Loree Lough

At last count, best-selling author Loree Lough had 75 books, 63 short stories, and over 2,500 articles in print. Dubbed by reviewers “the writer whose stories touch hearts and change lives”, she has earned dozens of “Readers’ Choice” and industry awards. This summer, Beautiful Bandit (#1 in “Lone Star Legends” series from Whitaker) joins Loree’s 2009-10 releases, Love Finds You in Paradise, PA and Love Finds You in North Pole (Summerside), Tales of the Heart and Prevailing Love (Whitaker), and Be Still…and Let Your Nail Polish Dry (Summerside). Maverick Heart (Lone Star Legends #2) comes out in January, 2011, while the release of From Ashes to Honor, #1 in her “First Responders” series (Abingdon), will coordinate with the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Accidental Family, #3 in the “Accidental Blessings” series (Love Inspired) and Love Finds You in Folly Beach, SC are slated to hit bookstore shelves May and June, 2011, respectively. Visit Loree at http://wwwloreelough.com.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet
(and Other Stupid Questions)

“You’ve gotta be kidding … you’re not on Facebook?”

When my then eighty-something Dad asked me that question a couple years back, my face got red … and I got busy setting up my very own Facebook page.

These days, it’s tough to believe anyone isn’t connected to at least one of the dozens of social networking sites out there. Because whether we’re a butcher, a baker, or a wedding dress maker, without social networking, we’re missing out on opportunities to sell our products. (My plumber has a Twitter following, and the guy with the hand-lettered sign who sells tomatoes and fresh-picked corn down on the corner has a Fan Page at Facebook!)

Seriously? Why wouldn’t they!

Recently, I read somewhere that Twitter boasts billions of visits per month, and that there are more than 150,000 separate groups available at LinkedIn. That means professionals in every industry can hook up with the people who buy what they sell, with little more than a few well-chosen words and the touch of the SEND button.

Social media might have started out as a means to keep people linked to one another (on campus, from desk to desk, from my house to yours), but it quickly became a powerful PR/marketing tool that puts us in touch with the rest of the world. That means we have access to mentors, industry trends, learned-the-hard-way peer advice, and tips and tactics that promise to keep us on the cutting edge … and it’s free!

But wait. Is it really “free” if it costs time and energy?

Let’s face it, social networking is fun. I can always count on it to make me think and make me laugh. And then there’s the added advantage of how it allows people like me, who work mostly in solitude, to feel less like a hermit and more like a participant in this crazy-busy world we live in.

I’m sure you know people who spend hours at one public forum or another. How do they get anything accomplished, you wonder, or unite with friends and family in person, when they seem to spend so much time online!

The operative word here is seem.

Social networking can—and has—become a dangerous, damaging habit. And like any other addiction, we need to learn to control not only our appetite for it, but the networking itself. That’s why we need to “interface,” so that we can type up one comment and reach a dozen different sites by hitting SEND once. And we learn to “schedule,” so that those interfaced comments will appear here, there, and everywhere on the Internet at pre-designated times throughout the day. That’s why it seems we’re online all day long, blabbing, chatting, reading, and replying.

Of course, we also set goals and stick to them. We ask ourselves tough questions like “Do I really need a page at MySpace, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning, and Shoutlife? Or does it just

seem that way?” and “Am I online to make friends, or to strengthen already-established relationships?” and “Is the point of social networking to ‘build my brand’ or just have some fun?”

Regardless of the answers, we need to be smart, because effective social media marketing is anything but short-term. Once you’re in, you’re pretty much “in” for the duration. For authors in particular, these sites are audience building, and to quote an old movie, “If you build it, they will come.” But they won’t stay unless we show up, just often enough to keep them entertained and informed—and give them a glimpse into our nonwriting worlds so they can see that we’re real people with whom they can identify, who have pets that puke on our bedroom slippers, and uncles who stay too long after Thanksgiving dinner, and weeds in our gardens.

And the operative word here is glimpse.

It’s important to be smart and careful about the information we share on social networking sites. It’s a scary-crazy world out there, and I can’t guarantee where those cute photos of my grandkids in bathing suits might end up, so I don’t post them.

I used to tell my daughters there are two things in life that, once spent, can never be retrieved, and time was one of those.

Just as Smoky the Bear once said, “Only you can prevent forest fires”; we’re the only ones who can determine the value of our time…

… and how we’ll spend it.

I’ll let you guess what “the other thing” is. Or maybe I’ll post it on my Facebook wall!


Beautiful Bandit