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AWP 2011 Panel Post: How To Get Beyond “Using Social Media” & Become A Social Artist Instead

One of the rare non-Apple laptops seen in an otherwise cool park full of cool peopleWhen it comes to social media and writers, everyone wants the magic bullet. We want the secret formula to acquiring one million fans, who will be whipped up into such a fan frenzy that they will storm the booksellers demanding our book. And then demand that we write another book. And another. And another. Thereby carrying out our fantasy of becoming an adored, rich, best-selling author.

At least I’ve yet to meet any writers, who hop on social media and says, “Oh, boy, I hope everyone ignores me.”

And this distance between being completely ignored and garnering listeners is exactly the nut that beginning social networkers are attempting to crack.

And here’s the thing: you can’t approach social networking this way. You can’t approach it as a nut to crack and you can’t approach it as a wannabe best-selling author. (And I’m sure you’ve heard, or can imagine at the very least, that becoming a best-selling author comes part and parcel with its own challenges. But that’s another topic.)

The flip side of the wannabe bestselling author is the writer who is “above” social media. The writer who is above social media is making an error in judgment as well, they are seeing social media as a club they are too cool to join, which it isn’t, rather than a tool for connecting with real live human beings, which is exactly what it is.

Because here’s the deal, folks: when you put technology (and the people who know how to use it) on a pedestal and try to vicariously absorb all of their “social media secrets,” you are not treating social media like the tool in your toolkit that it actually is. The truly creative person, regardless of their art form, sees social media as exactly what it is: a tool for social artistry.

Social artistry is something I learned about from human potential leader and author, Dr. Jean Houston. What it means is that you are not just a writer creating a product and then slinging it out to the world, you are a creative soul inspiring a movement (or you have at least one lofty goal to share).

If you don’t have a mission or a purpose or a reason d’etre, then guess what? No one is going to listen to you. And why should they? There is an awful lot of noise out there and people have personal lives and they can’t spend the entire day staring into their computers waiting for you to say something or inspire them to action or entertain them or whatever it is that your writing sets out to accomplish.

And yet, this is exactly how so many writers approach social media. We get on social media hoping to discover something to say instead of having something to say and then getting on social media to say it.

Worse, writers drag their friends and loved ones along with them while they try to figure out something to say on social media, and wear out everyone’s good will and patience.

So, don’t get on social media to figure out what you want to say, writers.

Have something to say and then get on social media to say it.

And then we’ll be eager to not only listen, we will want to join your cause or step up for your call to action.

This is step number one in the way to approach social media.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about step number two.

~ Photo by Ed Yourdon

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  • Bob Mayer February 3, 2011, 5:47 pm

    Social media is more a networking tool than a marketing tool. But networking leads to marketing. Social media is also the best source of up-to-date information for a writer on craft and the business. After all, you’re reading this on social media, correct?
    I believe the biggest problem for a lot of writers is they jump on social media before they determine their content and their goal. In my Warrior Writer program, the first thing you do in any endeavor is establish a goal. Then you must determine your content. An example of writers using social media the wrong way: they use their book cover or their pet as their Twitter avatar. Your avatar should be your head shot, because you are your brand, not your latest book or your pet. Kristen Lamb in We Are Not Alone: The Writers Guide to Social Media starts with talking about content, before technique. My first, brilliant Twitter handle was IWhoDaresWins. Besides being grammatically problematic, it was stupid.
    The world is changing exponentially, not linearly, and social media is at the front edge of that change.

  • K. A. Laity February 3, 2011, 7:26 pm

    Funny, it’s like a real moment of zeitgeist grand slam: my column today touches on the same issue (http://tech.bitchbuzz.com/should-writers-abandon-social-media.html). A lot of writers seem to feel “cheated” because social media hasn’t “paid off” in the way they hoped. It’s like going to conferences, but in the comfort of your own home.

  • Susan Cushman February 8, 2011, 2:48 am

    “… a creative soul inspiring a movement.” I really loved your post, Kristina. Just discovered you through Jane Friedman (I’m a guest blogger on her blog) and subscribed so I won’t miss any of your future posts. You’ve definitely raised the bar for those of us who share our words through the social media. I want to be a social artist.

  • Michelle Manning-Kogler February 8, 2011, 7:01 am

    Wonderful article – and very accurate! As an aspiring author, I’m intimidated and inspired by social media. I have a message to share, and am uncertain how to share it and how it will be received. I think all new writers feel like I do about their creations. Yet it is imperative in this day and age to be heard.

    So thank you for the tip. Will be using it often.

  • Rachel Blom February 14, 2011, 3:27 pm

    Great post, I completely agree with you. I’m very active on Twitter and I get truly irritated by folks who just use it for promotional purposes, to gain as many followers as possible or who only drop in when they have an announcement. I love the social aspect of Twitter, the getting to know people and connect with strangers part and it frustrates me when I see people ‘abuse’ it. It’s one of the reasons why I’m quite content to just tweet and quietly build relationships instead of being aggressive. It’s as much about the journey as it is about the destination!

  • Anonymous February 14, 2011, 4:03 pm

    I think an important aspect of social media is not allowing other people’s behavior to bother us. When it gets to the point where I feel compelled to grouse about certain kinds of people, I try to remember that it’s my choice or not to follow them. In social media and in life, I never apologize for my clear decision not to be a victim of other folks’ misguided choices. In my opinion, that’s what the unfollow/unfriend buttons are for. And I don’t hesitate to block and report people who are slimy and/or sketchy.

  • Rachel Blom February 14, 2011, 7:05 pm

    You’re absolutely right, it’s still our choice how we deal with situations like these. I would however love it if more people ‘got’ the social aspect of social media instead of just using it for profit/gain, wouldn’t you?

  • Anonymous February 14, 2011, 7:19 pm

    Actually, Rachel, I have to say that I disagree. I don’t believe that there is one way to use social networking nor do I think that I can be the judge of what the “right” way is. I see all the online tools as just that, tools for social artistry. And I believe that to sit around and debate who is doing it right and who isn’t, is the least creative use or our time. I am ten times more interested in hearing someone talk about the creative ways they are using social media, then hearing the laundry list of all the ways they are following (or not following) the group mind. To me, the group mind is the least creative use. But that’s just me being radical. πŸ˜‰

  • www.LeisaHammett.com February 14, 2011, 7:32 pm

    AMEN! AMEN! AMEN! SM is SUCH a great tool for writers & authors and I’m frequently amazed how resistant or…excuse me, ignorant…my communication colleagues are being about it! Thank you for this post!

  • Rachel Blom February 14, 2011, 9:59 pm

    Hmm, I don’t think there’s one right way to use social media either, nor should everyone fit the same mould. I love it when people step outside what’s ‘normal’ and get creative. That being said, people miss out on the whole social aspect if they just ‘use’ it instead of ‘enjoy’ it. That is something I can get frustrated about, exactly because it is the social aspect that I value so much, though you’re absolutely right that it’s not a good use of our time to spend too much energy on this.

  • Anonymous February 14, 2011, 11:29 pm

    I agree with you about exclusively “using” it rather than enjoying it. I guess, for me, over time I’ve learned to embrace that folks utilize the tool differently because that keeps us all from getting in a big old group-mind rut. Viva les differences!

  • Anonymous February 14, 2011, 11:29 pm

    It’s true. A lot of folks won’t even come near it and then of course, there’s no way to learn. πŸ™‚

  • Marcia A Richards February 19, 2012, 2:57 am

    The art of using Twitter and other social media sites well is a learning process. I love the approach you’ve taken to explain it. I always appreciate a writer who can put a new spin on a topic. I look forward to Step #2.