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
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.
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
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?”
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
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
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!