There are dozens of social media sites on the Internet, and I am certainly no expert on all of them. The big three—the ones most often used—are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. They serve different purposes, and I’ve been surprised to see how different their audiences are.
Let’s start with Facebook, which now advertises that it has over 500 million users. . . . On my own Facebook account I have discovered close to 400 “friends.” They include a few family members; a neighbor or two (although that strikes me as silly); some long-lost high school classmates; several former students, some dating back over twenty years; and a fairly large contingent of academics, mostly medievalists. The rest are members of Lions Clubs or members of the Military Writers Society of America, both locally and around the world. What can they possibly have in common? I know them. I’d recognize them on the street. I’d probably hug most of them. They are all people with whom I have shared both common interests and common experiences. We’ve worked together, struggled with the same problems, and shared our ideals and goals. I care about them and how they are doing, and I hope they care about me.
When it comes to posting my status on Facebook, I try not to bore my friends or irritate them unduly with efforts to sell my latest book. But if I have had a wonderful day—or a miserable one—these are the people with whom I can share it. I post pictures here, both of myself, so they can watch me age, and of my current activities. It is on Facebook that I am most open about my personal activities and opinions. What good does that do for business, you may wonder? Many of my friends will buy my books; even more will be tickled for me when I win an award. I receive a benefit when they talk about me or leave a congratulatory note on my wall. Facebook friends can form a virtual cheering section in our lives, and that’s important. . . .
My second social media outlet is LinkedIn. As I indicated earlier, this site is much more business-like than Facebook. I have over 300 connections on LinkedIn, and almost none of them are cross-overs to my list of Facebook friends. I know less than half of them personally. My LinkedIn connections are the power-brokers in my world . . . Many of my connections are members of Lions Clubs International, but they are the leaders in that organization—former international ofﬁcers, staff members, or CEOs of Lions-associated non-proﬁt organizations. They are people I can turn to when I need business-type advice. The rest are business ﬁgures with whom I have had some contact, and media and public relations people.
How can they help build my publishing platform? Well, my ﬁnancial advisor, my lawyer, and my accountant are on that list, along with public ﬁgures who can orchestrate newspaper or TV coverage when I have an announcement of a new book or an award. They are the people who can help set up book signings or public speaking engagements. They are great contacts because they have their own contacts.
Another great advantage of LinkedIn is that it lets people with common interests form discussion lists, where they can connect with people who have similar interests or who are facing similar problems. I currently participate in several writers’ groups, as well as one that discusses fund-raising ideas for non-proﬁts.
And then there is Twitter. What can you possibly accomplish with 140 spaces? The easy answer, of course, it that it teaches you to cram a lot of information into the smallest possible space. Brevity is good. But beyond that, I see Twitter as a conduit—the vital link between me and the huge world of the Internet.
At the moment I have around 800 followers on Twitter, and I’ll be the ﬁrst to admit that I don’t know many of them. We are strangers who have made a brief connection because of a third party who knows us both, or because we have a common involvement. They are simply people who have indicated an interest in what I might have to say. When they follow me, anything I post will automatically appear on each of their Twitter feeds. They may, or may not, ever see it. But when they do, they each have the option of passing it on to their own followers, giving my message access to untold numbers of readers. Twitter also has the ability to post automatic messages for me, and to re-post my messages to my other social media outlets.
Here’s how it works. Suppose I’ve ﬁnished a blog post announcing the publication of a new book and including a link to the book’s order page. I send it to my 800 followers, and Twitter also posts it on my Facebook page (+400 readers) and my LinkedIn proﬁle (+300 readers.) Then a dear fellow writer in England retweets it to her whole list (+1000 readers), the president of a writers’ society to which I belong retweets it to her list (+1250), and three faithful blog followers in Missouri, California, and Colorado send it to all their followers (+1700 total). That one personal message reaches over 5000 people within minutes. That’s the best, and easiest, advertising I know.
Find more details in The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese: How to Avoid the Traps of Self-Publishing.