I actually thought I was quite connected. I went to a talk last week and learnt that I was actually quite disconnected. There are times, you see, when I deliberately don’t plug myself into the net. I’m not one of these people who is constantly trying to keep up with Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and my email even when I’m out and about. I’ll look if I’m expecting something or I find myself idle or bored. I only like on Facebook and retweet on Twitter what I genuinely like.
But if I’m disconnected, some people are totally isolated. And for a writer and an academic who works a lot of the time in isolation, social media is a real gift.
I use the different platforms in different ways. I also use them to punctuate my work. When I’ve finished a chunk – taking anything form twenty minutes to a couple of hours – or even more – I’ll take a visit to one of the sites. These are my water-cooler moments.
I run several of these and blog roughly every other day all year round. The one you’re reading right now proves to be the most popular and that puzzles me a little. Is it because the title includes my name? The others are a little more subject specific – one about teaching Creative Writing in Higher Education, another about my Creative Café Project, one about books I’ve read that take me out of my editor’s head and one about being a publisher. They’re listed here.
I also write a blog for a choir I’m in. On another blog I post extracts of some of my fiction and tag it #samplesunday on Twitter.
Blogging serves two purposes for me:
· It’s training for the writing muscle.
· It helps to give me web presence.
What did we do before we had it? Got a lot more work done? Generally, I’ll take one big sweep through my work email after I’ve completed my writing for the day, though occasionally I’ll look for urgent matters first thing in the morning and really resist getting caught up in anything else. Once I’ve completed the big sweep, I’ll deal with smaller matters in my water-cooler moments. I only look at work email up to about 5. 00 p.m. Monday to Friday though I’ll look at personal email pretty well every day.
You really have to read email the same way that you do a newspaper. Delete what’s not needed and don’t think you have to reply to everything. Nevertheless, I tend to reply to most that need a reply within two working days at the latest.
I’ve never been a huge fan but I’m just beginning to like it more. I’m in several groups and they’re interesting. I like being invited to events and it’s a useful spot to advertise events. I tend to create pages for most of my enterprises though I’m not very proactive on my time-line. I’ll only accept friend requests from people I genuinely know and never from any of my students – unless I get to know them as genuine friends once they’ve graduated.
However, whatever I put on Twitter goes on to Facebook and whatever I post on any of my Facebook pages goes on to my Twitter feed. So, I’m around quite a lot.
This is the platform for business. I only post rarely but I almost keep a running CV there and this is also where I look for other people when I’m trying to set up a project. I’m very happy to meet my more enterprising graduates here - sometimes even meeting students there before they’ve graduated if they’re particularly entrepreneurial.
People sometimes endorse you for a skill. I’m alerted to these by email. At that point, I’ll go and endorse ten other people but only if I actually know they really do have that skill.
This is my all-time favourite. Maybe it’s because of the 140 character limit so it’s good and snappy or maybe it’s because of the power of the retweet. I love it when folk retweet me and I’m also happy to retweet what I genuinely admire.
I tweet as myself but also as the choir to which I belong, myself as a publisher and as an academic department at a university. I always try to be careful about remembering which persona I am.
You do have to be careful about how much time you spend on this and what you actually do. I also have to keep a balance between the different functions I use. I keep a list and rotate through it in my water-cooler moments. Only about one post in five should be promotional. I’ll post five times as myself then once each for the other personas and alternating between Twitter and Facebook for my choir and my academic posts.
I don’t mind other people promoting to me - I can ignore it if I’m not interested and sometimes I am. I also don’t mind if people ask me to like their post or their web site. I’ll go take a look if I’m genuinely interested and if I like it I’ll like it. So, I’m also not above asking people to like my pages and posts. Every time I put something new on a page I’ll invite a couple more people to like it.
I can genuinely say that I got my last four book deals through social networking – Twitter to be precise. As a result of those deals I now have a lot more friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter.
Keeping it professional
Although I can be quite chatty – particularly ion Twitter – I do try to keep it quite professional. I don’t really put very personal details out there in the public. I’d probably do that via email and only to people who really needed to know.
Anti-dote to loneliness
Certainly, social media cuts through the loneliness for a writer. Is it going to help me in my old age, I wonder?