Why social media is a good idea for writers

real life social mediaThe Internet is a gift and a curse.

Social media in particular can be a writer’s best friend, or her doom.

I am old enough to remember working in an office where I had to share a clunky desktop PC that only displayed pixilated green type on a black screen and was not connected to anything other than the electrical outlet. I remember a world before ubiquitous email, incessant social media updates, and text messages that follow you everywhere.

Though I sometimes recall those less technologically bound times wistfully, as a self-employed writer of the twenty-first century, I know that I could not do my job without the Internet. No way. No how. I work with almost all of my clients on an almost 100% remote basis – conducting all our business via email, Skype, conference calls, and cloud-based document and project management services. I do my research on the Internet – finding sources, tracking down facts, and checking details. My days are made up of writing blocks punctuated by frequent digital communication.

I think most of my professionally writing colleagues would agree on the value of the Internet.

Where opinions start to differ (sometimes violently) is on the subject of social media.

Facebook, Twitter, goodreads, LinkedIn, blogging, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ not to mention dozens of writing-focused groups, forums, and communities – social media is a vast territory. All those platforms, all those third-party tools, all the people and updates and alerts and notifications. It’s enough to drive you mad or leave you paralyzed in fear, gently rocking under your desk.

Many writers eschew social media as frivolous. They consider it to be little more than a new-fangled procrastination tool, a digital escape hatch that sucks the unwary into a rabbit hole of wasted hours. These people contend that a writer should spend her time working on her craft and building up her body of work, not wasting words on status updates about her cat.

While I understand their position and can vouch for the addictive nature of social media (especially for people like me with slight OCD tendencies), I still believe that social media is a valuable (almost indespensible) tool for today’s writer.

In my “day job,” I am a freelance professional writer and business owner. I write blogs, columns, articles, case studies, branding frameworks, website copy, ebooks, manifestos, and all kinds of other materials. I have been doing this work for six years, and I attribute approximately ninety percent of my business to social media.

That’s right. If I trace each of my client relationships back to its origin, ninety percent of the time the seed for each relationship will be found in some kind of social media interaction.

Think about that.

I have invested (and continue to invest) a lot of time and energy in social media, but I believe it has paid off in spades.  It has helped me make the connections and nurture the relationships that sustain my business. There is a method to my social media “madness” (it’s definitely not all LOL cat photos and snarky quotes), but there is also a very personal and creative element to it.

I’ll share about that in a future post, but for now I’d love to know your thoughts:

How do you feel about social media? Do you engage? How? Where? If you don’t engage, why not? What are your biggest questions about social media for writers?

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Image Credit: I wish I knew – this was floating around Facebook and seemed the perfect thing to complement this post.

69 thoughts on “Why social media is a good idea for writers

  1. I love that picture. Yes social media can be a helpful tool and a curse all at the same time. It constantly tempts us away from our work and can sometimes make us feel completely inadequate but what else is there, this is the new world? I think it’s a learning curve. You have to adapt to using it and only pick out the good points and make the good contacts from it. Plus embrace your favourite types of social media and not to try and hit them all else you’ll forever feel in a catch up game.

    • All excellent points, Sophie.
      The time suck is an easily identifiable danger, but the risk of feeling “completely inadequate” is a more insidious hazard of the social media world. Definitely something to be aware of.

      Thanks for the great add.

  2. As someone new to writing, social media is something that needs to be learned and in these early days takes time, a lot of time, time I could spend writing. However I do agree if I want to write and be more than just a blog writer I have to have online presence.

    • It does take time. No question. It takes time to learn and time to execute. I think the best approach is starting small: small bits of the social media territory, small bits of content, small blocks of time. You don’t have to do it all at once. 🙂

  3. The internet has become and can be a valuable resource. But, as with anything, it is up to the individual how they use it. If you are networking, doing research…..or buying up cabbages in Farmville.

    • HA! You hit the nail on the head.
      The Internet and social media are just tools. What we create with them (connections and relationships or lost blocks of time and depleted brain cells) is entirely up to us. Happy to say I’ve never played Farmville, or even Words with Friends. 😉

  4. It took me awhile to get into social media, but now I find it to be valuable in many ways. I’ve met folks through my blog – in person! And made new connections that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

    It also took some time to understand Twitter and a shorter amt of time to get into G+. Some platforms I’m not into and I don’t want to stretch my focus.

    The downside is the saturation. I feel there are so many writers out there it is hard to get noticed. But, I think our world is big enough to support everyone’s dreams 🙂


    • Thanks for sharing, Lani.

      Your comment brings up two great points:
      1. You don’t have to be everywhere. Some platforms are a better fit for some people. You can just stick with the ones you prefer and not feel like you have to be hopping from place to place.

      2. Market saturation is a challenge, but don’t let it intimidate you too much. Though social media sometimes feels like an arms race, you don’t have to have the most followers/fans/friends to be the “winner.” Many people make a very good living by cultivating and nurturing a core audience of 1000 loyal customers.

      Great stuff. Thanks for coming by!

  5. The challenge for me, as I’m sure for many people, is fitting it in. Right now I’m trying out an hour a day for all the platforms I’m active in — blog, Twitter, FB. It can be a real time suck, so management is key.

    • Finding/making time IS always the biggest challenge!
      I have some tips to share on that front and will get working on a post that covers some of my favorite tools and processes.

  6. As an aspiring writer and child of the millennium, I agree that social media is essential. The fact that it is possible to maintain a freelance writing business gives me hope for the future (as I am still working toward my undergraduate). Personally, social media opens a whole new world of ideas. Its the ultimate collaboration. I personally find inspiration in all types of social media. Recently, I composed a poem made up of tweets.

    • Love your creativity – a poem made of tweets? Very cool. 🙂

      Social media does open up a whole new world – of ideas, people, resources, events. I have also found that it provides a great deal of support when you can find the right communities.

  7. While I agree with everything you wrote, I find the process a bit daunting. My first book will not be released until February, so for the past few months, I’ve been trying to connect on Facebook, and just started my blog on WordPress. It’s overwhelming, especially when I see how many writers are out there promoting and pushing. I don’t want to be “that guy” bombarding the world with spam, but I also want to sell my books.

    • I totally get that. There always seems to be so much to learn and configure, sigh-up for and monitor. The rules are always changing. Luckily, you can actually keep things pretty simple (once you know what works for you), and you definitely don’t have to be “that guy” (gods forbid!).

      The questions in these comments are great. I’m going to work on a post so I can respond more fully. I hate thinking that some writers aren’t feeling able to make the most of social media. Gotta fix that! 🙂

  8. Jamie, I’m grateful for social media. I’m new to blogging but so far it has been a great way to make new connections. The best part is how much you learn from others. I do think social media can suck you into wasting your time… but only if you don’t have something that you feel is a better use of your time. Before I knuckled down on my novel, I was wasting far too much time worrying about who commented on my Facebook posts. Thank god I’m over that! Thanks for this insightful read!

    • We all get a little “stats crazy” sometimes, but the truth is that although social media appears to be a numbers game on the surface, it’s really about relationships. The value lies not in getting the most comments or even “going viral,” but in making real connections – one person at a time.

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Glad you liked the post!

  9. It makes perfect sense. Casual use of social media can be dangerous if we never look at the entire spectrum of this use to our benefit in a way that does not bombard the ‘community’. Personally, I could use a little ‘gaming’ rehab. 🙂 Great post!

  10. Hi Jamie, being a new author on the scene, I see how social media is very important…scary at times learning the do’s and don’t and trust me in between teaching classes and writing and keeping up with everything out is not an easy task, but I’m still learning. Thanks to professionals like yourself and the great writers of these blogs, has basically become an extended family teaching me as grow…so thanks to everyone. Keep up the good work.

    • Thank you so much for the compliment.
      It is hard to fit social media in around everything else in our lives. There are boundaries that must be defined and guarded from both sides – so we don’t miss Real Life while “playing” on Facebook, or totally miss out on the opportunities of social media because we never make the time to explore its possibilities.

      While there are “do’s and don’ts” I have found that many “experts” over-complicate things. At the end of the day, whether you’re able to connect on social media has less to do with what time of day you post or which hashtag you use and more with what you have to say and how you make people feel.

      More to come on that in a later post.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts so honestly.

  11. I just love the e-card’s message, Jamie. . .a good laugh! I love FaceBook and Pinterest, and have a Twitter and LinkedIn account, but don’t know how to use the two latter forms to my benefit. Hopefully, I can take a class in the future. Thanks for your post!

    • Interesting that the two platforms you seem to like best (Facebook & Pinterest) are visual, while the two you’re unsure of (Twitter and LinkedIn) are more text-based.

      As I’ve said to other commenters, I’m going to pull together some of my best tips and tricks for social media sanity. Looking forward to sharing with you. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even put a little class together! 🙂

      TKS for coming by.

  12. The internet has made so much possible.
    Anytime you deal with sales (of items or skills) staying in touch is critical. Social media makes that easier – but it’s critical to be post with care and professionalism since that electronic contact may be the only way clients know you – actual sit down meeting are becoming more and more rare.
    (giggles over that card!)

    • Glad to have made you giggle. (I will now have the visual of a little mouse giggling stuck in my head for the rest of the day.)

      Posting with care is crucial. Social media content may seem fleeting, but – like all things digital – it actually lasts forever. Once said, you can’t easily take something back.

      Excellent, excellent point. Thanks for sharing!

  13. The opening line made me laugh and I loved the post. Thanks.

    My writing audience is middle grade (think 9-12 year olds). The majority of them are not on social media, so one might suggest any use of my time with those tools would be wasteful. Not at all. My front line social media audience are the parents and librarians who are recommending and buying the books.

    • Happy to hear I made you laugh. (I’m always envious of my funnier writing colleagues.) 😉

      You’re SO right. Your “end user” audience may not be there, but the folks who interact with them ARE. Well done!

  14. Social media – I limit and love it. 🙂 I limit its time but I wholeheartedly love it as a link to friends overseas, as a way to meet new people. I created a ‘Great to Read” list on FB and I place people in it that I absolutely love reading what they share and post. That makes it productive for me when I don’t have time to scroll down the feed and wander. Great great post.

    • “Limited love” is a perfect way to approach social media. Smart. 🙂

      Your Facebook group sounds like a fabulous way to create a community around something you love.

      Thanks for sharing!

  15. It all depends on how you use social media. If you have self-discipline and a circle of contacts who are polite and respectful, it can be a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile interaction with the wider world. Unfortunately, for many it has become a method of not just procrastination but numbing of the mind. Most of my audience are notified of new articles, etc., via my Facebook account, and the discussion tends to be limited and positive – I’ve made it very clear that I will not tolerate antagonism – so in that regard I consider social media a positive aspect of reaching my audience. My personal page, however, does occasionally get out of control and requires a little more regulation and self-restraint. It should never be a substitute for a ‘phone call, email, or (G-d forbid) a handwritten letter or visit in person!

    • I miss the days of handwritten notes and in-person visits. In fact, I’ve made it a priority this year to schedule more coffee dates and write more thank you notes. Both things make me happy. 🙂

      I agree wholeheartedly on the mind numbing risk of social media. So much of the content that flies past our eyes is meaningless, forgettable, in short it’s disposable.

      BUT – we can use these “frivolous” platforms to share and promote worthwhile content as well. It’s all in how you use the tools, right?

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment.

  16. Writer Neil Gaiman is a huge Twitter fan and user but he doesn’t suggest everyone use it. He says you should only use it if you enjoy it so that your interactions are authentic. I also listened to a webinar this morning on using social media and the speaker said that it’s a must because that’s how people are communicating these days. I agree with both. You do need to learn about the options and find something you can be comfortable with, sometimes by trying it out for a length of time. None of it is impossible to learn. So far I am blogging, creating my web site, using Pinterest and I have an author Facebook page. I suspect I may get into Twitter. We have to be business people as well as writers and this is how we have to advertise these days. As others have said, you do have to learn the etiquette for using it. It can’t be just a place to put up a statement, you need to create a conversation.

    • I totally agree with Gaiman (and not just because I’m a raving fan). I never counsel my marketing clients to take on any tactics that are not a good fit. Some people love Twitter, some hate it, and some can’t make heads or tails of it. Each of those reactions to the 140-character beast is completely valid. There are so many different ways to “do” social media – it only makes sense to choose the ones that resonate with the way you like to communicate.

      Glad to hear you’re experimenting with so many different platforms and formats. It’s true that writers also have to be business people. Happily, today’s tools and technology make that a heck of a lot easier than it was even just a decade ago.

      Thanks for sharing!

  17. I totally agree that the internet is a very useful tool for writing and research (when used correctly). 95% of the resources I have come from the use of the internet I know are from valid and accurate sources, mostly because what I enjoy researching and writing about doesn’t seem to be around the library, if it is I wouldn’t want to return it.

    So as long as it is used correctly and sources are checked for validity, the internet would be called a writers best friend.

    • It’s all about being responsible. Anything can look legit on the web. It’s a writer’s job to double check and verify to be sure that what seems to be is what actually is.

      And then, yes, the Internet is a very good friend and assistant. 🙂

      • Haha yes, it is the writers job and responsibility to do so. I learned how important this is while taking writing classes online.

  18. Reblogged this on Rakes Rogues and Romance and commented:
    I’ve reblogged his post because for me, it is relevant in so many different ways. I know that people say as a write, you need to write. And that means not being on social media. But you see, the reason I started on my journey was because of social media. I reconnected through Facebook with childhood friends. Friends I hadn’t seen since I was thirteen years old. Without the magic (for want of a better word) of Facebook, I wouldn’t have found them so quickly and had such a virtual group reunion.
    We’ve become a little family. We share out joys our heartaches, live stories and tragedies. Yes we are obviously different people than when we last saw each other, but in many ways we are still the same.
    When I threw he idea out there of writing a romance novel, the response was instant and electric. “Yes” “Do it” “Make it really hot” “Make sure you have men in kilts.” and my favorite “Put me in it and make me sexy again!” This was a from a cyber friend whom I’ve never met but I adore. No one said, “Romance?” “Really?” All I needed to start was their encouragement and excitement.
    So, when people say stay off of social media I get it, but I need it to connect sometimes. Now I’m not at any stage of deadlines and dates, so that may slightly change. But my Facebook friends, the readers and the amazing authors whom I’ve met on this crazy journey are like life’s blood some days.
    so you all will just have to put up with me yakking and posting and pinning away for the foreseeable future.
    How do you all use social media? do you think it’s a curse or are you able to manage your time?

    • Thanks again for the share, Nancy. I really loved your story & am eager to share my personal tips and tricks for managing social media mayhem in an upcoming post! 🙂

  19. Thanks for this it is nice to see a writer who is not berating social media or bemoaning the presence of it in our lives. It is unusual to see somebody taking a positive stance towards being an active user of social networking. After all it is called networking for a reason and all to often older more learned people give out about younger generations and our need to have our opinions heard which is very trying to hear. Cheers 🙂

    • Happy to be an alternative voice, Ned. 😉
      I believe there’s so much to be gained from the connections we can make by sharing stories on social media. Isn’t that what writers do – share stories? Social media makes it so easy! Lots of possibilities and opportunities – you just have to know how to pick and choose where you spend your time.

      TKS for coming by!

  20. Pingback: Why social media is a good idea for writers | Uniqusatya

  21. Pingback: Social Media and Marketing for Writers: A Crucial First Step | Live to Write - Write to Live

  22. I agree with this piece 100%. A year ago – a few months ago more like it – I was ready to give up on social media networks. That was until it hit me that I can actually use it for my writing. I am glad that I’ve read this because It validates this idea of using it as a writer. By the way, I love the ecard.

    • Thanks for sharing, Dennis. I’ve had plenty of “This is it! I give up!” moments when it comes to social media. There’s a definite cycle to it. Every once in a while, I need a break; but usually it’s an enjoyable part of my day – connecting and sharing and learning.
      So glad you didn’t give up. Glad to have you here. 🙂

  23. Hey Jamie, thanks! I love this piece and couldn’t agree more. On my Twitter @WordKitchenDC and my Facebook writer page, I post select clips of mine and my colleagues, rave about the latest Modern Love or what have you, talk about the writing process, share photos I’ve taken. Sometimes the things I toss off in 30 seconds get all kinds of reaction; other posts I slave over get no play. Social media for writers keeps up writing tightly and succinctly and also is a nice way to test out ideas or solicit sources. Gonna go find you on Twitter now…

    • Thank YOU! 🙂
      I’m so glad you brought up the way writers can use social media to test ideas. That’s a huge benefit of having a “live audience,” so to speak – you get to experiment and collaborate and have a conversation. There’s no need to create in a vacuum, right?

      TKS for coming by AND for looking me up on Twitter. We’re connected now! 🙂

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  25. Pingback: Scary Social Media – Writers’ Top 4 Fears (and How to Get Past Them) | Live to Write - Write to Live

  26. This post is one of the first that I read on this newly discovered site. It was helpful to me as I wrote today’s post on my website expressing my rediscovery of writerly topics. Thanks for the time, effort and thought you expended. I will revisit your posts.

  27. (Sorry for two comments but I forgot to show the link to my post: http://bit.ly/1ibrc7M). This post is one of the first that I read on this newly discovered site. It was helpful to me as I wrote today’s post on my website expressing my rediscovery of writerly topics. Thanks for the time, effort and thought you expended. I will revisit your posts.

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