s just LinkdIn. Yawn. If you’ve ever been there you’ll know what I mean.

Then I took to Pinterest. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It wasn’t. Can someone explain what the point of it is? I mean – it’s just a bunch of photos I can see if I just search Google images. Save for the man eye candy – I can definitely see the point of that. It turns out I’m much, much better at LOOKING at other people’s boards than I am at pinning to my own.

Over the holidays I took a leave of absence from my 2543 friends and followers on social media. You wouldn’t believe how much extra time I had. I planted a vegetable garden. I walked the dogs. I finished a draft of my third book. I read books with my daughter. I even found time to argue with my partner. I actually talked to friends (I’m using the old dictionary definition here – people I know and have an ongoing bond of mutual affection with. Did you know that the Oxford definition of friend now includes social media contacts? I kid you not) on the PHONE – not via messages and email. As January drew to a close I found myself very reluctant to go back.

When I got back to Fakebook, Twitter, LinkdIn, Pinterest had anyone noticed me gone? Not really. I had a couple of people ask, but for the most part the post stream flowed on without my startling, witty and wise contributions.

When I asked more experienced authors in my network for advice about the role of social media in an authors life the resounding response was – ‘Nah – you don’t need it. It makes little to no difference to book sales. Choose one. Do it well. Write another great book and bugger the rest.’

Wise words.

Because in the weird, pre-fabricated world of social media, your presence only matters if you are there. It’s so cluttered, so chaotic, so narcissistic, most of us hardly notice who is there and who isn’t, save for the handful of people we have cultivated real relationships with. And frankly even if you are there, there’s a high risk of being ignored, of feeling envious, or even feeling bad about yourself because today is a tough day and everyone else seems to be doing it easy.

Conventional wisdom says writers MUST have a ‘social media presence’ and ‘engage with readers’ in that space. Pffft. Much of the time I’ve found myself being targeted as a potential customer on social media. I love when readers contact me, but it happens a lot less than people would have you believe.

Social media presence isn’t a rule, it’s an optional tool, it makes a great servant and a terrible master. It’s in no way the ‘holy grail’ some people make it out to be. The real holy grail is human contact, real relationships with people with whom you share an interest.

So why go to Instagram? Because it allows me to communicate with my eyes instead of words and that’s a new experience. It’s simple. The App has big fonts and buttons. There are no complex alogarithms or tricksy rules to limit my posts. And no one is trying to sell me anything simply because I’m there.

Yet.

How do you feel about social media? Does it enhance your life? Or has it become a chore?

 

Comments

Oh Kate Belle. I hear you.
I took a break over Christmas too, and yes there is a real life out there. Fakebook can become addictive to the detriment of productive pursuits...and REAL life!
I read so many more books in my break than I had over the past couple of years and I enjoyed every word. So much more inspirational than the daily feed on Fakebook.

Twitter? Has me bamboozled. Does anybody read tweets?

'Linked In? People I have never heard of endorse me for skills I wasn't aware I had!

Instagram...not going there!

I am endeavouring to spend my writing life spending more time...writing.
When I am not writing ...I will be talking to real people or reading a book!

KateBelle.X's picture

Thanks Annie, you and your readers will be better for it I think. It really is an illusion that social media makes a lot of difference to things. It's important to keep a balance.

Really loved and identified with your post, Kate. Like you, I can't see the point of Twitter, although I'm there, of course. Kinda enjoy Facebook, and can waste extraordinary amounts of time on it, when I should be writing or doing housework (Blagh. But the house gets knee deep in dog fur, which is embarrassing when visitors call in.) Does it help me sell anything? Probably not. But what do you do to get your book out there?

KateBelle.X's picture

Thanks Victoria - I'm glad you could relate. You know there isnt much hard evidence to show that social media sells books. It builds profile and allows you to participate in particular conversations of interest, but at the end of the day, does it make a jot of difference to sales. There must be other ways to sell books that are more efficient I think.

Great, thought-provoking reading. Loved it!

KateBelle.X's picture

Great Carla, thanks!

Oh, I love Pinterest! I get so many writing tips from there, it's fantastic. But I agree that you get out what you put in. So if you aren't that social media savvy, don't do it or focus on one, just as you have. Each platform has its own unique way of providing value, so it's up to the individual to decide if it's worth anything. I'm all over the joint, but I'm in marketing (and writing) and can't help myself. The most important thing is that you are part of a conversation, whether that be your blog, a writing community, social media or plain old physical networking.

KateBelle.X's picture

My problem is benefit for time, Lana. Marketing ISN'T social media - something which I think is grossly misunderstood out there in authorland. Social media can be used to market, but it kind of goes against the purpose of social media, which is to be social, not badgering people to buy stuff. In terms of direct sales, I really don't believe it gives value for time invested. And while I enjoy a bit of social media, I don't want to kid myself it's helping me sell books. Because it isn't.

SAME! I think the summer hols are a great way to show what isn't necessary in life and what is. Sorry, I won't be joining you on Instagram. Mind you, I wouldn't have seen this post unless I was doing my ten minute 'trawl' of FB. I bomb in and out of social media and have decided that is the only way I can make it work for me. I see what I see and I don't lament what I don't. Am always surprised that people assume if they put it on FB you know their news. Am training friends to email me big stuff otherwise I won't know. I know email is old school now but it still gives a much more real connection...i get real news in an email. yes, I am feeling like a dinosaur......

KateBelle.X's picture

Fiona, I know what you mean. You're not a dinosaur. I use FB, Twitter, Google regularly, but only to scan and post. I think the whole thing about 'engaging' people in social media doesn't necessarily translate into 'marketing' or 'sales'. All this stuff gets very mixed up and a lot of connections between them are assumed without any evidence to show that they are truly related.
I reckon there will be a backlash at some stage as the marketers try to take over what is essentially supposed to be a social space. The more wallet stalkers there are, the less engaged people will be. I reckon it will all turn in on itself as big companies dominate a space with their pervasive and annoying messaging.

 

Fabulous post, Kate. You've just publicly said what the rest of us are thinking. Bravo, my friend.

I enjoy my time on Facebook, and I enjoy Twitter. I don't do pinterest or linked in, or google-plus (or whatever that is).
One thing I did that worked for me was, in Facebook going back a few months, I went through and left a whole heap of groups that I didn't have interest in, and no longer wanted to be in - and I found that cut out so much of the FB 'crap' that didn't relate to me. So I get more of the stuff I enjoy, from the people I have come to love (some of whom I've met and some who I haven't - but who I certainly count 'friends'.) I love these author/writer/reader friends.
I think, like all things, if you enjoy it and you're getting something out of it - keep doing it. If not - change. Do what works for you and what you enjoy - life's too short and all that.
:)

KateBelle.X's picture

I think you're right, if social media is providing you with social value, then go for it. I too have met some terrific people over facebook, but they tend to be colleagues and true reader fans with whom I share common interests. I get a headache when people keep telling me I need to use it as a marketing/promotional tool, because I feel pretty uncomfortable about using my social connections in that way. And I don't appreciate others connecting with me on the basis they think they can sell me something. That's not what social media is about in my books. But then, I'm not like a lot of other people....

I tend to use FB as a water cooler space with writer friends. But I spend far too much time on it. My aim over the next wee while it to limit it to 10 minutes a day and see how I go.

KateBelle.X's picture

Good luck Keziah. I think FB is a great water cooler space. That's what I enjoy about it too. But like real water coolers, you can spend too much time on it.

Great post Katie, and I'm not far behind. I'll soon be your instagram friend. I just can't keep up with it all, and there's so much shit out there. One thing I do love about facebook is re-connecting with old friends and family in Greece.... but do like the idea of communicating without words...

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