A few years ago, I thought the most exciting thing I discovered I could do with my computer was chat with people in 'real time' anywhere in the world using a fantastic new Internet tool called "ICQ". That was over ten years ago. Nowadays there are so many sources of social media--the name given to all of these fascinating Internet tools we can use to connect with people anywhere, anytime--it makes me dizzy.
As authors and writers, we're strongly encouraged to sign up for these tools because they help us connect to readers, give us access to people who can further our marketing abilities or even give us primary access to new and exciting writing opportunities. But, really. How useful are they? Do we really need all of them? Which ones are the most user friendly? Let's do a segment of Chynna's 'The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly About....Social Media".
THE GOOD: It's true--social media helps us get the word out about what we do. We can post links to articles, blog posts and interviews we've done. Authors can keep their readers posted on what they're doing as far as book promotions go as well as releases and upcoming projects. It also gives readers a chance to interact with their favorite writers or authors in ways they couldn't before. Plus to save some time, there are ways you can connect all of these medias in one place (eg: TweetDeck) so you can make one update post to all of your most used media forms at the same time (eg: Twitter, MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn). And, on the personal side of things, you can hook up with friends, family and loved ones you aren't normally able to. Considering all of these points, I can see how these tools can be useful.
THE BAD: Okay, let's get down to it. With all of the good things about these Internet social tools, there are downsides. First, let's be honest here. How many of you out there are Facebook or Twitter junkies? C'mon! Own up now! How much of your free time/work time do you spend on these things? THAT is the number one bad point about having these tools: they are time suckers. No matter how many times I tell myself I'm going going to spend a couple of minutes updating my Facebook profile and author pages...then send an update Tweet and reply to tweets and retweets...then respond to questions, etc. half an hour to an hour has flown by. Nothing ticks me off more than wasting my time that way. The other thing is you truly can be out there too much. Trust me. Then not only are you wasting time keeping up with all your accounts but you're making yourself vulnerable to spamming, stalking, identity theft and other nastiness (we'll cover that stuff next!)
THE UGLY: Not all of us experience the ugly side of social media. I have. I've been stalked, spammed, had a few of my accounts hacked into, been accused of putting stuff out there that I haven't and other ickiness. You put yourself wide out there and some folks think it's their right to know every single thing about you. Or they think you're buddies because you're writing about issues they've experienced too. Now I have no problem being contacted by those who've been touched by my work or feel that something I've written has helped them in some way. That's why I do what I do and it truly means the world to me when people reach out to me. But there are some people who don't understand where that line is between what they are allowed to know or do and what they aren't. And with places like Google and Blogger that keep your stuff 'searchable', it makes it all too easy for folks to have access to you.
Now, bearing all these points in mind, here's a few ways I've stayed 'connected' but from an arms length:
- I picked a few of the tools I've gotten the most use from, are the easiest for me to utilize and the best choices for what I do. For me that's Facebook, Twitter, Author's Den, LinkedIn, Goodreads and MySpace. I'm thinking of getting rid of MySpace because all of my friends/connections are on Facebook now. My advice is to pick and choose the tools that are best for what you do. Remember that places like Facebook, LinkedIn and Goodreads have groups where you can meet and chat. You can also arrange live chats on Twitter. You don't need them all. Trust me.
- Jacked my privacy up as much as I could. Don't give the option of allowing people to try 'friending' you on Facebook, for example. Have them message you first so they can explain how they know you and why they'd like to connect. Better still, have a personal account that you keep completely private and unsearchable then a writing/authoring page.
- Change my passwords periodically and do not click on any links that aren't from a trusted source. In fact, don't open them at all until you've asked the sender if they sent it. I had my Twitter account broken into because I was sent a private message from a trusted person with a link. She never sent it to me but had her account broken into. All of her contacts got spammed and, because I opened the link too, all of mine were too.
- Interact but be selective of what I share. These tools are all amazing and useful but bearing the 'need to know' rule on what you put out there keeps you safer.
- Made my friend list (particularly on Facebook) private. That way people can't 'Friend Poach' plus it gives your friends some privacy too.
- Don't let people post on your Wall (on Facebook). I haven't done that yet but if it becomes a problem, unfriend abusive people and block them. Then switch up your privacy to be safe.
- Don't 'follow' people just because they follow me. You don't need to be friends with everyone. And on Twitter, people can't send you messages if you don't follow them back. If you don't trust the source, don't follow them.
- 'Google' myself from time to time. It's interesting what you find. I've been fortunate in that I've only ever found good stuff. I haven't found my head photoshopped on a porno queen's body or anything yet but I have found reviews or blog posts about my work. I like to reach out and extend a big thank you for these things because that's what helps get our work out there a bit further. But if you do find yucky stuff, you can try nipping it in the bud before things get worse.
So, there you go. That's Chynna's 'The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly About...Social Media'. Feel free to share your own thoughts, experiences and insight. We love comments. =)