Monday, November 07, 2011

Social Networking 101

The funny thing is I never considered myself particularly brilliant at computers/Internet.  Nor did I ever think I was particularly brilliant at networking - social or not :) .  But I have come to realise that simply by virtue of the fact that I am online so darn much, I have acquired a series of skill and a knowledge of "rules" that might be valuable to others to know.  Especially fellow authors.  I think there are many of us being told by agents or editors etc to get on the social networking bandwagon and yet many of us have no clue where to start, nor really the difference between each form.

Today I'm going to do a very basic explanation of what each social networking platform is, and the "rules" for each said platform.  If you have any follow up questions, or wish to contribute your own insights to my own, please do post a comment below.  After all, all I've learned about this stuff came from other people helping me out.  We gots to look out for each other!

- a website is a piece of internet real estate.  It begins with www and is followed by the name of the site.  That name is called a DOMAIN NAME.  So has the domain name of ""
- variations of this domain name can end in .ca .org .net.  These all are different from each other. In theory someone could own and that would be a different website to mine at .com.
- you will have to purchase two things in order to have a website.
  • You will have to purchase your DOMAIN NAME 
  • You will have to find someone to host your site, ie: someone who will rent the space on the internet to you
Notes: sometimes your domain name is already owned by someone else, so you need to come up with something different.  For example, when I got my book deal for THE FRIDAY SOCIETY I wanted to buy as a domain.  But someone already had it.  So instead I bought  Sometimes if all the name options are taken you can consider buying a .net or .org instead.

- there are many different ways to create a website.  There are templates like WORDPRESS.  With something like WordPress you don't necessarily need to know the internet code called HTML to design and create your website.  But most websites are created using that code.  Therefore often most people will pay web designers to design for them since they don't know html.

A website is your home address.  It is a place to post your biographical information, your bibliographical information, News, Frequently Asked Questions, Appearance updates, pictures, fun facts etc.  I like to tell people to imagine a kid is assigned a project on researching you and goes to your website to do so.  What kind of info do you want that kid to have for his project?

People don't expect websites to be updated as frequently as any of the other platforms in this list, but you do need to keep it up to date.  You want people to return to it of course.  You want it to be the ultimate place where people can get accurate information about you.  You want it to be easy to navigate, so make sure links are listed obviously.  You want people to know that if they click on BIOGRAPHY that's exactly where they will wind up.

It can sometimes seem like a fun idea to have lots of flash or moving things on your site, but you don't want to overwhelm a visitor.  You want the site to look good, of course, to have a personality, but the primary objective of a website is to deliver information easily to a visitor.  Also music and a flash intro?  Most people mute the music and "skip intro".  I say, it's not worth the effort to have either.

- a blog is an online journal that the public can read.
- Blogs tend to be free and tend to have the Blog website listed as part of the name of the blog.  So the domain name of my blog is "ididntchoosethis" with the blog website that hosts my blog as the next bit "blogspot" followed by "com"  (all separated by dots of course:
- there are exceptions, sometimes people will have a blog designed for them and therefore they don't need the "blogspot" after their domain name
- in the blogosphere the two most popular blog websites that offer free templates to use are BLOGGER (ie BLOGSPOT) and LIVE JOURNAL
- the advantage to a blog is that it's free and very very easy to use.  When you are behind the scenes in your blog, it is very clearly explained how to post pictures how to post text, how to change the look of the blog.  You don't need to know html.

- some people use blogs as surrogate websites and it can be a good idea if you are just starting out.  The problem with blogs is, unlike a website, people expect blogs to be updated frequently.
- blogs are used to write posts about the business, about the creative process, about events etc.
- I recently was trying to explain to someone what I considered the best kind of blog post, and in the end it came down to: people want to connect with what you are writing.  They are looking for a kind of truth, an honesty, be it emotional or professional.  Even if in your blog you aren't sharing every nitty gritty thing about you (see blog rules below), you want your readers to trust that you are sincere, that you are sharing something because you want to share something, not because you want people to pay attention to you.
- This leads to the:

- unlike websites, blogs take us into "conversation" territory.
- You want to post something that you think will interest people.  That they will feel inclined to share as a link on their blog or twitter or something.  That they will want to comment on.  As I said above I think the best way to do this is to be sincere and honest.
- At the same time, a blog isn't a diary.  Sure some people have become famous for venting every little thing, but often these people still do it with wit and charm.  It's also a very unique skill to be able to vent and be tolerable at the same time.  Most people don't have that skill.
- My point is, choose your words carefully, choose what kind of blogger you want to be.  Remember too that anything posted to the net is there forever.  Yes, even if you delete it.  It can still have been cached.  
- as an author I recommend being a professional in your blog.  I recommend being the same author you are online as you are in person at official events.
- the blogosphere is a community, and the more your participate on other blogs, the more people will participate on yours.  So go to similar blogs, comment in the comments section, offer to exchange links with a blog you think is awesome (I'll link to your blog on mine, you'll like to mine on yours).  And don't forget to respond to comments on your own blog.

- the King of social networking sites, it only works because everyone is on it. 
- it's like a giant mall, where everyone you've ever known is hanging out.
- You get a personal page where you can post pictures, your likes and dislikes.  You also have what is called a "Wall" where you can post "status updates", things that you are thinking about, links to interesting cat videos.  A place where other people can post the same things, or if they mention you in their updates or notes or tag you in a picture, they appear as well.
- there are so many things to do on Facebook that really the only way to get to know it is to explore it.  I tend to find most of my friends use it as an alternate email (you can send private messages), as a way of organising and inviting people to events.  And a place to post silly things on their own and their friends' walls.
- speaking of Friends.  People will ask to be your friend.  When you agree to be someone's friend that means they have access to see your photos and post on your wall and communicate with you.
- a big issue you likely have heard about with Facebook is privacy.  There are ways to make your setup more private but it requires you to actively go into your Account and Privacy Settings and change things so not everyone on the planet knows your business.  For example, you can set up Facebook so that only your approved "Friends" can see your wall/profile/etc.  If anyone who isn't my friend searches for me on Facebook, they get a very basic page with not much information.

- I see Facebook as primarily social, a place where I spend time with actual friends (that is to say, people I also see in real life, not just online)
- However there is something called a "Facebook Fan Page" which authors can take advantage of.
- This is a page separate from your normal Facebook page.  You set it up to be your professional spot on Facebook.  It's a page very similar to your normal page, with a wall and a place to post pictures, and people can write on your wall etc.  But it's a place where you can be totally professional.  Where people won't stumble on pictures of you on the beach at your cottage.  Anyone can access one of these pages, it's public.  Here's my Facebook Fan Page.
- instead of asking to be your "Friend" and you having to approve their request, people can simply "Like" your page.  They don't need to ask your permission.

- pretty similar to blogging rules, be the person on your Facebook Fan Page that you would be at any professional in person engagement.
- update your page frequently with news or just cool things you find . . .cool.
- and make sure to respond to people when they comment.  Remember, social networking isn't a lecture, it's a seminar - a back and forth.

- ah the totally confusing concept of Twitter.  It seems that until you engage in Twitter you have no idea what its purpose is.
Here's my attempt to explain it:
-Twitter is a website where you sign up for a Twitter account.  Like with a blog, your personal Twitter website will have the "twitter" in it.  So:
- On Twitter you write little tiny posts, no longer than 140 characters.
- Basically I imagine that the people who came up with Twitter thought: "You know, Status Updates on Facebook are fun, what if there was a social networking site that was ONLY Status Updates??"
- there are some important differences though between Facebook and Twitter:
  • On Facebook people "friend" you and you have to approve them
  • On Twitter people "follow" you and unless you "block" them or "report them for spam", your approval isn't required
  • On Facebook you can set up your private Facebook account to only be viewed by approved friends.
  • On Twitter anyone can see your tweets if they type in your Twitter address
Do you see what's going on here?  Yes.  Twitter is more akin to a Facebook Fan Page, then the normal Facebook page.
- this means everything you tweet goes public.  Anyone, including your mother, can see your tweets.
- this is important because there have been many many many incidents where authors have said something naughty and have gotten in a great deal of trouble because of it because Twitter is PUBLIC.  Even though you can delete tweets, it can often be too late because someone has seen your tweet and maybe taken a screen cap of it or something.

- Other Twitter facts:
  • you can only send private direct messages to someone if you are mutually following each other.  This is the ONLY time tweets are private and not public.
  • Hashtags (#) matter.  You might see me, let's say, tweet something like this:  "OMG, have you seen these goggles?  They are so cool! #Steampunk" - any word that follows a # can be clicked on and then suddenly the Twitter Feed (the place where all the tweets by the people you are following show up) changes to a list of tweets by people using #Steampunk.  Anybody else who is interested in the same hashtag can read your tweet.  Including people who aren't following you.
  • if there was any social networking site where "it's a conversation, not a lecture" matters most, it's here.  Reply to people.  This isn't just a place to show off, it's a place to engage, to have conversations, to make new friends. 

- networking, networking, networking
-Some might also say marketing, but see the problem is, people have gotten wise to the "hey everybody buy my book!" technique and can I just say . . . they HATE it.  Can you blame them?  It's really boring following someone and seeing nothing but self promotion in their feed.
- people want to follow compelling people.  They don't want to feel like they are being taken advantage of.
- this means that when you tweet, tweet about your books, sure, but also tweet about the writing process, share a link about a cool new toy you saw or a news article that frustrates you and, like I said above, reply to people.
- I mentioned hashtags above, well there are a lot of literary conversations that happen on Twitter on a regular basis where if you click on the hashtag you can easily follow.  ie: #litchat

- how do you get people to follow you?
  • follow people: as an author follow bookstores, libraries, authors, agents, editors - you can do a search and type in key words like "author" or "library" to find such types
  • reply to tweets that interest you, engage in conversation
  • engage in hashtag chats, I've met so many cool people that way

- think, please please please, think.  Think before you Tweet.
- don't just self promote, get involved, get to know people
- have fun.  People think Twitter is a chore when they don't know it, but Twitter is probably one of the easiest ways to engage people.  It takes but a moment to write a Tweet, less time certainly than writing a blog post (any guesses how many days this one took?).
- share, but don't share everything.  Like I've said with all the other posts, be the person you'd be in person at a professional engagement.

- I'm going to be perfectly honest with you guys about this one.  I really feel that right now Myspace is pretty useless for an author, or indeed most people aside from musicians.  People abandoned it as a social site when Facebook came along, and the only people who really still use Myspace are musicians because it's extremely easy to upload videos and music to that site.  I myself abandoned Myspace when I realised that I wasn't going to miss out on any networking opportunities since most of my fellow authors had already left.  Considering how time consuming social networking can be, it's wise to take stock and if you can abandon a platform, do.  Because it's one less thing you have to tend.

I know very little about Google+.  I am not an early adopter.  I wait and see what happens with things before I jump on board.  I joined Facebook late, Twitter late.  I waited to see who would win the war between HD and Bluray.  I have no need for the prestige of being one of the pioneers.  I want to know if something is worth my time and money after many many people have come to some kind of conclusion. 

I get the impression that many people approve of Google+ though like with all these platforms there are privacy concerns.  I think it is best for me to now link to friend and fellow author Debbie Ridpath Ohi, a total technophile, who has posted her very positive thoughts about Google+ here


Clifton Hill said...

Great work! I skimmed this and see some great points, will have to read in more detail to pick up all of the good stuff and see if I've missed anything in my own social networking efforts.

Jayne... said...

Thanks for the primer on social networking! While I have all the necessary accounts, I wasn't exactly sure what to do with them. I'll be honest, though, Twitter still scares me. I hear it steals even more of a writer's most precious resource: time!

Thanks again!

Unknown said...

#awesome lol

Very informative

Adrienne said...

Clifton - thanks!

Jayne - You are most welcome. And a platform can only steal time if you let it. Twitter takes the least amount of time to engage in, but it can lead to conversations etc that take up a bit more. I will admit to there having been times I've spent way too long there. But then there are days I totally forget to tweet at all. Use it how you want to use it.

Madison - thanks!

Social Network Analysis said...

Great post! As a mathematician, I find the relative ease of consensus wonderful and mysterious.........