A year ago today I didn’t have a blog. I’d heard ad nauseam about the importance of a consistent online presence for writers, and I challenged myself to blog once a week for an entire year. As someone who had never ever blogged, this was an intimidating move. Some weeks I was on. Others, not so much. But I’m really proud of myself for growing my own little section of the blogosphere over the past year. And I didn’t miss a single week. Woo-hoo.
Around the same time that I fired up the blog, I also signed up for Twitter. But that was never a hardship. I took to Twitter like a cattle dog to Frisbee.
So, what have I learned from a year of social media? 1) Making friends is awesome. 2) Practice makes less sucky.
I know there are social media detractors out there. They look at social media as all promotion all the time, and promotion is icky. Yeah, yeah. But I think that’s a flawed perspective. The thing is, I can’t imagine why anyone would argue that making friends is a bad thing. I upped my online presence when I got into Viable Paradise, and that was huge for establishing connections pre-workshop. I got hugs when I arrived (love you, Fran), which is saying something. From a writer’s perspective, social media is also great for keeping tabs on the pulse of the publishing world, and for finding local writers for write-ins and critique groups. Also for maintaining and strengthening ties with all the lovely non-local people I run into at cons and various writerly events.
Perhaps those are the obvious advantages. But it’s true that social media takes time, and people often say they’ll get around to it when they have a book coming out. And it occurs to me that if you take that approach, and if you don’t have a naturally charismatic online persona, you might fail spectacularly. Over-promoting and saturating your followers is a real risk. Savvy social media users can tell when you’re being genuine and when you’re trying to sell something.
So in addition to simply wanting to meet people and make friends, I look at social media as practice. For blogging, I’m always surprised by what people find interesting, and what posts get the most hits. I experiment. I know I talk a lot about hiking and travel, but it’s because I enjoy the outdoors and enjoy writing those posts. At this point in my writing career, I don’t really see how it can hurt (unless you’re being a jerk, in which case, stop that). On Twitter, it’s easy to make etiquette gaffes so might as well get used to the system sooner rather than later. On Goodreads and other review sites, way too many authors try to game their rankings, and then get publicly bent out of shape over critical reviews. For Goodreads in particular, I suspect that if you start to use the system as a book lover rather than an author, it gives a better baseline for what the site is all about. And hopefully you can avoid thinking that everyone is out to get you. It’s not all about you, and perhaps that’s the biggest lesson to social media.
All that said, this past year was a bit of an experiment. Welcome to Year 2 of the blog! I’m going to tidy up the archives soon and remove some of the detritus. Now that I have a better handle on what I want my blog to be, I’m not going to force myself to post every single week–I’m thinking biweekly will be more manageable. In case you’re curious, my six most popular posts over the past year were the following:
- Ode to Scrivener, plus hot tips – The popularity of this post makes me happy. I love Scrivener, and I love pushing people at this powerful and shiny piece of software. Not surprisingly, this post saw a lot of action during and immediately following NaNoWriMo.
- Sasquatch territory – Lesson learned, if you want to get a lot of random hits, include cryptozoology-themed titles. Sigh. Every time the search string “sasquatch sightings” pointed someone at my blog, I wanted to cry. There are no sasquatches in this post (or, you know, anywhere); it’s just a hike report.
- All-new short fiction revision checklist – Posts on writing process and craft are popular, especially when they include the word “checklist.” Everyone loves a checklist.
- Best books read in 2011 – Hooray, share the book love! I will definitely be doing another book round-up for 2012. I expect there were be a lot of YA science fiction in it.
- The submission cycle as a story trunk – Some musings on submitting to short fiction markets. I got a boost in traffic through my writer friends Kelly and Fran, who posted on similar topics during an informal blog tour of sorts.
- A bit of a situation – In which I put on my climate-scientist hat and talk a bit about global warming.
I’ll definitely leave these posts up. If there’s anything else you have bookmarked, feel free to drop a comment on behalf of its continued existence.
ONE FREAKING YEAR! ::throws confetti::