For those of you who are Twitter junkies, and for those writers who think social networking distracts from your work, take note: you can learn and get your creative groove on at Twitter.
I've been checking out the #amwriting hashtag lately. And I'm inspired. Writers talk about what they're working on and they encourage one another to set and reach goals. Twitterers from around the world discuss their work. You see people struggling to fine-tune an idea, phrase, or word. But you also see success stories. Just this morning, people were talking about the revision process, research, and inspiration.
It's hard to ignore all the press e-mails and social networking I have been getting into the last few weeks. There's the governor from South Carolina, who is in hot water over e-mails to his mistress. Recently, Governor Sarah Palin is back in the news over some e-mail exchanges with John McCain's staffers on the topic of her husband, Todd's involvement with the Alaska Independence Party. Supposedly, he belonged for seven years, and this party's chief goal is Alaska's succession from the United States. Oh boy!
One of the worst social networking mistakes happened recently on Twitter with novelist Alice Hoffman. When she read a bad review of her latest book in the Boston Globe and she thought the reviewer gave away too much of the plot, she voiced her frustration on Twitter. She went too far when she publicized the reviewer's e-mail and phone number. She's had her publicist release an apology, and Hoffman no longer has a Twitter account. You can read the full story here.
In the last year since Facebook has taken the world by storm, there have been reports of employers checking Facebook and MySpace pages and basing employment on things they have found there.
So, what does this tell us? We should learn from these other people's mistakes. We should learn from history. Here are a few tips when dealing with social media and e-mail. Remember, you are a writer, who is trying to build a platform for your work! You don't want to be in the middle of a controversy and ruin your career.
When you are angry, DON'T e-mail, Twitter, use Facebook, or any other sort of social media. Don't blog until you calm down. You can still voice your concerns and opinions and frustration, but you are more likely to do it in a composed manner once you've cooled off. It's similar to arguing with your spouse. It goes much better when the two of you calm down.
Anything electronic can be leaked and seen. You know the age-old advice--if you have a secret, don't tell ANYONE if you want to keep it that way. The same is true for e-mail (especially), social networking, and blogging. If you don't want what you are writing to be leaked out to the press or your neighbors or your family in any way, then don't write it and send it. Sure, right now, you may be working for $20 an hour as a freelance writer, and you feel no one cares what you have to say. What happens when you write the next Harry Potter novel? Everyone cares what you have to say.
Never reveal other people's personal information (or YOUR OWN) on social networks. Alice Hoffman made a huge mistake. She should have NEVER given out the book reviewer's personal information. And we all know that. The same is true for your friends and family also. If someone writes on your Facebook wall asking for a phone number, don't respond on your wall. Send the person a private message. If a writer asks you for contact information for an editor and you aren't comfortable giving that out, then don't. GO WITH YOUR GUT! Personal information has a way of leaking out. As soon as you get the reputation that you cannot be trusted, then it will be hard to change that reputation. You can always contact a person for someone else to avoid giving out e-mail addresses and phone numbers
PHOTOS--Not much to say on this except it is fun to post crazy photos, sure, but you have to think about who is going to see these!
I think social networking and e-mail are our friends, but we have to respect them and be responsible, just like with our human friends. If not, they can easily turn into foes and cause us a lot of trouble.
I Get By With A Little Help From My Twitter Friends
by LuAnn Schindler
OK, I'll admit it. I'm a social networking junkie. Especially Twitter. And OK, I'll admit that sometimes it get carried away and check out too many links that my friends post. But I can also say that I believe I've grown as a writer, a journalist, and a digital citizen. And yes, I'll thank my Twitter friends for shaping me and for keeping me on task when I really need to be.
As a journalist, I see the value of tweeting. I've watched a regional newspaper use Twitter to increase its circulation. Sure, this publication has a strong web presence, thanks to a fantastic Web Editor who isn't afraid to take a chance. I've witnessed breaking news story coverage. I've discovered new ideas. For me, the Twitterverse is an infinite inkwell. I'm always coming up with new ideas or twists to old notions.
As a Twitter member, I can follow anyone I choose to follow. I've made it a point to follow industry professionals who offer a birds-eye view of the publishing nest. Agents, fellow writers, print journalists, broadcast journalists, and publishers share their thoughts and opinions, and I'm soaking up their knowledge and insight and putting it to good use.
As a digital citizen, I'm learning what should and should not be posted in a worldwide forum. Yes, I would like for millions of citizens to read my work and discuss it. But I also realize that I need to be careful about what I say because, let's face it, sometimes those 140 characters can be misconstrued. Tone can't always be developed in a handful of words. Or people read how they want to hear it and form a judgement. It's a tricky tightrope to walk, but the lesson should be learned by everyone. Be careful what you write and wish for.
And finally, I appreciate that I can type 'Hey, I can't get motivated today' and I can count on my friends, especially Jennifer, to tell me to get to work! Twitter can be an excellent motivator, especially when following other writers and seeing how much they accomplish in a day.
I've heard a lot of people say they don't have time for a social network, but isn't it time to put that network to good use? Isn't it time to network, meet other writers, and promote your work? We're in the midst of an economic downturn, and let's face it, we have to work hard to make those hard-earned dollars. Promoting our work and developing a strong network is one avenue writers must be willing to pursue. Otherwise, what's the point?
The question of the day: What are you doing? It's simple enough to answer--but you can only use 140 characters to do it.
That's the premise behind a growing social networking phenomenon at Twitter.com.
The posts are called "tweets" and they allow you to let friends and colleagues know what you are doing at times throughout the day (or night). It's fast and easy microblogging that is much like an instant message that can be sent from your computer or your mobile phone.
But, what is the point of adding just one more thing to do to an already overflowing social networking calendar? That's a question you will have to answer for yourself. There is only so much time in the day to research, write, market, pursue publication, and...oh yeah, have a life.
What can you do to make Twitter a productive social networking choice for you?
Meet and network with fellow writers.
Follow posts about topics or people of interest.
Promote your own book, blog, or articles.
Post mini lessons or tips that help establish your brand.
Keep track of trends.
Reach out to your audience.
And my personal favorite: keep yourself accountable for what's on your to-do list. Nothing will keep you on task like announcing what you are working on to the entire list of your followers! Take a peek at who is saying what on Twitter. Go to Summize.com (bought by Twitter). Type your topic into the search field and you can see who is talking about writing, blogging, book promotion, parenting, cooking, gardening, relationships, etc. It's a great way to have an immediate finger on the pulse of your topic.