Social networking has been a significant factor for artists, authors, musicians, and filmmakers ever since the rise of MySpace. Obviously, there have been some seismic shifts in social networking during the intervening years, but the result has been a plethora of social networks available for authors to utilize.
The good news is that participation in these networks holds no financial cost. But there is a big cost in terms of time, as many authors have probably discovered as increasing portions of their day is consumed by activities on FaceBook, Twitter, WordPress, Blogspot, Google+, GoodReads and a wide range of other, more specialized social networks (such as Book Blogs for book reviewers/book bloggers).
After having worked with several of these, I have come to the conclusion that authors should definitely make use of multiple social networks. Currently, I have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Googe+, Blogspot, in terms of the larger and more popular networks, as well as ones on author/reader specific places like GoodReads. Google+ has been the latest entry, with a layout that brings in some Facebook-type elements, some Twitter-type elements, and adds a few things of its own.
Each community is different,each network has its strengths and weaknesses, and authors need to familiarize themselves with the tools that each one offers.
For example, in regards to myself, I love the ability to develop groups on Facebook (except for the fact that you can be added to a group by someone else, which is why I have developed my own policy of clearing permission with someone before I add them to one of my groups). I have some active groups relating to the two book series I have, as well as groups relating to Seventh Star Press and the conventions I do programming for. Google+ has some good options for developing similar things, but I have put most of my focus on Facebook groups, as the FaceBook community is still the largest by far.
Google+ shows a lot of flexibility for organizing a friends list into any number of circles delineated by geography, activities, or anything you want. This can be handy when sending out an appearance announcement relating to a specific town or city.
Twitter is wonderful for sending out periodic reminders about the titles you have available, with links.
Blogspot posts can be fed right into your Amazon.com page and other places that take feeds.
Needless to say, each network has much to be utilitzed for an author.
Yet for the author, the most important thing in regards to participating in social networks is maintaining discipline. The way I approach this is through doing all of my writing on one computer that is not connected online, and doing my social networking on a home office computer that I use for all of my business activity.
Keeping my creative and business worlds separate has helped greatly, as it eliminates the temptation to blur the line between the two or get distracted. I know I would be tempted to check up on a message or post if it were easy to access, so I got rid of the possibility of being side-tracked!
I have also evolved in the way I schedule myself, to where I do the bulk of my writing in one time slot, and do the bulk of my business work and social networking in another. I have found myself getting better at logging off on the social networking at the time windows I set, which is not always easy to do if I'm looking in to some new events, promotional opportunities, or other things.
I feel it is important to set some firmer boundaries, though. Similar to online games like World of Warcraft, social networking is an open-ended environment, where you can spend as little or as much time as you want. For authors, that alone demands a need for boundaries.
Time is precious for authors, as the overwhelming majority are balancing so many elements, whether it is a day job, the needs of a family, or any number of tasks relating to life in general. To be productive as a writer, time-management is critical. Obviously, there are ebbs and flows in the amount of activity going on during an author's promotional activities, hitting much more intensively when a new book is released, but I strongly advise authors to stick to their time boundaries as much as possible.
Social networks are tools, and just like a tool box has a variety of implements, it is good for authors to maintain more than one social network presence. Learn those tools, use the ones that are the most effective, and develop multiple presences. But be very careful to manage the time that you spend on social networking, or you will find it quietly invading your writing time!
Connect with Stephen at the following:
and also on Google+